Italian Riviera

I recently had the pleasure of attending Alumni Campus Abroad on the Italian Riviera with 15 other Wisconsin alumni and Badgers, plus alumni from Ole Miss, Miami University, Auburn, and Duke.

The Italian Riviera is a beautiful place, and we were lucky to stay at Hotel Vis à Vis in Sestri Levante for the duration of the trip. This hotel — built on a rock — is the second highest point in the city, and it overlooks the city and its two bays. Every morning, our group gathered in a dining room with stunning views to enjoy our cappuccinos, fresh fruit, cheese, and pastries before we embarked on the day’s adventure. On a number of evenings, we returned to the same hotel restaurant to enjoy a delicious dinner made complete with wine and a sunset.

We visited many places during our seven days: Santa Margherita, Portofino, Lucca, Genoa, Camogli, Portovenere, three of the five towns in Cinque Terre (Vernazza, Riomaggiore, and Monterosso), and Carrara. Most of the areas we visited went quiet after lunch, as the Italians take an extended lunch to spend time with their families and relax during the day. This gave our group lots of time to explore the architecture and beauty of each place where we also enjoyed our lunch.

Every day in the Italian Riviera was beautiful, and we were able to experience the food, culture, history, and people in Liguria and Tuscany. Two places that truly mesmerized the group were Cinque Terre and Carrara.

In Cinque Terre, we were in awe of the mountains that suddenly end once they reach the sea. The towns are small and have been weathered from years of storms. It was impressive to see how they have terraced the land and covered it with family vineyards in this region.

Carrara is known for the marble that comes from the mountain range that sits above the town, including the marble for many famous statues, including David. Hearing the mining history was extraordinary: before the railroad, men and oxen carried huge blocks of marble to the city below to export them, and now the work is done by modern technology and trucks.

In addition to the fantastic sights and experiences that we had on the Italian Riviera, we definitely enjoyed sampling many of the region’s specialties and eating our meals in typical, four-course style. Liguria is well known for its pesto, walnut sauce, limoncello, olive oil, focaccia, fresh fish, and, of course, gelato. We were an adventurous group and tried everything we came across, including fried anchovies, which surprised and delighted our taste buds!

I always enjoy sharing a recipe that I pick up while I travel, so I’m sharing the one below with you. This easy dish will give you a taste of Liguria and will impress anyone who eats it. Buon divertimento!

Ligurian-Style Fish
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced ½ inch thick
1 pound tomatoes, cut in large chunks
¾ cup pitted green olives
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 ~4-pound snapper or sea bass, cleaned and scaled; leave head and tail intact
Garlic
Salt and pepper
½ cup toasted pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1. Toss the potatoes, tomato chunks, and green olives in some olive oil, and place them in a large roasting pan.
2. Make a few shallow slashes on each side of the fish, and place some garlic inside the slashes.
3. Place the fish on top of the vegetables.
4. Lightly brush the fish with olive oil, and add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Roast for ~40 minutes, until the vegetables and fish are cooked through.
6. Top with pine nuts and serve!