Perbacco Bacchus…it’s grape picking time!

It’s grape harvest time in the 5 Terre and we have had a marvellous response from Busabout tourists and the American Syracuse University of Florence , who sent, and will continue to send volunteers to help us out with the grape harvesting at Vernazza.

Happy picker!

Happy picker!

Aussies and Kiwis with owner

Aussies and Kiwis with owner

White grapes are the main type grown in the area – vermentino, albarola and bosco being the most common grape varieties. Unlike Australia, wine in Italy is classified according to the area, rather than according to the grape variety and each area produces what best suits its food specialities. The white wine here goes perfectly with the seafood diet – try the fried or marinated anchovies and other specialities like trofie (pasta) al pesto, torta del riso (vegetarian rice pie) and chick pea focaccia.

Wine has been a part of Italian lives for centuries and I found an interesting quote by Agostino Giustini, historian of the Genoese Repubblica, from 1538

“The territory is so precipitous and rocky, that not only is it difficult for goats to climb, but also makes flying difficult for the birds: arid and dry and yet no less full of fertile grapes, which in some places are gathered by men lowered down on ropes; and they harvest grapes producing such excellent wines that no words may describe. And there is no Baron, Prince or King who would not be greatly honoured when wine of the Cinque Terre is served at their table,”Pickers

Nowadays most of the vines are planted in upright rows, while the old style was to plant them over a pergola to allow better exposure to the sun in such limited terrace areas and to protect the vines snapping from the strong winds. Rather A pergolaback breaking to pick, but if you only do it for the morning like we did it was rather fun to be sitting altogether pleasantly shaded by the vines and chatting and laughing as we worked.

The little mono train system is a bonus these days, taking the filled crates down to road level where they are transported to the cellars – Cheo family winery or Cantina Sociale Cooperativa Cinque Terre. SAM_1312And the views from the work sites are amazing!SAM_1337

The Americans students, and the volunteers, mostly Aussies and Kiwis, work hard and find the experience very rewarding and we, along with the landowners, greatly appreciate the work that they do and are encouraged by their enthusiasm.SAM_1318

Lunch never lets them down and they deserve it as we meet them at 7.30 am, often without breakfast, so they can work before it gets too hot. So when tummies begin to rumble we take a break, work on for a few more hours and then relax over lunch.  Wine included, of course!

So if you are thinking of coming over, do join us as we are welcoming “outsiders” and you can  book in via                                                                 Project: ‘Turisti nei Cian’  – Ligurian dialect for ‘Tourists on the terraces’





It’s party time at San Bernardino

It’s been party time at San Bernardino, lots of hustle and bustle and excitement in the air, to celebrate the Madonna delle Grazie.  And where is San Bernardino?San B

Just when you think you have seen them all, you will find there are lots more than 5 villages in the Cinque Terre. My little village of San Bernardino sits above Corniglia and Manarola with a breathtaking view of both and on the 8th Street viewSeptember it was party time.


The permanent residents are around 12, along with 3 dogs and 5 or 6 stray cats, boosted by the holiday makers renting out during the summer. The plaque on the side of the church rings true as Basso is everyone’s surname  ( which made it easy for me when I first arrived so I never got a name wrong!) and the place is “divine/ of wine”. Procession

For a little village this is THE EVENT of the year and there was no holding them back! Locals had been planning for the day ever since last year, gathering goodies for the bazaar and prizes to give away at the lottery as well as preparing the food for the 2 day festival. People came from everywhere; on foot in a procession from Corniglia even pushing babes in prams, on the shuttle bus  from the other villages, or  hitching lifts with friends. Ties are really Massstrong with Corniglia (our nearest village) as they consider San Bernardino to be their Sanctuary too and we were not to be let down by the turn out.The Band

Our young local priest had worked hard to promote the event, as had the locals at San Bernardino  in offering their hospitality. Even the Vernazza council sent up the street cleaner to pretty us up and we had laid out the piazza with new gravel, se we were feeling very spruced up and flashy. Lottery prizes 1Prizes galore in the lottery and the bazaar, food non stop and a local band to entertain us.

Everyone was catered for, from young to old, toys and handbags, clothing and kitchenware, even a piano keyboard as a prize donated by…who knows? If you didn’t like your prize you could even re-donate it and it did another round! Kids squealed with delight when they peeled off the pasta holding their bazaar ticket to win a sought after doll, or mini tractor. Over 1000 lottery tickets sold and lots of donations collected, probably enough to frescoe the church!Dinner

And food; salami and prosciutto, pizzas and pies, cakes galore and the local speciality of sgabeo -hot fried pasta, as a quick snack before deciding what you wanted as a follow up.The cooksSgabeo

Old photos brought back memories to many of times past and family members long gone, and a few tears were shed. I love to hear people reminisce, to learn what the place was like when they were young, when the trails were all clean and everyone worked in the fields and on the terraces. Just to see the village and church in the photos of 1950s was touching. How hard they had worked to make it what it is today.Old fotos

Don GiordanoDon Giordano, microphone in hand, chanting and singing and drawing the believers and non along in prayer; everyone eager to follow the pied piper as he’s a fun priest with a magnetic personality.

