Hand’s up who has heard of Liguria? You’ve probably heard of Genoa? Maybe vaguely remember hearing that pesto originates from the region? But that’s the extent of your knowledge? That’s ok; it was the same for me. Until I attended a conference in the Genoa and decided to stay on to find out more about the surrounding area. I found that Liguria hides gems such as historical towns and cutting edge cuisine, and they’re an absolute delight to discover.
First we headed to the coast. I’m a beach kind of girl and the seaside town of San Remo on the Riviera dei Fiori, which enjoys a warm microclimate year round, is my kind of place. It was a Sunday morning so we followed the lead of the locals and went for a coastal bike ride. From elderly residents taking a leisurely pedal to little children in head to toe Lycra, it seemed the whole town were out to enjoy the cycle path that replaces the old railway tracks. It was late October and yet the thermometer read 27 degrees; there were moments when I could have mistaken San Remo for Los Angeles.
For lunch we headed a little inland to a land that time forgot. The tiny town of Taggia felt like a scene from a historical Italian movie. From the terracotta buildings to the lazy Sunday market and retro cars, Taggia was my first introduction to the traditional Italian towns of which Liguria is sprinkled with. I loved it.
Olio Colto completely surprised me – in a very good way! Hiding behind the large bricks of one of Taggia’s gorgeous old buildings was a shiny, bright and modern restaurant, waiting to serve us elegant dishes drizzled with local olive oil.
This was just the first of many superb meals in Liguria. If Italians do food well, Ligurians do food with a passion. We got to see how the local olive oil is produced when we visited the Sacone family business. After using a giant toothbrush-like tool to knock the olives from the tree, we tasted some the Sacone’s had made earlier in the dining room of their family home. The two brothers and their endearing mum couldn’t stop feeding us their splendid products; it was very hard to leave.
Pigna is another magical town that time forgot, perhaps because it is perched on one side of a mountaintop. What was once a castle is now home to residents who came out to welcome us foreign guests. The steep climb to their home must keep the locals fit, plus just down the road they have access to healing thermal waters – they might just live forever! Grand Hotel Therme has indoor and outdoor thermal pools that look up upon picturesque Pigna. After a full day of sightseeing the warm waters were the perfect relaxant (even if we did look funny in our green protective hats.)
I fell in love with Finalborgo. Frescoed buildings in orange and yellow now house little boutiques and coffee shops. The locals chatting in the market and day-dreaming out of windows seemed as content as one would imagine those living in this picturesque village should be.
As well as charming historical buildings Western Liguria is also home to a geological heritage site – the Beigua Geopark. Sandwiched between the mountains and the sea, the Beigua Geopark is the largest natural park in the region and its rocks and plant life tell a story about the areas history. Rich in natural beauty and archaeological importance, it’s a great area for nature and history lovers alike. For the more adventurous I’d recommend hiring a mountain bike. For the slightly less fit among us there are tour companies that can meet you with the bikes at the top of the mountain range, leaving you to navigate the winding scenic roads back down (actually harder than it sounds but a lot of fun!)
In the centre of the Geopark is the town of Sassello where the biscuit sweet smell of the amoretti that are produced nearby emanates throughout the area. The forest nearby is bursting with a variety of, which the older generation forage to sell on makeshift stalls in the town square.
For a relatively small corner of Italy, Liguria packs in a lot of personality. Rich in historical sites, passionate people and simply superb food, if you haven’t discovered this region yet I urge you to explore it and be delighted by what you find too.