Monday 18 June 2012

Tastes of Torino and Cinque Terre

The bus from Chamonix to Courmayeur went through a very long, deep tunnel directly under Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe. Not bothering to look up exactly how long it was, it was approximately 12 minutes of artificially lit darkness from entrance to exit driving 70 km/h, so you do the maths. Unbidden thoughts of my last job surfaced, where I regularly went underground at a gold mine, and I starting comparing smoothness of the road, tunnel width and height, emergency egress signage, ventilation points … before berating myself for the sin of thinking about work while on holidays. Bad Tia!

Back into the light, and we were in Italy. Our mouths were already salivating in anticipation, as we had avoided Italian restaurants all through Europe so far, bar our brief run-in at Jamie's Italian in Birmingham. Italian food has always been one of our favourites, and we hungered for the real taste of this country.

But first we had to tick off the postcard list of Italian foods: pizza, pasta, coffee and gelato. As the Italian nation's first capital city, Torino (aka Turin) was more than well equipped to come up with the goods.

First Italian Marguerita Pizza - Pizzeria Piano B, Torino
First Ragu (aka Bolognaise Sauce), Penne al Ragu - Eataly, Torino
First Italian Cappuccino. At historic Caffe Torino, est. 1903. You rub your shoe over a brass bull as you enter for good luck.
First Italian Gelato - Torino
Torino then proceeded to surprise us with random extras. First, the first discount off our bill in Europe (we couldn't tell if it was generosity or laziness) …

Restaurant staff couldn't be bothered to give us change, so we got a discount instead ... Grazie!
… which complimented well the endless variety of always perfectly al dente cooked pasta and fresh ingredients that showcased the fact that the Slow Food movement started here …

First Pasta. Tuna, Capers and Fresh Tomato Calamarata - Eataly, Torino
… followed by a realisation that Torino's Fiat-lined streets were actually quite pleasant to wander down. And yes, Fiat cars were absolutely everywhere, which makes sense since it was made here.

Torino Street Sunset
After checking out the Duomo di San Giovanni, where the mysterious Shroud of Turin was kept (not that we could see the real thing, that was for Vatican eyes only), we topped up our travel food stocks at the largest open air fresh food market in Europe …

Porta Palazzo, Largest Open Air Food Market in Europe - Torino
… before discovering the region's hazelnuts and chocolate history, which paved the way for a worldwide sensation (cannot … resist … I'll just try one).

In 1865, some Turinese decided to mix cocoa and hazelnuts to make Gianduiotto. A hundred years later Ferrero Rocher did the same - Turin train station
All this food meant that we couldn't justify taking the usual Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Trail, No. 2) through Cinque Terre, our next Trenitalia-linked postcard destination, via La Spezia. Dropping off our big backpacks at the left-luggage, we consulted the friendly local information desk, where it turned out we couldn't have done the walk anyway as there was a destructive series of landslides recently, and the damaged historic trail was still undergoing repair. So with our future Nepalese visions in mind, we embarked on a 32 kilometre walk along the Sentiero Rosso (Red Trail, No. 1), from Levanto to Porto Venere, instead.

Almost there. Walking the Sentiero Rosso (Red Trail, No. 1) from Levanto to Porto Venere
Ligurian Coast, Cinque Terre
The general aim was to complete the Sentiero Rosso under 12 hours, which we did, sort of. Well, we figured we should visit at least one of the stunning towns on the way. Our walk time did not include a scenic overnighter at beachside Monterosso (although it was damn steep descent and an equally challenging ascent back up to the trail). We did not regret stopping here at all, as it came complete with my favourite pasta, the most scrumptious platter of spaghetti ai frutti di mare that I had eaten in a long time.

Afternoon Sun on the Beach - Monterosso
Early Morning Streets of Monterosso
After some pretty steep, rocky descents, our aching knees yearned for relief and our arrival at Porto Venere couldn't have come too soon. We treated ourselves to two scoops of gelato which, by the way, had become a regular daily routine which we intended on sticking to religiously while in Italy.

Got there. Arriving in Porto Venere After Walking the Sentiero Rosso (Red Trail, No. 1) from Levanto to Porto Venere
We took the bus back to La Spezia and collected our backpacks before training it towards that quintessentially Italian region, Tuscany.

1 comment:

  1. Oh what grand food u are eating. Can't wait till I visit u when your in a kitchen. Yumm