Individual Days - Italy

Vacation from our Vacation

September 24, 2023

Each day of our trip, Lisa would post an itinerary. Today there was nothing planned. A completely free day to do as much or as little as we wanted. We needed this break. We started with breakfast at our hotel.

We walked down to the Monterosso al Mare’s Fegina beach. In the first picture, you can see the remains of the Statua del Gigante (The Giant). Originally, the statue of Neptune held a trident and supported a large seashell which was the terrace for the Pastine Villa. Both the statue and the villa were damaged by bombs during World War II.

There are beautiful hiking trails between each of the five villages along the coast, but for our vacation from our vacation, we opted to just take the train between villages. We first stopped at Vernazza.

Nessun Dorma Pesto Experience

In the village of Manarola, we joined Simone at his restaurant, Nessun Dorma, to learn how to make pesto the way it has been made for generations. It was a hike to climb up to the restaurant, but the views were worth it!

Under the instruction of Simone, we carefully picked the basil leaves from the plant and placed them in an ice bath to prevent the basil from bruising. The mortar made from Carrara marble and wooden pestle are the traditional tools for making pesto. The initial crushing of the garlic and salt requires an up/down motion of the pestle (not pictured).

Once the basil leaves, pine nuts, Parmesan, and Pecorino cheeses are added, the hard work begins. Notice how Mark is combining the ingredients by using the pestle in a sideways motion.

The final step is to add the olive oil and mix in a circular motion.

After preparing the pesto, we were able to enjoy an Aperol Spritz, eat lunch, and have a local wine tasting all with stunning views of Manarola. As a reward for our hard work, we received a bottle of white wine made from Nessun Dorma’s own vineyards. Extra bonus: we got to keep the aprons.

More Breathtaking Views

Pictures from Manarola, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. While we didn’t hike the trails between the villages, we did start one trail so we could get some magnificent views of Vernazza.

Manarola
Vernazza
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare

Sunset Boat Ride - Ale 5 Terre Boat Tours

Once back in Monterosso, we joined Captain Alessandro and Tommaso for a sunset boat ride on a gozzo, a traditional Ligurian boat made entirely of wood. We sailed along the coast giving us a different view of all five fishing villages.

Statua del Gigante View from Sea
Monterosso al Mare
Vernazza

Along the way, the boat stopped so we could get into the water and enjoy some Prosecco, focaccia and pesto, meats and cheeses, and veggies.

As we passed Manarola, we saw the long lines of people waiting to eat at Nessun Dorma (4th picture). More views of Manarola, Riomaggiore, and Corniglia. We stopped once again near Monterosso to watch the sun set.

Manarola
Nessun Dorma Restaurant
Riomaggiore
Corniglia

Dinner

We had dinner reservations at Miky Ristorante, a Michelin restaurant. This was our first experience eating at a Michelin restaurant. The chef started us with an amuse-bouche of fried octopus and a cube of pancetta served on a warm rock. The toasted bread was served with fermented garlic and an olive oil and beeswax candle. The candle was lit, allowed to melt a little, then extinguished. We used the spoons to spread the mixture on the bread with the garlic. We knew with this start, the meal was going to be special.

For our appetizers, Mark selected the U pan du mâ (Monterosso anchovies, the bread of the sea) served “in all ways”. The first picture shows the first plate he received containing fried, stuffed, and marinated anchovies. I selected Scallops on the Plank for my appetizer (second picture). The scallops were served with scorzonera, veal stock, hazelnuts, and cardoncelli mushrooms. But Mark wasn’t done with his appetizer as a second plate of anchovies was brought to the table. These anchovies were amazing! They were marinated in citrus, olive oil, and herbs.

For the main course, Mark ordered amberjack served with lemon potato, cardamom water, black cabbage, and smoked provola cheese. I ordered a selection of Italian cheeses and homemade jams. We didn’t order dessert but received assorted meringue cookies. What a magical meal!

Our first Michelin experience was amazing, but it was obvious that we didn’t know what to expect. When we ordered, we selected the appetizers and main course. When the waiter delivered the amuse-bouche and explained details about what it was, we just sat there, confused, looking at the food. The waiter returned and asked if there was a problem. We said this looks delicious but must be a mistake because we didn’t order it. LOL We had never eaten at a restaurant where the chef sends out selections of his choice for our enjoyment. I am sure the staff was laughing because we laughed once it was explained to us.

We walked 7.6 miles today.

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