Next Stop: Sanctuary

Cinque Terre, otherwise known as The Five Lands, is situated along the coast of the Italian Riviera; a group of 5 villages, separated by alluring hillsides, sandy coasts, turquoise waters, and only reachable by train, plane, or boat. I’ve been to quite a few beaches in my lifetime; plenty of them satisfied my undeveloped idea of what a beach should be. Calling Cinque Terre a beach does not even begin to tap into the oasis that it truly is. If I were to write everything that I desire to say about Cinque Terre, I’d be doing it, and you, a disfavor. Go, discover, and be thrown back. After all, who’s stopping you?

IMG_1054 FullSizeRender IMG_1065

Once you get passed the fact that Cinque Terre is a beacon for EXTREME tourism (even on a Sunday, you will find yourself in a whirlwind of non-locals), you then begin to appreciate what you’re strolling through. The multi-colored homes, resembling a toned down pride flag, are piled atop one another in a nonsensical fashion; however, stunning. For me, it was almost an abstract work of art that just happened to be displayed amongst views of the most inconceivable hillsides and waterfronts that I’ve ever gazed upon. Don’t be afraid to hike or get lost; there’s no “wrong way” here.

IMG_1060 IMG_1062 IMG_1063

Aside from the landscapes, remember to satisfy your hunger! The seafood here is fresh, some of the best, and the area is renowned for its pesto…try it on focaccia (a specialty, local bread – chewy, thick, and almost sweet) with some melted mozzarella. If that hits your carb-conscious bone a bit too much, perhaps a seafood cone is more up your alley. Succulent, sweet, and hinting of the waters; all sorts of poor little critters fried until their demise screams heaven to you. Squeeze some fresh lemon over the top and I guarantee that you won’t speak a word until it’s done. This is not your average fare from the Eastern coasts of home; this is true, uncensored seafood.IMG_1059

As difficult as it might be, I would recommend not spending your entire day lazily slouched under an umbrella on the sand. Although I do love a refreshing cocktail, people watching, and tanning (*queue laughter*) as much as the rest, you will be doing a disservice to yourself. Go get lost! A large regret is that I only spent a single day here, resulting in much of the area to be undiscovered. As cliché and exhaustive as it may be to type this, Cinque Terre is what you’d refer to as a hidden gem. If you ever find yourself in Italy, do not be hesitant to venture outside of the typical travel grounds. Who knows, you may uncover your own little oasis, whether it be waterside or in a town square.

Next stop, Croatia! Will be in touch.

Buon Appetito!

Spaghetti alla carbonara: hot spaghetti is immediately mixed with proscuitto (ham-y bacon) and raw egg which slightly cooks to create a rich, creamy sauce.
Spaghetti alla carbonara: hot spaghetti is immediately mixed with proscuitto (ham-y bacon) and raw egg which slightly cooks to create a rich, creamy sauce.

To anyone who wishes to hear about pizza, unfortunately, I will not go into depth about the pies. Don’t get me wrong; the pizza here is wonderful and makes me question if Papa John has committed some heinous act of treason. I suppose that when you’re around a crowd who practically wishes to eat the stuff for every meal, well…you get a bit tired of it.

Gelato: ice cream's much more sophisticated cousin.
Gelato: ice cream’s much more sophisticated cousin.
Another version of carbonara.
Another version of carbonara.

Needless to say, the food here is the real deal. This is not your neighborhood Olive Garden that attempts to pawn off chicken parmesan as an authentic Italian dish. The eats here are honest, paying tribute to the naturally tasteful bounties that are produced using nothing but patience and a bit of science. Food is not seen as big business here, meaning that the manufacturing and processing of ingredients is virtually non-existent. Everything is fresh, really fresh; and you can taste the difference.

Basically an Italian quesadilla with tomato, eggplant, and parmesan. The tomatos are unparalelled here.
Basically an Italian quesadilla with tomato, eggplant, and parmesan. The tomatos are unparalelled here.

It should not come as a surprise that Italians, just as they live, tend to cook simply. Meals are prepared using few ingredients, intending to highlight the natural flavors that frankly cannot be harnessed using packaged, frozen, or sealed products. The pasta is prepared al dente (slightly chewy) and is typically rolled that morning. The sauces are rich, full-bodied, and taste of the local gardens. The cheese…oh my. I’m going to be humble here and accept the fact that anything I could possibly type will not sufficiently describe the cheese; only through taste can you understand it.

Cacio e Pepe: pasta tossed with olive oil, pecorino cheese, and pepper. Simple, yet perfect.
Cacio e Pepe: pasta tossed with olive oil, pecorino cheese, and pepper. Simple, yet perfect.

There is an extreme passion (understatement) for dining here. The other day, I sat down at a small café to grab lunch and noticed the server setting the tables. Everything from the napkins to the chairs was placed using extraordinary precision. After watching him obsessively shift the plates 5-6 times until reaching a point of irrefutable satisfaction, I could not help but childishly squirm around in my seat due to eagerness for my food. Just as expected, it was a symphony of flavors.

Pasta al norma: pasta tossed in a tomato sauce with eggplant and ricotta.
Pasta alla norma: pasta tossed in a tomato sauce with eggplant, ricotta, and basil.

Describing anything that is perfect is an arduous task. In all honesty, I’ve read through this post dozens of times, trying to decide if I’ve done Italian food justice…likely not. What I do know is that there is something commendable about showing an intense care for anything. There is nothing complex about the food here; the Italians simply care. Perhaps we all need to reflect on a few things that we could show greater care towards and maybe, just maybe, we will discover the hidden perfections that surround us every day.

Have a wonderful week!

Departing Thoughts

Monday, August 24th

I fly out today. As my departure time nears, the easiest way to describe how I’m feeling is a mosh pit of emotions. Here’s what I’m experiencing:

Fear. This is almost an illogical, and possibly even a laughable one. I’m not exactly sure what it is that I’m fearful of…the culture shock, my inability to speak fluent Italian, or simply the fact that I’ve never been to Europe. My previous excursions out of the country include The Bahamas and Canada, and let’s be honest, those don’t really count as ‘cultural experiences’. All I do know is that this is will be a dramatic change from what I consider to be normal.

Nostalgia. I always try to be welcoming of change, but this is bittersweet. Things are going well for me, and I’m truly enjoying my place in life at the moment. I’ve been living in a loveable and diverse city, working on an awesome team of admirable mentors, and spending time with some amazing new faces whom I already miss. It’s hard to walk away from anything that makes you happy, but perhaps in this twisted sense of abandonment, I’ll uncover a renewed meaning of ‘home’.

Eagerness. Don’t let the first two fool you. My enthusiasm for going abroad is unparalleled to virtually all of my prior experiences. Consider standing in line for a roller coaster—the growing impatience as 10 minutes slowly turns into 45; the claustrophobic cozying up to crowds that are just as confused about your appearance as you are of theirs; the unwelcomed mob of butterflies that always seem to show up to the party. Nobody enjoys waiting in line, just as I never enjoy the controlled chaos that goes into preparing for such a trek. All I know is that this roller coaster looks like a hell of a good time, so I’m patiently waiting to get on.