Born and Raised in Liguria
What was it like growing up in Liguria?
I grew up in Genova, or Genoa as it’s known in English. It’s a very picturesque city, squashed between mountains and the sea. My family home there, where I grew up, sits atop a hill, overlooking the city. From my bedroom I could look out over the city, and the sea, whilst, from the back of the house, I could see the Ligurian Apennine mountains. It was a sleepy place to grow up, and a quiet town, but beautiful nonetheless: every school I went to was alongside the sea, and, even as a child, I appreciated seeing the Mediterranean every day before school.
By the time I was a teenager, I’d acquired a bit of a reputation for marauding the streets of Genova on my 50cc Aprilia (at one point or another, all Italian teens own a scooter). Worse, I’d acquired even more of a reputation for falling off the scooter, especially when it rained… I’d skid and slide all over the city’s narrow streets.
What are your fondest memories of Liguria?
I have a few, and the first inevitably involves food. I was 19 when I left Liguria to move to the UK, after all, and they do say that childhood memories of eating are the ones that stay with you.
The memory in question was a Saturday afternoon tradition of focaccia, which originates in Liguria. My favourite was a variation called ‘’focaccia al formaggio’’, or cheese focaccia. You see, in Italy, children go to school from Monday to Saturday, so Saturday afternoon, not Friday, marks the end of the week. I was so enthusiastic about formaggio al formaggio that, for some time, my father even considered starting a cheesy focaccia company…
Other great memories include Mediterranean surfing: I love surfing, and, whenever there were waves, winter or summer, and come rain or shine, I’d take to the beaches of the small towns around Genova, from Camogli to Santa Margarita, both picturesque and just a short distance on the train.
What do you miss about Liguria?
Above all else, the sea. Even in the winter, being able to run by the water was beautiful… lots of salty, seaside air and wind. Liguria is, first and foremost, a maritime region.
Could you describe your favourite place in Liguria?
For similar reasons, probably the Corso Italia, or “Italy Road”, in Genova, which is a long road parallel to the seafront. It’s a beautiful place to stroll in the evening, or go for a run.
What's the most beautiful sight people should see in Liguria?
If you’re visiting, see Camogli: this beautiful, picturesque little town is just a stone’s throw from Portofino, but is far quieter and, I think, more charming.
What is your favourite food, or food memory from Liguria?
My nonna, Madgelena, would have disowned me were I not to mention the classic pesto alla Genovese, which she taught me to prepare - alongside homemade gnocchi - when I was a little boy. It’s true that there’s something so simple, yet special, about this sauce, made with fresh Ligurian basil.
Another highlight - as mentioned earlier - is focaccia, which is a wonderfully oily, dense and springy bread from Liguria, infused with fresh rosemary and sea salt, known in the local dialect as "fügassa’’.
What are the famous foods or drinks from Liguria?
Liguria and pesto are synonymous… or, rather, Genova and pesto. Pesto alla Genovese can be found all over the world today, and it all started in Liguria, hundreds of years ago. You have to try it really fresh, made simply with Ligurian basil, Ligurian olive oil, pine nuts, fresh garlic, Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses.
Genoa doesn’t really have any famous drinks - although Venetian, the spritz is probably the most popular drink in Liguria, and enjoyed as part of aperitivo, with lots of small snacks, on the seafront in the late afternoon.
Are there any fun traditions or facts about Liguria?
Christopher Columbus, the explorer who discovered the New World, was from Genova!
Liguria also has its own language, which, sadly, is dying out as its native speakers are replaced.
Tell us a regional expression or funny saying from Liguria?
We Genovese say ‘’sciûsciâ e sciorbî no se pêu”... it literally means “you can’t exhale and inhale at the same time”. A bit like “you can’t have your cake and eat it”.
What is the number one reason people should visit Liguria?
Unlike other regions of Italy, Liguria is something of a hidden gem: it’s very authentic, and not very touristy at all. In some respects, it’s a little melancholic, but melancholy has its own strange appeal.
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