The freshest produce, sourced locally from the tops of the Maritime Alps to the depths of the Mediterranean sea. It’s what the world famous mare e monti or surf and turf family of recipes are all about. Behind these recipes however, exist stunning sights of juxtaposed seaside towns and rural hills, showcased beautifully by many Italian regions up and down the peninsula.
I’ve just spent a week in my hometown of Andora on the Ligurian coast, and was reminded that Liguria has its fair share to offer on both these fronts: the mare and the monti.
Liguria is split into two coastlines, costa di ponente which goes from the French border to the city of Genoa – home to Italy’s biggest port – and costa di levante which picks up the remaining stretch to the Tuscan border. On the far end of the levante coast, just before Tuscany, you’ll find the world famous Cinque Terre. The town of Andora is on the ponente side, and although it’s not quite the cinque terre, you’re a stones throw away from Montecarlo in one direction and Portofino in the other.
I’ve been nagged over the years by mrs fp for not showing her enough of Liguria, resorting to lazy days on the beach. Therefore we decided that during this week as well as lounging in the sun and quenching our thirst with bright coloured Aperol Spritz, we’d venture on a few day trips.
One morning we jumped in the car and headed east towards the costa di levante, just beyond Genova, arriving in the little town of Recco in time for a mid-morning snack – the illustrious focaccia di Recco col formaggio. This focaccia was granted the Protected Geographical Status in 2013, meaning that only if you’re in Recco (and a couple of other local towns), and follow the certified recipe, can you advertise the true ‘focaccia di Recco col formaggio’ or ‘focaccia col formaggio’. Anywhere else, no matter how delicious, it’s just a plain old cheese focaccia!
A drive along this coastline is a must if you find yourself in the area. It’s reminiscent of the Amalfi coast, but certainly not as ‘on the map’ as its Neapolitan cousin. No bad thing when it comes to the old wallet. Of course that’s until you come to the town of Portofino. A natural port founded as part of the roman empire, and now a protected national park. The protected area also encompasses the neighbouring towns of Camogli and Santa Margherita Ligure.
Although the coastline soaked up most of the limelight during our trip, I also wanted to take mrs fp to the more rugged side of Liguria; the rustic, unglamorous countryside home to terraced hillsides and rustic hamlets. It’s where my Dad grew up as a little boy before moving down to the seaside to work in tourism.
A short 20 minute drive up some windy country roads and you’ve not only escaped the hustle and bustle of flocking tourists, but you’ve also landed somewhere between the 1900s and 1950s. It’s almost as if each hairpin bend is its own little time machine, taking you back another decade! We strolled through the narrow cobbled alleyways, spoke some Ligurian dialect to the locals, and of course plucked our very own tomatoes for a summer cundiun to be had that evening.
But make no mistake, most of the holiday was spent doing this (hit this link for more info write-up) :
And eating these on the terrace (hit this link for my homemade pizza tips):
A week’s holiday that yet again confirmed this little boomerang-shaped region of northern Italy does have it all. Ok, so this wasn’t a recipe for steak and lobster, but any great recipe needs a bit of inspiration behind it – this is mine.
Thanks for reading, and see you soon – next time another recipe, I promise.
Are you a surf or a turf person? Have you ever been to Liguria? Feel free to comment below