Cinque Terra (five towns) are the romantic, picturesque hillside villages in the Liguria region of northern Italy (close to Genoa). Each village is unique in its own way, but all are built on the slope of the Italian Riviera with the dwellings hovering over the Mediterranean Sea. Ever since they were popularized by Rick Steves, these blissful hideaways are often-times crowded with tourists. I really hate it when those pesky tourists get in my way when traveling, right? Nevertheless, the best time to visit Cinque Terre is in late fall when kids go back to school and tourism scales back from a stampede to a dull roar.
A wonderful way to spend the day is to take a hike between villages. The most strenuous hike is from Vernazza to Monterosso. It provides breathtaking views of the sea below and trails that wind through shady paths and stepped gardens of basil, all drenched in ocean breezes. The eight mile hike takes three to four hours depending on your speed or your desire to go slow and enjoy the journey. Bring plenty of water and snacks and get an early start. Once in Monterosso, reward yourself with a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean, a glass of wine and a large serving of Pesto alla Genovese. Trains and ferryboats run all day, so it is easy to hop from one village to another.
Here are some of beautiful shots of my hike from Vernazza to Monterosso where I had my first pesto making experience. If you want to skip ahead to the recipe, just scroll down the page.
Here is the Pesto recipe I learned in the village of Monterosso. Originally, pesto was made with a mortar and pestle (hence the word pesto), but now it is more commonly made in a blender or food processor. Either method will give you delicious pesto; however, if you have time to use the mortar and pestle, you will be quite pleased with the results.
Pesto alla Genovese
Classic Pesto with your favorite pasta.
- 1 large bunch fresh basil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon pine nuts
- 6 Tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 pound of your favorite pasta or ravioli
- Mortar and Pestle method
- Gently wash and dry basil leaves. Place about 1/3 of the leaves in the mortar and mix and crush with the pestle. Add one of the cloves of garlic and grind. Add more leaves and another garlic clove and keep grinding. Once you have added all of the basil and garlic, add the pine nuts and grind until everything is combined and begins to form a uniform color. Drizzle the olive oil a bit at a time and mix. Add the cheese, mix and grind with the pestle until it has a uniform color and is creamy. Blender method:
- Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix until uniform and has a creamy consistency. Add olive oil if a thinner consistency is desired.
- Cook the pasta of your choice and top with pesto while the pasta is still hot. Mix gently to coat pasta.
- Serve with several slices of good bread and a light red wine. Buon appetito!