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The Best of Cinque Terre

Highlighting the finest dining and accomodations that the five villages have to offer

Posted: November 2, 2000

 
 
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The Best of Cinque Terre

Highlighting the finest dining and accomodations that the five villages have to offer

By James Suckling and Michèle Shah


The easiest way to get to Cinque Terre is by train. A local service connects the five villages, and trains run frequently to the region from key cities such as Genoa and Pisa. An alternative is to go by car, but the roads in the region are very narrow and winding, and the few parking lots available are a good distance from town centers. A boat-ferry service operates from the beginning of April to the end of October, stopping at each of the villages (with the exception of Corniglia). Gianni Giobatta's boat taxi is also available. Call (011) 39-0339-864547; he doesn't speak English.


For the complete article, please see the Oct 31, 2000 , issue of Wine Spectator magazine, page 84.


WHEN TO VISIT

Cinque Terre is most attractive from March through May when the broom is in flower, the days are fresh and the hiking is pleasant. Summer months tend to be very crowded. It's still warm enough in September and October to enjoy the occasional swim, to hike and to see the grape harvest. Because of its mild winters, Cinque Terre is also agreeable during the cooler months of the year.


WHERE TO STAY

HOTEL CA' D'ANDREAN

Address: Famiglia Rollandi, Via A. Discovolo 101, 19010 Manarola (La Spezia)
Telephone: (011) 39-0187-920040
Fax: (011) 39-0187-920452
Rooms: 10
Rates: $50 single, $65 double per night, with breakfast

A five-minute walk from the Manarola village center, this small, charming old villa is tucked away in a pretty garden shaded by lemon trees. Family run, it's simple, but quiet and clean, with good-sized rooms, including some with terraces. Each room has a private bathroom. The hotel is closed during the month of November.


LOCANDA MARINA PICCOLA

Address: 19010 Manarola (La Spezia)
Telephone: (011) 39-0187-920103
Fax: (011) 39-0187-920966
E-mail: Marijes@tin.it
Rooms: 10
Rates: $50 single, $65 double per night

It's not much to look at, and service is minimal, but the hotel is comfortable, clean and convenient. Some might even call it charming. Many of the rooms are furnished with antiques and iron bed-frames. Bathrooms are small but well-equipped. The hotel is right in the center of Manarola, so there's plenty to see and do. It also has its own restaurant, offering average food but extremely pleasant outdoor seating.


HOTEL PORTO ROCA

Address: Via Corone 1, 19016 Monterosso al Mare (La Spezia)
Telephone: (011) 39-0187-817-502
Fax: (011) 39-0187-817-692
E-mail: portoroca@portoroca.it
Web site: www.portoroca.it
Rooms: 43 (including one large apartment) Rates $190 single, $215 double per night, with breakfast

Porto Roca is the only serious luxury hotel in the entire area of Cinque Terre. It has beautiful, shaded grounds with gorgeous views of the sea and the town of Monterosso; its ambience recalls 1960s hip, Monte Carlostyle. Rooms are small and have tiny bathrooms, but most have a sea view, and each on the third floor includes a large balcony. There's a very good restaurant at the hotel that offers terrace dining. Guests may use the private beach, a five-minute walk away. The hotel has a taxi service from the train station for guests because it's a 15-minute, uphill walk.


HOTEL SUISSE BELLEVUE

Address: Localit Minali, 19016 Monterosso al Mare (La Spezia)
Telephone: (011) 39-0187-818065
Fax: (011) 39-0187-818325
Rooms: 30 (18 with a sea view and a small terrace)
Rates: $75 single, $90 double per night, with breakfast

A serene oasis just one mile above the bustling harbor town of Monterosso, this hotel is set in a garden with magnificent views. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, with large, private bathrooms. All sea-facing rooms have good views. The hotel is family run and is open from April to October. It has its own parking lot.




WHERE TO EAT

Most restaurants have local wines, but few have extensive lists. Most offer alfresco dining for summer and an indoor restaurant for the cooler months. In the following restaurant descriptions, cost categories reflect average prices for two people to eat two courses each without wine: Inexpensive (up to $40), Moderate ($40 to $100); there are no expensive restaurants in the region.

ARISTIDE

Address: Via Discovolo, 290, Manarola (La Spezia)
Telephone/fax: (011) 39-0187-92000
Open: Lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Sunday
Cost: Inexpensive
Credit cards: Not accepted

This modest trattoria with good, simple seafood is the locals' favorite in Manarola. The outdoor seating area leaves a lot to be desired, however; it's right next to the train tracks. Aristide, the owner, only serves his own house wine, but it's very pleasant on a hot summer afternoon. Try his seafood pasta, spaghetti allo scoglio, and, if they are in season, fritelle di bianchetti, his fresh fish fritters. There is good, rapid service.


CAPPUN MAGRU

Address: Via Volastra 19, Loc, Groppo, 19017 Riomaggiore (La Spezia)
Telephone/fax: (011) 39-0187-920563
Open: Lunch, Sunday; dinner, Wednesday to Sunday; closed December and January
Cost: Moderate
Credit cards: Not accepted

If you can get to this tiny family-run restaurant, it's well worth the effort. Maurizio Bordoni built his reputation as a talented chef of Ligurian cuisine in the nearby port city of La Spezia. A few years ago, he moved back to his boyhood home of Groppo, a tiny hillside hamlet above the town of Manarola.

