When we first started planning this year’s Europe trip, life was crazy. We were in the midst of renovation hell and living with my mom. I was grieving the unexpected loss of my dad in ways that are still unimaginable to me. Each night, I would work on a puzzle of Vernazza. All I wanted was to relax and enjoy a simpler life.
One that didn’t involve all the things I was desperate to escape from, either. Cinque Terre, Italy became my obsession.
As I started planning our trip to Cinque Terre, I came to the conclusion that we needed to stay overnight in Manarola. As I searched for things to do (beyond hiking), I found a few cooking classes, but none of them were offered when we were there. When I realized pesto was a Ligurian specialty, I became a woman on a mission.
There are few things I love more than Italian food. I would find a Cinque Terre pesto class, and I would learn to make it while we were there. (I love Ligurian food so much that I learned to make focaccia at home.)
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Cinque Terre Pesto Class
Book here: Cinque Terre Pesto Making Class
Though Levanto isn’t exactly one of the Cinque Terre villages, it is still covered by the Cinque Terre card. Levanto is a 20-minute train ride from Manarola. (You can check train schedules at Rome2Rio.) Upon arrival, it is a 15-minute walk from the train station to La Nicchia. It is a straight shot, but you’ll want access to google maps.
When we arrived for the class, we found that they had prepared an elaborate spread of olives, olive oil, bread, pesto, and wine. The instructor explained (via demonstration) how pesto is made using the traditional marble and wood tools. She also showed us how to take the center veins out of garlic. When she was finished, she spread the pesto onto toasted bread for us to try. It was SO delicious. We had eaten pesto the night before and thought it was good, but it paled in comparison to the fresh stuff!
After the tasting, she allowed us make our own pesto. The recipe is really straightforward with no cooking required. I love how pesto turns bright green once it is almost ready. There are four fresh ingredients: basil, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic, and a bit of olive oil. I love how pesto turns bright green once it is almost ready. So fresh, so tasty. Tom added a more parmesan to our pesto because that’s the way he likes it. (If you prefer cheesy pesto, make sure to get a reservation at Belforte!)
Once our pesto was done, we proceeded to eat all of it. Beyond delicious.
Tasty Cinque Terre Souvenirs
Because this pesto class is housed in a store, we were able to try a lot of Ligurian products as well. In addition to the fresh olives, I enjoyed trying the cioccolatini sciacchetrà. These chocolate treats are filled with a local sweet wine. (We brought a bag of them back for my mom! She enjoyed them even though she’s not particularly fond of sweets.)
La Nicchia offers a myriad of fresh pastas, including pasta sheets that could be rolled out and stamped with your own pasta logo. Who has a pasta logo besides a pasta house?! If you’re looking for a great souvenir, trofie is the traditional pasta served with pesto. They also ship worldwide, so I was able to send an entire box of pastas, sauces, and chocolates back the United States. It arrived a few days after we returned home, and everyone was very excited about their treats.
Other Cinque Terre Cooking Classes to Try
This easy pesto class was definitely one of my most favorite activities on this trip. If you can’t make it to a class (you really should try!), make the trip to Levanto and pick up some of their speciality products. The La Nicchia staff was warm, friendly, and excited to share their goodies. They definitely make some of the best pesto in all the villages, and I’ve tried more than a few restaurants in Cinque Terre.
If you’re short on time, you can head to Nessun Dorma for their pesto experience. This Manarola restaurant offers the best view of the harbor and would be a great place to have a meal when you’re done.
If you have more time and visit during the peak season, A Casa Cinque Terre offers numerous cooking classes in Cinque Terre. We’ve never been able to make it work with our schedule because we travel during shoulder season, but they are always quick to respond. We have enjoyed a Cinque Terre wine tour on other trips, too. Make sure that you also check out what’s available on Get Your Guide and Viator, too. They have the most comprehensive list of Cinque Terre food and wine experiences I’ve seen. I always start there for smaller destinations.