Cinque Terre: Exploring Italy’s West Coast

If Italy is unlike any other country, Cinque Terre is unlike anything in Italy.

Stretching along the coastline to the west of the city of La Spezia, in the Liguria region, Cinque Terre is a collection of five small towns that sit like glistening jewels jutted into the side of rocky cliff faces and pushed up against the aqua-blue Mediterranean Sea.

But did you know the famous villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore that make up this impressive ode to Italian coastal life are also home to a culinary tradition?

Our cooking tour through Italy’s west coast goes through Cinque Terre but first it begins in Turin, with a tour of the city’s elegant cafes that date back to the 1800s and an organised tasting of some very tasty artisan chocolates. While our chocolatier is busy teaching us about the first gianduiotti bar, we take on the role of expert tasters and learn the true meaning of being a cioccolato-dipendente (chocolate addict).

Once we have finished with chocolate, we move onto truffles in nearby Alba. Known as the capital of Truffles, Alba is a food-lovers dream destination. But for those who aren’t so keen on one of nature’s finer offerings, there is always the option to taste truly divine red wines in Barolo in some of the regions ancient wine cellars.

Porto Venere is a lesser-known but equally impressive stop on our way to Cinque Terre and the ideal location for our first seafood lunch. Staying the night in Cinque Terre gives us time to explore the many local restaurants and catch some extra sunshine.

Our next stop is the city of Parma and a tour of Parmigiano Reggiano world-famous cheese factory. And what better way to enjoy fresh Parmesan cheese than with a slice of Parma ham and red wine? Then comes Modena, home to the classic balsamic vinegar, and later the gastronomic delight that is modern Florence and a juicy bistecca fiorentina for dinner.