As we reached our last two days in Italy, we were able to hit some few last iconic parts of the Northern Italian experience: Cinque Terre, and Osteria Francescana. We started our last two days in Italy with Parma, the home of parmegiano reggiano aka parmesan.
Parma is a small but beautiful city. It’d be the perfect place to spend a summer working in coffeeshops and eating good food. It’s not too toursity, but has enough for english-speakers to get by. The restaurants were great as usual and it just had a nice, sweet, small-town feel to it.
We were exhausted by dinner-time, where we were “entertained” by a very conservative conversation next to us. It was crazy because it covered all the topics from bashing the NFL players’ kneeling at the anthem, to gun rights, to race relations and such. I guess you can’t escape it!
In the end, we didn’t have time to visit any place that made Parmegiano Reggiano, but did bring back a few pounds for use at home. Since it is a hard cheese, it is explicitly allowed by customs (in case you are thinking about dropping by Parma anytime).
After eating amazing fresh pasta for the last week and a half, we had the opportunity to taste some more cutting-edge Italian cuisine at Osteria Francescana.
Reservations are filled months in advance (and we didn’t have one), but Tracy did a last second attempt at the waitlist and surprise, we got in!
Osteria Francescana came on many of our radars when featured on the premiere episode of Chef’s Table in 2015. Since then, it was given #1 restaurant in the world in 2016 from multiple magazines, and continues to stay in top 5. Chef Massimo Bottura was able to create a new way of thinking about traditional Italian food in a place that rejected anything but tradition. There is no way I can do this place justice, so all I can do is point to the episode of Chef’s table and an NY Times feature on Bottura.
I did do a little thinking on what justifies the price tag of a multi-Michelin star meal when many of us (including myself) can barely appreciate the subtlety and sophistication of these cuisines. I don’t know. That being said, this is a price I’m happy to pay to experience the best, knowing I can’t pay 1000 or 10000 dollars for anything better, no different from NBA stars or orchestra masters.
Our experience here was amazing. The food, ambience, wait staff, and pacing were great. We had a 12:30 seating that ended around 4pm. The food was both unique and extremely tasty (can’t say that about all avant garde high-end foods). Aside from the unique takes on traditional Italian dishes, and famous “Oops I dropped the lemon tart” dish, the food that stood out to me the most was a foie gras chocolate popsicle.
Our last day, we went to Cinque Terre. The famous five cities of Cinque Terre are old, old fishing towns on the north-west coast of Italy. It has become a huge tourist destination from beautiful poster shots – during our visit the place was expectedly flooded with Asian tourists.
We stayed in near by La Spezia, and the train was easy and took about 8 minutes to our first destination! From there, there were hourly trains that took you to the five cities for free with a 12 euro cinque terre pass.
The cities did not disappoint at all. The small towns were a light pastel washed by the ocean breeze over thousands of years. In a way, you can almost imagine it as colorful hillsides of San Francisco transported to an idyllic, remote coastline. We saw the sunset from the town Corniglia and the view was to die for – I could see it again and again and never lose the wonder.
Cinque Terre was our last day, and we drove back to a hotel near the Florence airport that night. It was an exhausting day to cap off a tiring but amazing two weeks in Italy. I’d whole-heartedly recommend a full two weeks there, and leaving Rome, Sicily, Pompeii, Venice, Milan, Lake Como for another few trips. (That being said, Italy reasonably small and you don’t have to let geography dictate your itinerary!)
Travelling has become pretty tiring for me but I’d love to know where else you’ve enjoyed spending time, esp. outside of the recently popular places (i.e. everyone going to Japan, Iceland, Hungary, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Colombia, etc. though would love to hear your experiences there too!).
Thanks for taking your time to read the posts and hope this has inspired you to make your way over to Italy or travel in general!
(Full Photo Album on Facebook as “Italy 2017“)