If you are the enemy of life and love, avoid Monterosso.
Lorenzo is the owner of Cantina du Sciacchetra and sells wine and related products of the region. He’s handsome, tanned with a big chest, open linen shirt that shows a gold chain. White teeth that match the white ponytail look perfect on him. We’re tasting a few of the locally produced Sciacchetrà wines, limoncello, grappa, and other products of the region: artichoke crème, basil and olive pesto and more. And more wine, and we’re generally having a great time. He takes to the group of South Africans and to add to the bonomia, our two Irish friends.
A group of Americans ask him how to drink the taster he’s just given her.
“Like life, my dear,” he says. “Sip by sip.”
He kisses his fingers. “Taste by taste, like making love!”.
It’s a place of serenity and solace, whether you climb the steep stairs and find little pockets of architectural beauty or porthole-views of the sea. Walk along the little paths to the next village or take the ferry. Swim to the magical waterfall.
It is Sunday morning in Monterosso al Mare and the locals are out, parading, drinking cappuccino (never later than lunch), patting babies’ heads and shouting ciao! to one another across the square.
Two elderly women sit on a bench in front of me, a cat nestled behind the older Nonna. They say their goodbyes after a good chinwag and part ways. Nonna stops, looks back and shouts, Silvano! Silvano! The cat considers her invitation, does a long greet-the sun yoga stretch, then jumps from the bench and follows her at his own pace. People smile and greet him, Ciao Silvano! He’s clearly one of the local icons.
I don’t have a sweet tooth, unless there’s leftover dessert in the fridge, which I find particularly delicious with a cup of freshly-brewed coffee. I’m in heaven here: this is Italian tradition, a sweet pastry for breakfast, with a cup of classic cappuccino – strong coffee with foam on top.
Walking off one’s carbs is a pleasure: Cinque Terre is a world heritage site that consists of five villages along the mountainous terrain, edging the ink-blue Mediterranean.
This is part of the greater Ligurian area and the Chinque Terre area is where anchovies are celebrated, and especially in early summer. Not the over-salted and pickled, dark jobs, but tenderly placed in scallop shells and presented on a plate, with the other shells offering octopus and other local seafood caught earlier in the day.
If you agree with Lorenzo’s sentiments, visit Monterosso al Mare, described as one of the most beautiful villages in the world. Prepare yourself for long, soft sunrises, the perfume of flowers, oregano, basil, orange and lemon blossoms suffusing the air. White beaches, incandescent sunsets that make the little soft-coloured houses glow. And that translucent ocean.
And then there was that bar perched right over the little beach.
Since the village is tiny everything is easy to find. There are a number B&Bs and apartments available to tourists. Check the Internet for details.
L’aneora della Tortuga
There are many excellent eateries and bars, but this is the one with the best cuisine and views.
Cantina du Sciacchetra
This is a must-find – and send Lorenzo love from the South Africans.