Mamma Parla and I just got back from a quick trip up to the Cinque Terre, a rugged and mountainous stretch of Liguria’s coast. It was my first time visiting since a post-college graduation excursion in 2002. On my first trip, my friends and I rented a room in someone’s house in Monterosso and lived on sandwiches and beer. This time around, my mom and I stepped it up and we stayed at La Torretta in Manarola and feasted on the local fish with crisp white wine. I did have a few beers, but that is beside the point.

Throughout the trip we ate very well. We had two dinners at Trattoria “Da Billy”, conveniently located a short walk uphill from La Torretta. Their antipasto misto di mare (pictured above) was very good, varied, and quite elegant compared to the more rustic dishes on offer like acciughe al limone, trofie al pesto (pictured below), and calamari fritti. The three dining rooms are built vertically into a hill and are set on three levels. The opposing hillside was dark both nights but last night Mario Andreoli’s Via Crucis was set to be illuminated-just missed it! Maybe we’ll go back in December for his glowing Nativity Scene…

We dedicated Monday to hiking between Manarola and Monterosso and stopped in Vernazza for lunch. Several people had recommended Gambero Rosso but we found out it is closed Mondays. We headed to Taverna del Capitano, also warmly recommended, instead. The food was excellent-anchovies three ways and a perfectly al dente spaghetti allo scoglio with just the right amount of peperoncino-induced heat.

Yesterday we walked to Riomaggiore from Manarola to have lunch at La Lampara, a place highly recommended by my friend Megan. Everything was amazing-acciughe al limone, cozze ripiene (stuffed mussels), branzino al forno (baked European sea bass) and calamari fritti. We saved dessert for Panificio Sacchelli, a bakery just up the hill-torta di mandorle, amaretti e caffe’. Of course, we also picked up some focaccia for the train ride home.

For information on visiting the Cinque Terre, visit the official website of the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre.