La Cicala, La Spezia
As promised, a little bit about agri-tourism lodging. Although not a new idea it is something we have never tried before and something that many travelers don't know about. Basically you stay in the same house (in our case it was an apartment upstairs) as the farmer and if you choose so you can enjoy your meals with them. Many have "restaurants", a diningroom where meals are served. Meals are not ordered from a menu. What ever they choose to serve is what you get. Some of these places only serve a meal and no lodging is offered. Both ways you can experience real home made Italian food. In our case it was Italian mixed with a little bit of Swiss, because the hostess is originally from Switzerland. At La Cicala we also had an added benefit in savoring both the DOC white and Sangiovese-blended red wine that gets produced on the premises. (Sangiovese grapes are traditionally grown in Tuscany and are use as the major component for making Italy’s flagship wine, Chianti.) I have to admit Silvano Grassi makes a very good wine on the premises.
We have found that the lodging and the food is much cheaper than hotels and the food is far superior to most restaurants. As a matter of fact, the best food we had in Italy was at La Cicala. On top of that the hospitality we experienced at La Cicala was fantastic. Our hosts, Silvano and Barbara Grassi made us feel at home the moment we arrived and treated us like family. I highly recommend La Cicala for anyone traveling to the La Spezia area or if you plan to visit Cinque Terre. The best value for money lodging and food in Liguria, and maybe even in Italy.
Here's what we had for dinner our last evening in La Cicala:
Facaccia bread with a bruscetta of tomato & pepperoni (sweet peppers),
and another Facaccia with pesto, carrots and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Thereafter we had a delicate baked dish of curried vegetables with a Phyllo crust.
This was followed by 2 different quiches: One made from apple and leeks (absolutely fantastic) and the other made from sweet onions.
Anti-pasta: Arugula salad.
First course: Risotto (the best I have ever had and I have eaten some good risotto in the past.)
Second course: Roasted Rabbit with rosemary potatoes. (The rabbit was very tender with a lovely roasted crust.)
Dessert: Bitter Orange Tiramisu. (What a fantastic difference from the usual coffee-flavoured tiramisu.)
Finished it off with a cup of Espresso.
Our Wine: A bottle of Silvano's Sangiovese Red.
All of this for under €30 per person. You will not find this quality food anywhere in Italy for this price.
Our lodging was a two bedroom apartment with a sitting room, bathroom (furnished with a washer and dryer) and a small kitchen, which include everything needed to cook your own meal. The lodging was clean and immaculate. If you need a ride into town, for a small fee you can ask Silvano.
For more information on La Cicala and daily rates you can contact Sergio Grassi at grassisergio at hotmail dot com.
Views from the porch of La Cicala.The apartment's kitchen. It has everything you need while on holiday.