I've been to the Cinque Terre twice before. I've hiked the trails from one fishing village to another, eaten pesto, fritto misto and tasted the white wine made here in Liguria. The other times I visited I remember thinking that I just didn't get what all the hype was about. It was supposed to be so romantic,- 5 fishing villages along the Mediterranean connected by a train, the Via d'Amore or ferry. But what I recall during those two visits was bumping into people on the trails, visiting tourist-ridden fishing villages, experiencing sweltering heat and suffering mediocre food. I knew there had to be more because every time someone talked about their trip to the Cinque Terre, they had a twinkle in their eye.
Why was it different for me this time? Why did the pesto taste so sweet? Why didn't I know about the Albarola, Bosco and Vermentino grapes and how good they tasted with the crispy, tender fritto misto? The hotel was far from luxurious so it couldn't be that. Was it the warmth that Felicita and Angelo Pasini, the owners of Albergo Pasquale, extended making me feel like their hotel was my home? Were the villages more quaint? Had the Cinque Terre changed or had I?
I arrived at the Albergo in the heart of Monterosso just two weeks ago, the first day of my weeklong cooking class. As soon as I walked in the door, I knew I'd made the right decision. I immediately revisited the kitchen I'd seen a year ago on a scouting trip and yes, it was well equipped and had enough space for my 12 students. I then went upstairs to my room and it was very basic at best, but when I opened the shutters, the Mediterranean Sea was right there before me.
In the first few minutes I knew that for me it was a magical place I couldn't wait to explore. And I had a whole week to do it! But would my students get it? I just had to hope. And I'd be finding out soon because I had just minutes until they'd arrive.