Penne Cole's thoughts on food, travel and more
Cinque Terre, Italy, being the famous tourist destination that it is, I expected prices to be high and quality to be the opposite. Instead, to my surprise, prices here are similar to much of the rest of Italy. My benchmark, a plate of pasta, goes for around eight Euros, which, while not the cheapest I’ve seen, certainly can’t be considered to be expensive.
But today, I’m on the hunt for something even cheaper – focaccia. This Italian flat bread, while said to have been created by the Etruscans or Ancient Greeks, is now widely associated with Liguria, or the North-Western region of Italy where Cinque Terre is located.
My first slice of focaccia is from a little artisanal pesto shop in Portovenere, to the south of Riomaggiore. Some say that if the Cinque Terre ever decided to adopt another member, Portovenere would be it and I couldn’t help but agree. The shop, La Bottega del Pesto on Via Capellini, has a planter full of baby basil outside that has me salivating before I even enter. Plain focaccia here goes for two Euros, which I later find to be expensive compared to the 80 Euro cents that I paid for a similar slice in Rapallo*. Nevertheless, we are hungry and can’t wait to sample the region’s famous pesto. The focaccia has a crunchy, crusty underside, giving my teeth something to sink into but the top is dimpled and pillow-soft. The pesto is fragrant and heavy on the parmesan and fans can take home jars of the pesto for eight euros each. The pesto would have been perfect with some pasta or some plain bread, but combined with the savoury focaccia, I find that the sandwich is too salty for my taste.
My second slice of focaccia comes from the Lonely Planet-recommended Batti Batti in Vernazza. After hiking the coastal path between Monterosso and Vernazza, we are sorely in need of sustenance. We find the shop on the main street of the little town. Don’t confuse it with its neighbour a few doors down, Batti Batti Friggitoria, which sells fried foods including calamari, and the local speciality, anchovies. This time, my focaccia comes fully loaded with tomatoes, bacon and a mild goats cheese and is absolutely delicious. For three Euros, you can’t get a cheaper lunch than that in Cinque Terre.
* Rapallo sits between Genoa and Monterosso, the first village in the North of Cinque Terre. It’s just to the North of its more famous neighbour, Portofino, and is a decidedly cheaper place to stay in compared to its ritzier neighbours.
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