Over 20 years ago and not long after we got married, Michael and I rented a small apartment overlooking the ancient fishing port in Santa Margherita Ligure. It was our introduction to Italian living and we fell in love not just with “Santa”, as it is known by the locals, but with the entire Ligurian region. Soon we began looking for a home to buy there, a quest that eventually would lead us to Chianti and La Petraia. But we always considered Santa our second Italian home. We get back as often as possible to visit, to enjoy the celebrated Ligurian cuisine and to take long hikes on the Monte di Portofino, the spectacular coastal promontory, natural park and UNESCO world heritage site.
The Ligurian kitchen is arguably Italy’s healthiest. It features loads of locally grown vegetables, cooked slowly in the region’s excellent olive oil or stuffed into pastas and vegetable tarts. The freshest seafood is available directly from fishermen and the world’s best basil pesto and fugassa (focaccia) comes from here. The local white wine makes a perfect partner for a Ligurian feast and one is always well-earned. Towns here are built vertically and it is not uncommon to find a house or sometimes an entire apartment block accessible only by a long, steep footpath. The Ligurians are among the fittest and longest living people in Western Europe, which doesn’t surprise me because in over two decades since our first visit it is only us that seem to have aged.
These pictures are from last weekend, our most recent trip. My next post will feature the delicious whole citrus fruit cake I made when I returned home using the excellent citrus fruit we picked straight from the trees.
In my first cookbook, Piano, Piano Pieno you will find many authentic Ligurian recipes including a whole series of traditional savory vegetable tarts, an authentic Genovese focaccia and the delicious Testaroli col Pesto, a pancake from l’entroterra nel Levante (the Eastern Ligurian inland) and the nearby Lunigiana region of Tuscany.