After learning more about Liguria, I was pretty psyched to actually see it. Liguria is where the famed (in recent years) Cinque Terre is like I mentioned before so I was ready to see it with my own two eyes. We started the day out going to see a mussel farm and learning about the process of cultivating and farming them. Mussels are a recent new love of mine in the past couple of years and I surely haven't known how they make it from the ocean to my plate. Well, now I do!
First of all, we did go to a farm so these are not wild mussels. They're certainly from the ocean but they're strategically placed there to grow. A couple of facts for you, mussels are basically a filter of the ocean. There is so much bacteria and pollution in them that they need to be treated well before consumption. You can eat raw mussels but it's highly advised against unless you fully know that the source they've come from is super reputable. Anyway, I was shocked to find out that mussels take 1 1/2 years to grow before they're ready to be harvested. They're also hermaphrodites, haha!
This little place we went to was so neat:
The men were honestly working so hard! It was HOT out, too. Tell me this isn't neat to see:
These mussels come straight out of the sea, are treated on site and people come through in droves to buy them. We got to go into the "factory" part of the facility and see the steps they go through. There really isn't much to it at the end of the day. They're brought inside in the crates and put into the large blue bins to be washed, soaked and put through a UV process to kill all the bacteria. Afterward, they're put through the conveyor machine to be rinsed once more, then bagged. It's a much faster process than I thought:
It's so quick, in fact, that none of this facility is refrigerated or air conditioned. There's no need simply because all the water used is super cold and they are sold that fast. Isn't that just awesome?! I swear to you, if I had a place near me like this to buy mussels, I might turn into one due to how often I'd eat them. After seeing the whole process, the guys at the facility prepared a tasting for us and I was happy as a clam (er, mussel?!):
I didn't expect this in the least but I was definitely wanting to try them. I could only think of Flex back in NYC and drool at the mere thought so this was exceptional. Simply steamed with a squeeze of lemon juice and served with focaccia and wine?! Um, hell yes. I couldn't believe I was eating mussels we just saw pulled out of the water. Is anyone jealous yet?
After this wonderful start to the day, we were off to lunch in Riomaggiore, one of the five towns in Cinque Terre. Much to my own surprise, I stayed awake on the drive and wow, am I glad I did. I only managed to get a couple of photos from the bus but it was enough to make me awestruck:
I'd also mentioned before that I looooove pesto and Liguria is where it originates. Guess what I had for lunch? No, not nachos from Cilantro, Rachel…PESTO:
And wine. Again. Yessss! That's what I'm talkin' about, school director folk.
After lunch, we met the most lovely couple who own a vineyard in the mountains and they took us to taste the wine they produce. It's a very specific wine called sciacchetra and it's specific to Liguria. It's a very potent, sweeter wine but it's absolutely fantastic. Normally, I don't enjoy the after dinner type wines but this was really smooth, not overly sweet and very good:
I didn't realize we'd get to do a tasting but I'm happy we did! Afterward, they took us to the vineyard and woooow:
The couple lives there on the vineyard property and the grounds are SO beautiful:
We stayed for a while talking with them and it was really great. Once again, this is another couple who exudes love and passion for what they do that's actually tangible. The man told me that he worked all his life in a factory and it wasn't nearly as hard as the work he does on the vineyard. However, "his spirit was never alive before and it is now, amongst the vines". I mean, who talks like that?! People who ARE alive, that's who.
When we regrettably had to leave, we were off to our final stop for the day. We'd be going to see a former ALMA graduate who owns a pizzeria in the province of Parma. He spent some time with us talking about pizza and his love of it which I surely do relate to. He makes a very particular type of natural yeast dough and it's the strangest thing! When you look at this pizza, the last thing you think is 'light':
However, you bite into it and it just deflates and it's this airy, fluffy texture that you totally don't expect! Not to be a critic or anything but it was super bland. I think the dough really needs salt because it honestly had no flavor. The cheese and sauce were awesome, though.
As you can see, it was quite a day for us. I really enjoyed this field trip particularly and I walked away feeling like I learned quite a bit. Being able to have an experience like that and see what we did is phenomenal, through and through. What a beautiful day!