20 August 2014

Food is History in Liguria

Pignone Festival Celebrates Local Food 
One way Italians express pride in their culture and their history is with food - God bless them. Almost every town has it's Prodotti Tipici (local specialties) and the Ligurian town of Pignone has some that are really interesting. An historic town near the Cinque Terre and north of La Spezia, its food traditions go back centuries, and with good reason.  You don't need a history or marketing degree to realize a town on trade routes with rich farm land near a rocky coast might have the edge in food production. But keep in mind that Pignone's prodotti tipici  developed when marketing meant carrying the products on foot to La Spezia or to the coast. 

Dry corn or Granturco Dall'Asciutto of Pignone
Granturco Dall'Asciutto of Pignone on the cob. Named dry corn because
it can survive dry spells. It makes good polenta and a special focaccia.
The big festival called Gli Orti di Pignone (The Gardens of Pignone) is the annual expression of local food pride in Pignone. It is held on a weekend at the end of August and it draws thousands. There is food and wine to buy, to eat, or just look at. Local music groups help celebrate the town's contadini origins, the atmosphere is lively and it lasts into the night. According to the Pignone Pro Loco, in 2014 the Sagra will be held Saturday August 30th from 18:00 to 24:00 and Sunday August 31st from 12:00 to 23:00.  Here's a rather long amateur video that you can flip through to see what to expect: Gli Orti di Pignone 2011 Video.

We genuinely like Pignone and have written about it before in Beautiful Villages of Liguria Part 7, where you can read a short description of the town and its history.  The Touring Club Italiano likes the town too and awarded Pignone its quality seal, the Bandiera Arancione: TCI Best Small Towns - Pignone.

Pignone's Products. Here is a guide to some of the most notable local foods. Most are hearty specialties that will store and travel well. As your friendly test dummies, we have tried almost all of

04 August 2014

A Walk to Remember

The WWII San Terenzo / Bardine Reprisal Atrocity
Why would you want to walk along a pretty country road that will make you cry? The story of this rural village in Northern Tuscany is so sad, that even though we've known about it for a long time, we just kept avoiding it. This spring, in anticipation of the 70th anniversary, we finally visited, and we are glad we did, even though it was more emotional than we had imagined. This is a story that should be remembered even though it's difficult, a story that our common humanity should not let us forget.
Location of the San Terenzo Monti massacre.
In this very field above the beautiful valley of the Aullela river, Italian civilians were murdered in reprisal in August, 1944. 
San Terenzo Monti (including the hamlets of Valla and Bardine) is a tiny village with a pretty approach and one of the oldest churches in Lunigiana. It is a part of the municipality of Fivizzano and located in the hills of the valley of the Aullela, just a few miles from Aulla and Fosdinovo (see Getting There below).  Like so many towns hereabouts, it has lost its economic and cultural vitality, but it still seems like a pleasant place to live. It seems an unlikely place for terror and violent death. Still, this community suffered a horrible atrocity on August 19, 1944, and they have commemorated it in a heartfelt way. The story of the cold blooded murder of a total of 159 people is revealed slowly and respectfully to you as you walk through the town and along the country road to the site of the largest massacre.

Next to the ancient church of San Terenzio in the center of San Terenzo is a small memorial board, which surprisingly turns out to be the first of the Stations of the Cross associated with the church. The Garden of Gethsemane, which is the scene-setter for the crucifixion of Jesus, is depicted in a drawing. And here the townspeople of San Terenzo Monti set the scene for their own tragedy, by posting a brief

13 July 2014

Portofino Ferry Boat Schedules from Rapallo and Santa Margherita.

Ferry Boat Tours in the Portofino Area.  
Boat excursions to Portofino, San Fruttuoso, Cinque Terre, and Portovenere from Rapallo, Santa Margherita Ligure, Chiavari, Lavagna, Sestri Levante.
San Giacomo di Corte Church, Santa Margherita Ligure.
San Giacomo di Corte, Santa Margherita Ligure.

Portofino Ferry Boat Schedules 2014
Battelli Orari 2014
Wanderweg Fähre 2014

The ferry boat trips are one of the great attractions of the Portofino / Gulf of Tigullio area, providing fabulous views of the famous coastline and visits to the little villages of Portofino and San Fruttuoso. The boats also travel to the Cinque Terre and Portovenere from Rapallo, Santa Margherita, Chiavari, Lavagna, and Sestri Levante.

We have created these English language ferry boat timetables for 2014 to give you an easy way to find this tourist information. It's pretty simple. There are two basic ferry Line/Tour (1 & 2) going to Portofino/San Fruttuoso and three Tours (3, 4 & 5) going to Cinque Terre / Portovenere. There are also some Special Events listed below separately. Under each Line or Tour heading, information on the ports, the departure times, and the effective days is given, either directly or on a link to a separate Google document.

Your Homework. We also have three articles about the Portofino area you can read before you visit. The first is about how Portofino became famous: Portofino - From Fishing Village to Icon, and it will make you sing.  The second is about two fabulous walks from Santa Margherita to Portofino: Getting to Portofino - Walking Hiking and More. The third describes a very pretty and do-able hike from Camogli to San Fruttuoso: Portofino - Hike Camogli to San Fruttuoso.

