14 June 2012

Liguria, Part Uno



Typical unpretentious, fishing town. Beautiful views, nice atmosphere, very good food, plenty of small shops with local produce, with all the glamour of Portofino, without the crowds...

I just came back from one of the most unforgettable holiday destinations in Europe - The Italian Riviera (Liguria).
Liguria is that thin moon shaped region of Italy boarding with France. The weather is mild almost all year round (the coldest is 6C). It is almost impossible to find an ugly village, town. What gives the area an element of extreme charm is the mountains which almost touch the sea forcing the Arlecchino houses to perch on steep hills.
It is difficult to decide which one is the prettiest village in Liguria. If you decide to travel by train, which, for many reasons is advisable (firstly because of the lack of parking and secondly because of the closure to traffic in many centres) you will pass gem after gem. And there cannot even be the temptation to skip one or the other on the excuse *after all they are all the same*. They all have a different character and their own reason to stop.
But if you really do twist my arm then I could probably say Portovenere, Monterosso and of course Portofino..

Portovenere marina

Portovenere sits on a rocky peninsula in the Gulf of Poets. It was once popular with poets and writers such as Byron, Shelley and Lawrence. With its small harbour lined with colourful houses, its narrow streets leading up to the castle and the church standing on top of the rock, Portovenere is one of my favourite places to visit in the Italian Riviera.

The view from hotel Paradiso in Portovenere

There are several ways to reach Portovenere. From Pisa Airport  take the train to Pisa Centrale (Pisa Central station) followed by the train to La Spezia Centrale. The train ride is quite comfortable and takes about an hour.

From La Spezia you have a few options - bus, water taxi (ferry) or a car. I wouldn't recommend you to rent a car as the parking lots in Portovenere are limited. Unfortunately the bus does not leave from the railway station, you have to walk about 15 minutes to the bus stop. As you leave the building of the railway station, you have to start walking to the left until Piazza Garibaldi. Turn right there, walk straight down Viale Garibaldi. The bus stop can be found next to the Arsenale.

We opted for a taxi which costs a set price of 35 Euro.


Sunset in Portovenere

There are 4 hotels in Portovenere

4* Grand hotel Portovenere www.portovenerehotel.it

4* Royal Sporting hotel Portovenere www.royalsporting.it

3* Hotel Paradiso www.hotelparadiso.eu

3* Hotel Belvedere www.belvedereportovenere.it

What to eat in Liguria

What better way to get back to blogging than to reminisce about the food on our Italian holiday!
Liguria is a region best known for its trofie pasta, green pesto (a delicious sauce made with garlic, parmigiano cheese and basil),  focaccia (a flat oven-baked bread), and seafood.

I could describe every meal in glorious, pesto-drenched detail. Ok, let’s be real, no I can’t. That ship sailed after one too many glasses of vino. Regardless, that would do you no good—you’d just be terribly hungry and painfully jealous.

Instead, being the fantastic food-obsessed tourist that I am, I tracked down and sampled nearly every local delicacy and regional specialty for your culinary education. So, should you ever find yourself in the Ligurian region you’ll know exactly how to order for maximum impact.

Trofie with freshly made green pesto. Heaven!

When J told me we were going to the birthplace of pesto, his eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas. In Liguria, the stuff is everywhere.  What red sauce? It’s all about basil, olive oil, garlic, Parmigiano Reggiano and pine nuts muddled to perfection. Nearly every shop in the area sells jars of pesto, so if you’re looking for a gift or souvenir for your favorite foodie, there’s not much better in terms of portability and authenticity.

I think I ate my weight in focaccia while in Portovenere, Portofino, Santa Margherita  and Cinque Terre. Onion, rosemary, potato, sun-dried tomato, parmesan—I sampled them ALL. It’s doughy, dense, greasy and delicious, and I gladly ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Except for its pesto and focaccia, many people may not know that Liguria is a real gourmet place. At every corner you find a bakery with the most inviting delicacies, both sweet and savoury. And patisseries that crop up almost at every street with alluring cakes, gelatto and pastries...ah! I really don't know how locals keep fit. Or perhaps I do... the hills!

Seafood is of course the other queen of all Ligurian dishes. Being so damn close to the sea, you can bet that what you find on your plate is fresh! You can’t visit the Italian Riviera without eating seafood. And if you don’t eat seafood, you’ll be eating a lot of pizza and focaccia (there are worse fates, I suppose).

In Italian fishing regions, they let their fruits of the sea shine with very simple preparations. Think olive oil, salt, and roasted vegetables. Another common preparation is to bake a whole fish under a mound of sea salt, which makes for a juicy, melt in your mouth meal. The variety is nearly endless, so don’t expect me to recall every type of fish. Suffice to say every fish dish I had was tender, flavourful and impossibly fresh. 

Freshly baked seabass with olive oil, lemon and grilled veggies. Delish!

La Buridda di seppie (octopus stew)

One of the most impressive Ligurian antipasti is the White & Cured Anchovies

Ligurian Terrine. Layered anchovy and potato, with a little bit of tomato thrown in, baked in a pool of olive oil with parsley thrown on top. Delicious. Very subtly flavored, but very hearty

London Spa Girl x


  1. Tina - I think this is my favorite post to-date. I can't wait to hear about the rest of the trip (and to get an email off-line highlighting the juicier details!). Miss you. xx

  2. Amazing photos! Liguria really is a great place to visit :)



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...