Cinque Terre, five small fishing villages backed against the vine covered Ligurian hills on the Mediterranean, is famous for its hiking trails and quaint harbors. On vacation last September, my husband Carl and I discovered this coastline of fishing villages and exuberantly explored the abundance they have to offer. These villages were once only accessible by sea, and still no road connects them. Now they can be reached by train from La Spezia, which runs daily.
Our cuisine delight was at the Ristorante al Castello perched high above the village of Vernazza.
But first, a little history…
High atop the village of Vernazza sits the remains of an ancient castle tower. Like a beacon, this tower has stood guard over the little fishing village as early as the 12th century, when pirates plied the waters. The inhabitants tended their vineyards up in the hills, surrounded by fortified walls and hillside terracing, depending on their watchtower to keep them informed of pirate activity.
During World War II, the tower became a lookout for the Nazis. The British bombed them out, so the tower needed to be rebuilt. Today the remains have been converted into hilltop dining with sweeping views of the Mediterranean.
Climbing up a steep and winding pathway from the harbor, we set out to dine at the Castello. After we arrived, we were seated at a table with spacious views of the water. Soft ocean breezes swept through the restaurant, carrying with it hints of citrus which mingled well with the salty smell of the sea. Delicious Ligurian cuisine was listed on the menu, consisting of seafood with pasta dishes, herbed baked fish, lasagna with pesto, and my favorite- a seafood medley. I ordered it without hesitation.
Freshly caught fish, shrimps, scallops, calamari and mussels covered my plate with the bounty of the sea. The white fish proved flavorful and flaky, the shrimps crisp, and the scallops large, buttery and tender. It was a delectable feast.
Lingering over glasses of the local white wine, we observed other couples dining at outdoor tables on the terrace below that hugged the cliff walls overlooking the sea. Candles illuminated faces and wine sparkled and danced in goblets as the last remaining rays of the sun stretched out its arms over the twilight sky. Voices grew hushed and intimate. The warmth from the day gave way to cooling puffs of wind off the water.Address: Via Guidoni 56, Vernazza, Italy
Have you ever dreamed of dining in a castle? Maybe you have…if so, where did you dine? I love to hear from you so please feel free to leave a comment below.