A trip to Liguria, an enchanting Italian region famous for its evocative Cinque Terre and for the lively and cosmopolitan Genoa, reserves unique surprises from “Levante” (Eastern Liguria) to “Ponente” (Western Liguria).
Today we tell you about a gastronomic excellence, a rare and precious citrus fruit that, although originating in China, now grows and is cultivated only in that stretch of coast and inland that goes from Varazze to Pietra Ligure (about sixty kilometers from Genoa), in the province of Savona: chinotto.
Guess what! Liguria, among all the wonders and opportunities it offers, also has its special fruit!
Let’s get to know it better.
History of Chinotto
Chinotto, a small bright green fruit that with time turns into orange and with a wonderful and characteristic scent, began its adventure in Liguria when a navigator from Savona, during the sixteenth century, transplanted it on the western ligurian coast.
And here chinotto found its ideal environment and even improved its organoleptic properties!
With time, thanks to this special citrus that had already met the favor of navigators as it could be stored in sea water and thus become one of the few sources of vitamins that the sailors had on board, in the province of Savona many establishments specialized in the art of candying were developed and so was born an important pastry tradition that had its period of greatest splendor between the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century.
The luck of chinotto lasted until the 1920’s when an unusual succession of strong winter frosts decimated the plants, beginning a crisis that threatened to end a rare and delicious confectionery tradition.
But, fortunately, it was not because today, thanks to the dedication of small local producers and selected patisseries, chinotto is back in the limelight becoming a symbol of authenticity and gourmet specialties.
This precious fruit in 2004 became part of Slow Food Presidia with the fundamental objective of protecting its cultivation and reviving the art of candied fruit.
Slow Food is an important global organization founded in 1989, which today has a hundred thousand members and a network of two thousand communities that implement a sustainable, high quality and small-scale food production.
The worthy cause of Slow Food is to propagate the culture of food as a symbol of traditions, identity, pleasure and promote a lifestyle that respects territories and traditions.
How to use it?
Chinotto has remarkable properties: digestive, it’s full of vitamin C (the refreshing drinks based on this fruit contains a lot of this vitamin so precious for our health) and from the flowers and the zest we extract phytotherapeutic compounds used to facilitate digestion and as a remedy for insomnia.
Speaking of confectionery specialties, from chinotto we can obtain the homonymous drink, sparkling and with a slightly bitter taste, and we can prepare candied fruit, jams and mustards.
Surely now you will have the curiosity to know closely such a typical fruit and to taste the delicious specialties that derive from its skilful processing.
How to “live” the Chinotto Experience?
We can assure you that it is really a special experience: in the fascinating hinterland of Finale Ligure, historical and characteristic town in the province of Savona in the Western Riviera, we had the opportunity to see so much wonder first-hand by visiting a charming citrus grove whose bucolic and genuine atmosphere has transported us in a past with slow rhythms and close to nature.
Also here, in a relaxing area surrounded by greenery on the heights of Finalborgo (the third borough of Finale Ligure located further inland), we discovered the authentic and genuine flavors of Liguria tasting unique products “homemade” with love and dedication in respect of the environment, seasonality and tradition.
But it does not end here: we feasted our eyes also walking in the perfectly preserved historical center of Finalborgo among cobblestone alleys, fascinating glimpses and aristocratic palaces of the Renaissance period.
Visiting a citrus grove surrounded by a charm of the past, getting to know chinotto and tasting its delicious specialties means immersing yourself in an authentic, exclusive experience, away from mass tourism and the “usual attractions” for tourists.
It means feeling part of the place, savoring the flavors and aromas as the locals, getting in touch with the territory and one of the products that is the pride of the province of Savona and Liguria.
An enchantment for the eyes, the palate and the heart, a genuine emotion that will accompany you over time.