Rapallo. Liguria's famous Trompe l'oeil.
Line 1  To Portofino / San Fruttuoso
Your RT ticket from Rapallo or SML allows you to stop over at Portofino and/or San Fruttuoso and

11 July 2014

A Dog Named Fido

Fido Means Faithful, One Hundred Percent 
 Fido the Dog Statue.  Borgo San Lorenzo, Tuscany
 Statue of Fido.  Borgo San Lorenzo, Tuscany.

Why are dogs named Fido? A doggy historian may well answer that it's because Abraham Lincoln named his favorite pet dog Fido. Wrong! - real dog lovers know that Romans named dogs Fido because it means 'I trust' in Latin. So here's our story about a dog named Fido who was really really faithful. Please read this story to your dog between his bedtimes.

One winter evening in 1941, not far from Florence in the lovely little city of Borgo San Lorenzo, a laborer named Carlo Soriani was returning home from work. When passing a little ravine, he heard a small yelp. Curious, he

27 June 2014

La Spezia Travel Guide: The Top Ten Attractions

Things to Do & See in One of Italy's Hidden Gems 
Travel tips and Tour Guide By Local Experts

La Spezia is an excellent place to visit.  Here's tourist information for Italy's great port on the beautiful Gulf of the Poets. Our tour guide describes museums to educate you, bustling streets and markets to keep you busy, and food specialties to keep you fed. The attractions are listed in a rough geographical order, so you can create your own vacation itinerary.  Down below there's more about the city in La Spezia in Two Paragraphs. Welcome to our port guide: What to Do in La Spezia:

La Spezia Public Gardens & Garibaldi
La Spezia Public Gardens & Garibaldi
1. The Waterfront and Public Gardens You'll understand that La Spezia and its Gulf occupy a special place on Earth when you walk along the Passeggiata Morin, especially in late afternoon. Begin at the eastern pier named Molo Italia near the Cruise Terminal. You can walk out on this wharf to see giant tugs resting and old guys fishing and young couples nuzzling. In the distance there are the giant gantries of the port and the mountains of the Apuan Alps. Walking west under the palms, you can survey the Gulf and the berths of the Maritime Consortium's Ferry Boats for Cinque Terre. Walk across a new little suspension bridge and you'll reach the new Porto Mirabello where you can appraise the private boats of the rich and the ordinary, and stop for a bright orange Aperol spritz. Beyond the mountain ridges to the west are the villages called Cinque Terre.

Across busy Viale Italia from the waterfront, La Spezia's Public Gardens are good for a stroll and for the children's playground. These extensive Gardens are a unusual asset for an Italian city. They were begun when the city's medieval walls were removed in the early 1800's and greatly enlarged with earth from the construction of the Naval Arsenal in the early 1860's. They are well known for the monumental Garibaldi equestrian statue and the large collection of botanical varieties. There are La Spezia Garden Club signboards, 'Percorso Verde', around the Gardens showing the location of different species.

Cyclops Figurehead La Spezia
Cyclops Figurehead La Spezia

2. Naval Technical Museum This is the most important naval museum in Italy, and it is a favorite of ours.  No matter your interests, you'll find something to fascinate you in this old fashioned museum, such as one of the best ship figurehead collections in the world. We have a small article with photos about it to convince you. Not Just for Children or Rainy Days

Museo Tecnico Navale   1 Viale Amendola    Phone 0187 784693     Website: Museo Tecnico Navale

3. CAMeC Museum This museum has three large permanent collections of contemporary

24 June 2014

A Guide to the Local Food of La Spezia

Food Specialties of Liguria Levante
Piatti Tipici in La Spezia, Lerici, Portovenere, Cinque Terre 

Portovenere Food Specialties Menu
Vegetable Pie and More in Portovenere.
When Italians refer to 'piatti tipici' (dishes typical of the area), it is serious business. This is where the culture meets the mouth, and every city, every province, and every region has its unique dishes. When Italians visit another region of Italy, they always eat the specialties, so you should too. The good news is you can tour Italy for the next decade or two and not encounter them all.

Here's our little food guide to the specialties that you might encounter on your visit to the Gulf of La Spezia area. This is only a select few from a long list. If you see or hear about others, all the better - just say yes.

Farinata This is first because it's one of our favorite things. It's a giant chickpea flour pancake that's baked in a wood oven in a pan about a yard in diameter, cut in to slices, weighed, and handed to you as a snack. It's nutty, smooth, crunchy on the edges, creamy in the middle, about ¼ inch thick, and just delicious. It's gluten free, but not gluttony free. Usually available in the morning and after 5 in the afternoon.

Foccacia You see it everywhere in the world now, I know, but it's indigenous to Liguria, and here it comes in many forms, many shapes and sizes, and is almost always interesting. It can be thin or thick, topped with oil and rosemary and salt, or split in half and stuffed with meat and cheese. It can be baked with cheese in it (this style from Recco further north is focaccia da Recco). Bakeries and snack places carry varieties, just keep trying until you find your favorite. At some snack places, you can ask for foccacia stuffed with farinata, odd sounding but great.

Torta di Verdura Ligurians love vegetables, and these large round pies are filled with cheese and a variety of greens and vegetables. They could include leeks, swiss chard,