Frolic and Detour: Magical Manarola

It’s no secret that I’m an Italophile. I love Italian food, design, culture, and of course, wine. Earlier this year I even started dreaming in Italian. It makes perfect sense, then, that for my first vacation in more than three years I went to Italy. Last month I visited Milan, Manarola, and several cities in Tuscany and Sicily. I took more than 2,000 photos, but I’ll start by sharing just a few from Manarola.

 © 2015 Tracie Robinson

© 2015 Tracie Robinson

The Cinque Terre are five villages (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) in the province of La Spezia, within the region of Liguria. These villages are known for their dramatic landscape and breathtaking views of the Ligurian Sea. They’re also known for two iconic white wines.

 © 2015 Tracie Robinson

© 2015 Tracie Robinson

The dry wine, made primarily from Bosco, Albarola, and sometimes Vermentino or other approved grape varieties, is designated as Cinque Terre D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), while a passito[1] wine made from the same grape varieties is designated as Sciacchetrà D.O.C. Within the Cinque Terre D.O.C., there are three subzones that may be listed on a wine label: Costa de Sera, Costa de Campo, and Costa da Posa.[2] All three subzones are located in the Commune of Riomaggiore.

 © 2015 Tracie Robinson

© 2015 Tracie Robinson

Pursuant to guidance issued by the Chamber of Commerce of La Spezia, Cinque Terre D.O.C. wines must consist of at least 40 percent Bosco and not more than 40 percent Albarola and/or Vermentino. Other varieties used in the wine must not exceed 20 percent. Grapes in the Cinque Terre D.O.C.s are cultivated and harvested by hand. Looking at the landscape, it’s easy to see why.

 © 2015 Tracie Robinson

© 2015 Tracie Robinson

Cinque Terre wines are extremely food friendly. In this case, the adage “If it grows together, it goes together” couldn’t be more true. The cuisine of this coastal region is dominated by high-quality seafood, and the bright, aromatic wines play well on the palate with the flavors, textures, and elegant simplicity of the food.[3]

 © 2015 Tracie Robinson

© 2015 Tracie Robinson

Despite its unassuming presentation, this was a scarpetta-worthy meal.

 © 2015 Tracie Robinson

© 2015 Tracie Robinson

My “vineyard tour” in Manarola was unlike any other. I wasn’t driven in an air-conditioned vehicle to a perfectly manicured estate somewhere inland. Instead, I followed the locals’ instructions and walked up the ramp behind the church (the church—there’s only one!). Within a few meters I realized that my “vineyard tour” would be a walk up a mountain under the blazing Ligurian sun. It was spectacular.

© 2015 Tracie Robinson

This is how the vines grow in Manarola.

 © 2015 Tracie Robinson

© 2015 Tracie Robinson

My photos don’t do this magical place justice, but I hope they inspire you to visit the Cinque Terre and to try its wines. As for me, I am already dreaming about my next trip to this seaside paradise!

 © 2015 Tracie Robinson

© 2015 Tracie Robinson


[1] Passito wines, also called straw wines ("vin de paille" in French), are made from partially dried grapes. The berries are left to dry on straw mats for several months before fermentation is initiated. As the water evaporates, the sugar and flavors of the grapes become highly concentrated. Sciacchetrà is a sweet wine that is usually enjoyed with cheese.

[2] If a subzone is indicated, the vintage must be indicated as well.

[3] This was the best meal that I had during my entire trip. I was given a great table at Marina Piccola, where I ordered spaghetti with clams and mussels and a “quarto” of Cinque Terre “sfuso.”