The first half of our trip having been in Bologna and the Piedmont, we continued south to Liguria and Tuscany. Great recommendations on this board helped a lot.
Parking isn’t the easiest but if you get lucky there is a spot in the Central Square with meters. Thanks to Mawrbryn we stopped at Vino e Farinata and were there right at 12 when they opened. By the time we left after 1 it was full. One difference from Barbarossa apparently is that at lunch they do not make their farinata with toppings but it is possible to order Gorgonzola or prosciutto on the side. I thought that was totally unnecessary as it was delicious plain. We had a great Genovese minestrone because it was unseasonably cold in early May and a delicious Branzino made in the wood fired oven. We also tried the Stuffed vegetables-eggplant, zucchini, onions and peppers- delicious.
We discovered that the “Sistine Chapel” seemed to only be open on Saturday and Sunday. We could’ve been wrong about that but it was a worthwhile visit to see the Duomo anyway. We also managed to find at least one of the old bakeries in the city and got to try the Paradiso cake which is a more sophisticated pound cake and some of their other small traditional cookies.
Having read extensively on chowhound posts we decided to stay in Chiavari (thank you Jen Kalb) at the hotel Monte Rosa which is in a great location right in town. Breakfast is included in a cafeteria style place but the choices are generous and you can’t complain. They do tend to get a lot of tour groups but it didn’t really impact our stay. Great Friday morning market there and easy access by train to any of the Cinque Terre towns. The train station is an easy 10 minute walk from the hotel. The ferry is also a good option if you have a beautiful day but it is more restricting of a schedule.
Our focus for staying in Chiavari was to be able to easily get up to Trattoria La Brinca. It was €100 round trip car ride but worth not having to make that drive at night since La Brinca is only open for lunch on Saturday and Sunday. Delicious pesto, as to be expected. Very good roast veal with juniper berries. I personally am not a fan of their chestnut flour pastas as I find them very heavy but they do offer some very interesting dishes to try. Desserts are excellent there and they went out of their way to help us celebrate a birthday and two anniversaries by decorating our plates. The owner was so gracious and took us down to his wine cellar and showed us some of the bottles of wine that he was saving for his children and grandchildren.
Lunch in Riomaggiore and thanks to Stuartlafonda - another chowhound recommendation –Dau Cilla. Really lovely spot overlooking the small harbor, you can sit outside if the weather is good and there was delicious pasta with lobster and another pasta with anchovies and a wonderful whole roasted fish. Looked to me like the best spot in town.
On our way to Lucca we stopped at Antica Locanda di Sesto. It was a Friday afternoon and we were one of only about four tables in the place but the food was outstanding. I would say of all of the meals of our 14 days of travel Osteria Veglio in the Piedmont and this were the best meals. My husband ordered the pear and pecorino ravioli with walnut sauce which were fabulous. My friend and I shared both the tagliatelle with asparagus sauce and fresh pasta squares with tomato sauce, thyme and pecorino. We tried the smoked goose breast salad and 3 of us had Bistecca alla fiorentina, which I thought was prepared perfectly. One of our group had the veal steak which he enjoyed very much. Cantucci made by Mama were consumed in great quantities.
Our final stop of this leg of the trip was in Lucca, but we had decided to stay outside the walls this time. We found Albergo Villa Marta, which was a 12 minute drive from the city center. The Villa Marta is a refurbished hunting lodge and it really was a lovely spot. It was so tranquil and green and a lovely break from the hustle and bustle of some of the towns we had been in recently. In typical Italian fashion, the deluxe room had a smaller bed than the classic room and if you go I would recommend asking for a room upstairs rather than on the ground floor – it got somewhat noisy down there from the people above. They have a lovely restaurant housed in a glass enclosed box that was obviously the only newly constructed component of the place. We tend to eat big lunches and not much for dinner which works in a setting like this because your options are limited – the restaurant at the hotel or there is a small trattoria around the corner but you really are out in the middle of nowhere here. Bicycles are complementary and available and there are great roads for walking with beautiful vistas.
Lunch in Lucca was at Buca San Antonio and was very enjoyable. We tried leek tart with ricotta and chickpea sauce, an unusual herring with cream, eggs & red beets, truffled chicken liver pate, tagliolini with black truffle and butter, carpaccio di manzo with black truffles and Parmesan, porcini risotto and deep fried and breaded lamb cutlets served with fried porcini mushrooms. The food was very good and the chef went out of his way and made my husband Zabaglione for dessert, which wasn’t even on the menu.
Our final meal of the trip was in Pavia, on our way from Forte di Marmi up to Malpensa to drop off the car. We gave ourselves a whole day to do it so there was no pressure. All of the restaurants I wanted to try in Piacenza were closed due to it being a Monday so we headed to Pavia and Trattoria Ressi. It was very quiet there on a Monday afternoon but the food was still a solid choice. We had a delicious eggplant parmigiana, spaghetti carbonara of goose liver which was a real treat for a non-pork eating person. The Veal Milanese was nicely done. We had house made Paradiso cake with mascarpone that was divine and a cheesecake with frutti di bosco(berries), also out of this world. It’s a charming town to wander around for a few hours.
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