The menu changes daily according to what comes from local fishermen and farmers. A starter could be a timbale of chopped chickpeas, spinach and clams served in a fish reduction sauce or a bowl of delicate fish soup topped with zucchini flowers. Main courses rely heavily on fish. Try the roasted red mullet fillets served over green beans and tossed in an anchovy-flavored vinaigrette. The unusually good wine selection offers about 50 different reds and whites, including top names from Piedmont and Tuscany. The Cinque Terre white from Forlini e Cappellini is excellent. It tastes like a top-class Viognier from the Rhne Valley.


CIAK RISTORANTE LA LAMPARA

Address:Piazza Don Mazzini, 6, 19106 Monterosso al Mare (La Spezia)
Telephone: (011) 39-0187-817014
Fax: (011) 39-0187-817817
Open: Lunch and dinner, Thursday to Tuesday; closed November
Cost: Inexpensive
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover

Nestled in the picturesque main piazza of Monterosso, Ciak offers alfresco as well as indoor dining. Chef-owner Luigi Corciulo and his wife are locals and have run the restaurant and wine shop that's opposite since 1976. It's one of the few restaurants to have a broad wine list, with local wines as well as a good selection from Tuscany and Piedmont. The menu is strictly seafood, presented in sizzling earthenware dishes. The service is friendly and portions are generous; the seafood appetizer, a house specialty, is a meal in itself.


CA' DE CIAN

Address: Santuario di Montenero, 19017 Riomaggiore (La Spezia)
Telephone/fax: (011) 39-0187-920992
E-mail: Cadecian@libero.it Web site Cadecian.tsx.org
Open: Lunch and dinner, Thursday to Sunday; closed from end October to end March
Cost :Inexpensive
Credit cards: Not accepted

The magnificent view here surveys the bay of the Cinque Terre. You can eat outside or inside the restored refectory of an old monastery. Cristina Beretteri, one of the young partners, prepares creative yet traditional fare with top-quality ingredients. The menu, fixed at $20 per person, changes on a daily basis according to what is in season. The wine list is mainly local wines. It is an adventure to get here: Hikers should take path No. 3; otherwise, from the main road above Riomaggiore, walk up a little path by the restaurant sign. Or try the monorail, which is usually used for the grape harvest, but has been converted for the use of tourists. Small, self-contained houses are also available for rent.


GAMBERO ROSSO

Address: Piazza Marconi, No. 7, Vernazza (La Spezia)
Telephone: (011) 39-0187-812265
Fax: (011) 39-0187-821260
Open: Lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Sunday; closed from end November to beginning March
Cost: Moderate
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, Discover

This restaurant doesn't look any different from the other eateries on the piazza of this small fishing village, but it's a step-up in quality. Gambero Rosso serves delicious handmade pastas and fresh fish. Try the tiny octopus, moscardini, either deep-fried or baked, with a tomatowhite wine sauce. Service is quick and friendly. There isn't much of a wine list, so drink the Cinque Terre white from the local cooperative, Costa da Posa di Volastra.


TRATTORIA GIANNI FRANZI

Address: Piazza Marconi No. 1, Vernazza (La Spezia)
Telephone/fax: (011) 39-0187-812228
Open: Lunch and dinner, Thursday to Tuesday; daily in summer; closed from January to March
Cost: Moderate
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, Discover

A trattoria with a spectacular sea-view facing the old Roman harbor. Seafood specialties include panfried baby octopus and spinach- and ricotta-filled ravioli with a seafood sauce. Or try a local dish called tyan Vernazza, made with anchovies, tomato, onion and potato mixed into a tart and seasoned with rosemary. Finish off with homemade ice cream. The wine list is mainly local wines.


LA LANTERNA

Address: Loc. Marina, Via San Giacomo 10, 19017 Riomaggiore (La Spezia)
Telephone: (011) 39-0187-920589
Fax: (011) 39-0187-24581
Open: Lunch and dinner, Wednesday to Monday; daily in summer
Cost: Moderate
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, Discover

This a very popular restaurant perched just above the tiny harbor of Riomaggiore, looking out to sea. Here you can enjoy some of the best fish dishes in Cinque Terre. Ask for the day's fresh catch or for a seafood suggestion. They will even bring out a few portions of fish to help you make your decision. Portions are generous and wines are local Cinque Terre. If you want a change, try the Bosoni family's Vermentino Lunae Colli di Luni. It comes from a small wine-producing area between Liguria and Tuscany.


OSTERIA A CANTINA DE MANANAN

Address: Via Fieschi, 117, Corniglia (La Spezia)
Telephone/fax: (011) 39-0187-821166
Open: Dinner, Wednesday to Monday; closed November
Cost: Inexpensive
Credit cards: Not accepted

Chef-owner Agostino Galletti and his Swiss wife, Marianne Pfeiffer, have been running one of Cinque Terre's more typical restaurants for the past 12 years. No alfresco dining is available, but the small osteria, with its 10 tables, has plenty of ambience. Galletti has a small selection of local wines, but prefers to offer you his own. He changes his menu according to what's available in local markets. It offers fish, salads, vegetable omelettes and Ligurian specialties. To end the meal, Pfeiffer will regale you with one of her desserts, such as a cream pudding lavished with homemade fig syrup


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