Locals puffed out there chests on seeing the crowd, laughing and welcoming them and no one went away empty handed and the community spirit was reinforced for another year.Procession San B

So if you are on the trail from Corniglia to Vernazza  look up to the right, give a wave  to us at San Bernardino or drop by to see the “Paese dei Basso, luogo di-vino”.




Trailing behind

It’s been a tough year on the trails in the Cinque Terre this year, surprisingly tougher than last year. The trails needed considerable repair work after the landslides of 2011, which could not start until the cliff faces had been netted and stabilized. Then boulders crashed through the protective netting in mid-October 2012 knocking Australian tourists off the famous Via dell ’Amore onto the rocks below. They miraculously survived

Image courtesy of Giulia Carmignani

Image courtesy of Giulia Carmignani

the incident. That was also really the final blow to the whole National park structure as the Via dell’ Amore was considered the pride and joy of the trails, especially in view of  the funds and work that had gone into it. It’s a short easy and beautiful walk, hugging the cliffs with dazzling blue sea views all the way, accessible to everyone, even families with a pram.The consequences have been that this year only 2 trails of the famous ‘Sentiero 2’ blue trail, have been open, and then sometimes off and on. Repair work had to be done and the trail from Vernazza to Monterosso was closed Mondays to Thursdays for a while, and only opened permanently in mid-August. Corniglia  to Vernazza has been Trail Cornigliaopen mostly throughout the season, with workmen on the trail and tourists scrambling around them. They have only just started to work on Corniglia to Manarola now, which was closed from a landslide of over 4 years ago, while the Via dell’ Amore is closed indefinitely, under police investigation and in need of considerable repair.

So it’s been a tough season. Most tourists and Italians haven’t known about the closures before they arrived on holidays, as can be seen by the dismayed look on their faces as they read the closed sign at Riomaggiore station, and they have been here in abundance.

It’s also about logistics, as to be fair, those I have seen working have been working non-stop and giving it their best, undhelicopterer 38degree temperatures. The whir of helicopters has been constant, dropping off materials and machinery in huge crates. And I have seen many a spider man suspended in mid-air slowly working his way down tying steel cords and bolts into the rock face. People traffic has increased so dramatically that many of the trails have been widened from the old narrow mule track and protective railing has been put up, which regularly needs replacing.5T trail 5

As I sauntered behind a group I cringed when I heard a lady complain about the recently cut grass along the trail,  “you’d think they’d come and clean up after they cut it”! Little did she understand that she was lucky they had even come along with a whipper snipper to cut it! The wind has since cleared most of it away and nature quickly covers her scars. So spare a thought as you slog the trail, savour the fabulous views and lean on that rail to take the classic shot.

Nothing comes easy here, please take your time and enjoy it and we will do our best to look after it for you and for future generations.

Ps And if anyone knows the Family Monteya Fraguas tell them we don’t need their graffiti and hope their felt pen leaked in their pocket!graffitti



Don’t go down the plug hole!

This is really a possums only odd spot, and just to take your mind off the coming election. Does or doesn’t the water go down the plug hole in the reverse when you are in Italy as to Australia?

Image courtesy of Winnond

Image courtesy of Winnond

How many times has that question been asked, how many Science shows, ‘Quark’, Richard Attenborough and the like dedicated time to the matter. Yesterday my local radio station overwhelmed me with facts, figures and formulas – the earth turns at an incredible speed. Where we sit, be it Italy or Australia it’s turning at a mind-boggling pace of 750km per hour, while around the equator something like 1200km per hour or more! The science expert gave the analogy of being on a merry-go-round trying to throw a ball into the centre. The ball just won’t go in and bounces out from the spin. By this stage of the radio show I was getting a little dizzy and thought it was time I got off.Image courtesy of Bjwok                             Image courtesy of BJWOK

However it IS TRUE but he warned, “Don’t expect to be able to test it out in the hotel bathroom sink, as there are too many variables that can affect the outcome” –

  • the sink may be too small,
  • or maybe the plug hole is,
  • or you may bump the sink,
  • how you pulled the plug out,
  • how many stars your hotel has,
  • how many G+T’s  you may have drunk,
  • if your Italian plumbing is working, and/or if YOU know HOW it works anyhow
  • if you remember which way the water went down the plug hole at home,
  • if you remember why you’re staring in the sink anyway!

How do you feel? Queasy, uneasy? Trust me, it does go down in the reverse (because the scientist on radio convinced me) but it’s probably easier to go and vote….and if you don’t come from Down Under you don’t even need to worry……Buon bagno!