A Day Spent Eating and Drinking in Spectacular Manarola, Cinque Terre
You may have seen on Instagram that I just returned from a brief but absolutely spectacular trip to Cinque Terre. If you don’t know anything about Italy, Cinque Terre is one of the most picturesque places and sought after tourist destinations. I stayed in charming Manarola, which is one of the five villages that make up the hamlet of cliffside towns known collectively as Cinque Terre along the Ligurian coast.
Each Cinque Terre village has something special to offer, but I was very excited to explore Manarola. It is a simple village to navigate with basically one very pretty street lined with pastel buildings. The street runs through town from the tiny port all the way uphill. And when I say uphill, I put a heavy emphasis on the ‘up’ part because you will do an endless amount of stair climbing while here. You really won’t mind though because the views are completely worth the burn you’re guaranteed to feel.
The main street I mentioned is where you will find all the bars and restaurants. Steep side streets run up the side of the hill, where most of the accommodation is located. This is where you’ll find all those stairs, but it’s probably a good thing given the amount of amazing food you will want to eat. The other reward for navigating all those stairs is that out of season you will be able to find a bench or terrace overlooking the view to enjoy all to yourself.
This is a true fishing village, which means mealtime is all about seafood. If seafood isn’t your thing, you won’t starve, don’t worry! I recommend filling up on gelato while people watching. You’ll find there are some very chic people milling around town.
Although my quick trip was a bit of a holiday, I was actually in Cinque Terre to work with photographer Melissa Schollaert (who I featured in a journal post about the most photogenic locations in Italy) to shoot some dreamy photos of the Lois Avery new season colours. It was an added bonus that Kelly of Italian at Heart was in town too, as we all spent lots of time together.
It was a real treat to dine out with these two amazing ladies, as they are both very knowledgeable about Italian food and wine, which is what inspired today’s post. They expertly led me through every menu, which ensured I kept my choices local, so I thought I would share that knowledge with all of you!
Are you hungry yet? Let’s go and enjoy a perfect day eating and drinking in Manarola ...
Breakfast is a simple affair in most of Italy. It’s a cappuccino at the bar and a pastry. I was very pleased with a cappuccino and Cornetto crema on the terrace of Bar La Plancia. Despite Manarola’s dramatic setting, there are limited opportunities to eat with a view. For a few euros you can enjoy your pastry on the terrace overlooking the sea - definitely worth it.
We actually had dinner at this friendly and traditional restaurant, Trattoria La Scogliera. It’s very relaxed and would make a perfect spot for lunch as well.
We shared a starter of grilled local octopus – so tender and tasty. I then enjoyed a wonderful plate of homemade fish ravioli with fresh sea bass in a white wine sauce, whilst Melissa and Kelly shared a plate of Spaghetti Al Pesto. The food was very good. The house white wine was delicious, and the staff friendly and welcoming.
I had a very nice scoop of ananas (pineapple) gelato from Bar La Plancia, which I ate by the rocks where the ferries dock.
However, I really wish that I had time for a gelato from Gelateria 5 Terre, as this is the place that excited Melissa and Kelly. Everything is gluten free, including the cones, which I am told are exceptional. A scoop of their very special kiwi and lemon gelato is now on my wishlist!
There is really only one place for an evening aperitivo in Manarola and it’s pretty popular so prepare to queue.
Nessun Dorma is one of the most scenic places anywhere for a sunset drink! This terrace bar is set on a hill with spectacular views over the village. There is light food available to enjoy with your drink (we had a lovely cheese platter and a plate of perfectly creamy burrata and tomato) and a couple of glasses of regional white wine.
A fun fact: the wine of Cinque Terre is mainly white wine made from a blend including the Bosco grape, a dry white wine. The grapes are grown in vineyards that are cultivated in terraces along the steep hillsides, high above the five villages.
Opposite La Scogliera is another lovely restaurant, Il Porticciolo. It is a very elegant choice for lunch or dinner with excellent local food. We loved this place so much we actually ate here twice in one day!
I’ve included this option as the perfect dinner restaurant, as I feel that it has more of a sense of occasion than the other restaurants on offer, and I like dinner to be the main event!
I love the way they set the stylish tables with natural coloured linens and a cool shabby chic menu with great font. It’s those little details that really set apart some places for me. Also, there was a rather adorable cat that kept wandering in off the street. He was around at lunch time too so I think he must be part of the family.
The house white at €3.50 per glass was the best wine I had in Manarola. For food, I took Melissa’s lead and ordered the local specialty ‘calamari e muscoli ripieni’, which is stuffed calamari and mussels served in a tomato-based sauce. It was so delicious! We also shared the light and crispy calamari fritti.
When we returned for the second time, I had the Spaghetti Gamberi e Zucchini e Nero Seppia. It was a fabulous dish. However, a word of warning, the lovely black pattern around the edge of the bowl is not part of the crockery, it’s the “nero seppia” (squid ink). I learned this the hard way after smearing ink on both cheeks! It was worth it though!
You absolutely must save room for dessert as the tiramisu, walnut tart and dessert wine and biscotti were all superb and presented in the most impressive way. In fact, I can’t remember when I had a dessert that was so beautiful to look at… and eat.
Doesn’t Manarola sound like a dream? It truly is, in my opinion. I hope you have a chance to eat and drink your way through the little seaside village the same way I did!