Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cinque Terre in the summer

Isn't it beautiful? It's not a picture I took, but we did visit there. Cinque Terre ("five lands"), situated on the Northwest coast of Italy, on the Ligurian Coast (Portofino or Genoa sound familiar to anyone? They're located on the same coast.)

Cinque Terre (pronounced chink-weh-terr-aye) is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For years the area was untouched and largely ignored by most of Italy due to its isolation, until a railroad was built to connect the five small seaside towns to each other and to La Spezia, a large city just south of Cinque Terre. The five fishing villages are all very beautiful, with colorful houses built right into the cliffs overlooking crystal-clear water that are filled with aquatic wildlife. There are no cars in these towns: just bikes, boats, and your feet (and, now, the small train connecting you to the next town).

Until the arrival of the train, the townspeople were mostly fishermen, exchanging goods with each other and basically living off the land (and water) with occassional boating trips to nearby ports for supplies. After the train made commuting so much easier, Cinque Terre residents began exporting their local products, which include wine and Limoncello. Today, tourism dominates this area's industry. In fact, in the summer months, the crowd of tourists (Italian and otherwise) are almost too much to bear in my opinion. However, despite the kitschy souvenier stores and hoards of people flocking to the tempting waters, Cinque Terre maintains a part of it's original charm, beauty, and importance.

In 1998 the Italian Ministry for the Environment designated Cinque Terre’s waters as a protected natural marine area to protect the natural environment and to promote socio-economical development compatible with the natural landscape of the area.

Then, in 1999, the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre was set up to conserve the ecological balance, protect the landscape, and safeguard the anthropological values of the entire location (land and sea).

"Tourism?! Environmental protections?yeah, yeah... but what's Lim...lemo...?"

Limoncello. Lee-mon-chell-oh.

Limoncello is a specialty liquor made from lemons. It's sweet and potent, used mostly for mid-afternoon or after-dinner apertifs, and is always served cold. On a warm day, it's a perfect dip into a cool lemon pool for your mouth. And that bright yellow color? Totally natural. It's a relatively new liquor on the scene... older than all of us combined, but a child compared to wine.

And, because the weather is amazingly beautiful today (cool, bright, and clear) and the lemons on my deck are fully ripened, I looked up some limoncello recipes online. The one found on the following website looks like a great tutorial on how to make your own at home to enjoy this summer:

If you don't have access to grain alcohol, use good quality vodka.

I suggest we all try it out.



party favors anyone?!?

The five towns of Cinque Terre
1. Monterosso ("Red Mountain")
2. Vernazza (pronounced Ver-natz-ah)
3. Corniglia (closely pronounced like Cornelia)
4. Manarola
and, 5. Riomaggiore (Rio-mah-jor-reh, the biggest/most modern)

Below are pictures we took of our short one-day visit to all five of the towns. Unfortunately, I was recovering from a sinus infection and the antibiotics that the doctor prescribed did NOT agree with me. The heat combined with the intense nausea I felt from the drugs made the day almost intolerable for me and prevented us from hiking the 5-6 hour trail that connects all the towns together with gorgeous views. However, the feel of the cold, clean water and a tasty Farinata helped a bit, and we stuck to doing the easy milling about, taking pictures, and relaxing under our 14euro/hour umbrella at the beach. We should return again soon in good health this next time.