Whether you are a foodie or not, a travel to Italy is also a travel inside taste.
Surely Italian food is one of the much more famous, varied and tasty in the word but for me this is not the only reason to love it. What I like is when food can tell us a story, a long and old story about a land and about people producing it.
That’s what Slow Food movement has been trying to enhance for a long time, selecting small producers: farmers, fishermen, shepherds, bakers, cheese makers and pastry chefs that, trough their daily work, contribute to preserve great quality food and gastronomic traditions at risk of extinction.
Following Slow Food Presidia (food selected, protected and enhanced by Slow Food), you can go deeper, under the tourist surface, meeting people and hearing their heroic stories of “resisting” producers.
In the Italian Riviera there are at the moment 14 Slow Food Presidia, all along the region. We’ll travel from west to east, from France, towards Tuscany, to make you discover the best kept secrets of Ligurian food.
Just behind Bordighera, you can’t miss to visit Vallebona Old Distillery, where the Guglielmi family still produces bitter orange flower water.
Orange flowers harvest is completely hand made and in May the scent is fantastic. This is not a place for tourist and it looks like jumping back in time.
On the French border the Brigasca sheep are farmed.
The animals stay always outdoor, half year in the mountains and half on the coast and from their milk is produced a delicious cheese, the Brigasca toma cheese.
Another specialty of the west Riviera are the Badalucco, Conio and Pigna Beans, that grows on the highest lands of inner valleys and are typically packaged in jute bags.
In the mountains behind Ventimiglia, near the small tiny village of Perinaldo you can find the Perinaldo artichoke. Tender and without spines, the legend tells it was imported from France by Napoleon. You can taste it in May and June in local recipes such as little omelets, roasted with Parmesan and mushrooms or simple fritters with garlic and parsley. It is also preserved in the fragrant local Taggiasca oil and celebrated in a local feast on the second Sunday in May
Near the medieval town of Albenga grows the Vessalico garlic, with its delicate taste it’s celebrated with a popular feast on July 2nd. It’s cultivated on very small plots of land on the mountains and packaged in long typical plaits
Albenga is famous also for its violet asparagus, that was never crossed trough time and maintains its inimitable fragrance and flavor. You have to taste it if you are there in spring
Moving towards Savona, in the inner valleys, the ancient preservation technique of chestnuts, once common throughout the Ligurian Apennines, still survives. Chestnuts coming from the local woods of enormous old trees are dried in small, one-room stone buildings with a shingle roof. A low fire burns constantly inside, smoking the chestnuts arranged on a wooden rack.
Going down towards the coast, in summer you can find a few, old, protected orchards where still grows the Valleggia apricot, a delicious and tasty local variety
But this is also the area of the famous Chinotto of Savona: a bitter orange that grows just in this area of the Italian Riviera and was used in the past by sailors for its rich vitamin contents. Few producers in the area transform it in delicious jam, candied and liquors, following ancient recipes.
Visiting a citrus groove and hearing stories from the producer it’s an unforgettable experience
Just on the beach in the medieval, amazing village of Noli, local fishermen repair their typical small boats called “gozzi”. Here is the Slow Food presidia of Cicciarelli, small local fishes that are caught with an ancient fishing technique, the “Sciabica”. They will tell you about the hard life on the sea and teach you to choose fresh local fish directly from their market stroll on the beautiful sandy beach.
The Genoa area it’s renown for its rose syrup: artisanal syrup, made from nothing but an infusion of rose petals, water, sugar and a little lemon, a delicious rarity! Following the Genoese tradition the syrup was offered to guests in tiny crystal glasses, little bigger than a thimble.
Nowadays, only a few traditional producers remains; the most famous is the ancient Romanengo confectionary. When you visit their factory it’s like stepping back in time, everything is like it was in the past!
Liguria it’s an hard land with few space between the mountains and the sea so that also the Cabannina, the only authentically Ligurian cattle breed, it’s small and hardy breed. The cow origin is in the Aveto Valley, near Chiavari.
In the Vara Valley, next to Cinque Terre, you can find the majestic, local black cock. The cocks roam freely and follow a natural diet that makes their meet excellent
But let’s go finally to the sea, near the tiny, colored village of Camogli where there is the ancient Tonnarella a seasonal fixed fishing system in Camogli that has centuries of history. It is the only one remaining in Liguria and one of the few “tonnara” still active in all of Italy
Following our travel, food becomes a key to discover the real soul of a territory. That’s why food, and in particular Slow Food Presidia can become a real fil rouge for your travel in the Italian Riviera.
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