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Welcome to FoodMood blog space. Reflections on my travels, musings, favorite recipes, and the  Bunny Chronicles. Storytelling with joy, sass, self-reflection, and hope.

Liguria: the Italian coast of heaven

Bunny on the beach in Vernazza

Bunny on the beach in Vernazza.

Liguria, in particular Moneglia is one of my favorite places to visit on the Italian coast. We are super fortunate to have dear, generous friends who have a lovely little flat there which I call their private paradise. Tiny inside, just right for two people who know and love each other, with a grand terrace overlooking the sea, I am eternally grateful when they offer it to us to have a bit of paradise. Each time I am there, alone, with Claudio, or with a loved one I wake up every day grateful to be alive and joyous to be there. Over the years we have cultivated our favorite places and offered them to anyone traveling that way. Here we have a mix, some suggestions from us and a special guest appearance from Alli Zeper who recently shared this piece of paradise with her sister.

Our favorite place to eat in this area has been BelForte in Vernazza. The first time we went here, it was just after the mudslide and the owners of this place were helping the owners of another restaurant to rebuild. In actual fact, it was off season still and we were in their “land” place, Gambero Rosso, it was our first visit to Liguria together and this place along with the Cheo winery were the final pieces to make us fall in love with the area, off the path, and out of season as possible. There was only the inside seating and the place was full of Italians having Sunday lunch. It was divine. Next time we went to their “gem” , the Bel Forte. Andrea was our waiter, he is charming and possibly one of the reasons the place is one of our favorites. The view over the sea, the food, and the wine are all the other reasons. Over the years I have gone back several times early enough to catch a swim off the rocks just off the harbor as well. For me, Vernazza is where I always return in the 5 terraces, you can see how much Bunny enjoys it in the top photo. The others are lovely, and Alli provides some great info below, maybe I will branch out when we are there next.

Various scenes of Moneglia, including the view of and from our piece of paradise, Bunny meditating, centrale by night, and a twister in the distance

Various scenes of Moneglia, including the view of and from our piece of paradise, Bunny meditating, centrale by night, and a twister in the distance.

In Moneglia our favorite places have changed over the years and the last 3 times I visited my favorite was for sure Monlie. Recently opened in the under passage by the sea, I have been here as the only guest and when it was full, always tasty, fresh, and great bubbles to boot. What is always our favorite is the Centrale café, in the center of town. It is open all year round and between the family who owns the place and the parrot they keep it is quirky and fabulously local. Any time of day, morning coffee, midday beverage, evening apero, and after dinner drink. In 2011 walkway was opened between Levanto and Framura.

Various scenes of the walk, cool tunnels and the sea to tempt one to swim.

It is refreshing in even the hottest weather. Having repurposed the train tunnels with walking and bike paths, the shade provided is matched by the delight of the tiny beaches in between them where one can swim in crystal clear water. Levanto is full of restaurant and Alli has given some suggestions, I offer a place in Bonassola, Osteria Antica Guetta. I will walk there again just to go back here for lunch or dinner.

From Alli Zeper…..

On a whirlwind, my sister decided to join me for my graduate school graduation and so she came to Europe for her first time. From afar, she was in constant awe from my pictures of Switzerland and also wanted to experience our Italian roots. After spending a few days in Lugano, we headed to Italy. When planning our trip to Italy, I knew our first stop had to be Liguria; somewhere I had not been yet but had been dreaming of.

As suggested by Nicole, we picked a town that was slightly outside the five main terrace towns which are constantly flooded with tourists. Levanto is where we set ground for 5 days. This quaint town, slightly west of the 5 terraces, allowed easy access to and from all destinations in the area as well as providing its own picturesque and charming atmosphere.

Our first night in Levanto we opted for a restaurant very close to our Airbnb, Ristorante Pizzeria Due Lune. We were not disappointed. On this Monday night the casual restaurant was overflowing with locals indulging in seafood and pizza. As suggested by our server, I ordered the clams and mussels and my sister ordered the ravioli. Safe to say my sister was not disappointed by her first pasta dish in Italy and my seafood was incredible.

Throughout our trip we were insistent in our exploration of the area without settling for tourist traps or getting lost in the large crowds. As suggested by a local, we went to Manarola, just to hit a few main spots and go to her “favorite restaurant in the world.” We spent the day doing some short hikes, marveling at the views and stopped for gelato more times than I care to admit.

Alli's view of Manarola.

Hidden in the hilltops with a magnificent view is a delightful restaurant called Trattoria Dal Billy.

(Forewarning: it is hard to find and you must make a reservation in advance.) The service was impeccable and the food was even better. My sister ate trofie pasta dish with pesto, one of the most local of local dishes possible, and I opted for the stuffed mussels. This recommendation would not be complete without adding a note about the balsamic glaze at this restaurant. I am quite surprised my sister did not attempt to drink the bottle. She spent the remaining week of our trip in search of a glaze that was as good as this one, still no luck. My sister still considers this restaurant the highlight of her trip; it was fantastic.

Another highlight of our trip was the Buranco winery.

Alli's winery shots, including the wine.

Buried behind the town of Monterosso al Mare lies a picturesque winery. The tour of the winery was closed when we were there so we opted for a tasting and gave ourselves our own tour of the vineyard. The family owned property produces wines, grappa, oil, lemons and honey in small quantities. The sommelier was extremely knowledgeable and spent quite a bit of time discussing and explaining the wines and the production with us. The tasting area looks out to the mountains where you have a beautiful view of the landscape. After the tasting we ventured out into the vineyard where we got to glimpse into the honey, wine and lemon production. If you do venture to the vines of this vineyard, you must stop to greet the new litter of kittens living on the property.

Alli & Demi, two Florida girls enjoying a bit of their Italian roots on the 5 Terraces

Alli & Demi, two Florida girls enjoying a bit of their Italian roots on the 5 Terraces.

Our final day we spent relaxing in Levanto among the locals, great coffee and the beach.

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