When in the morning at the Relais we meet our guests at breakfast for a chat, I know that in ninety-nine per cent of cases the main question will be: “what could we do today?” It is not always easy to advise because among them some love the sea, some the mountains, others love the vast and uncontaminated nature, or the good food or the wilder side of our land. But fortunately, we are in Liguria, and our land offers places for all tastes. In winter you can go on an adventure snowshoeing around or take a walk along the sea and enjoy a coffee on the beach. In summer, you can take long swims in the morning, and relax in the afternoon in some cool mountain lake.
All this, within an hour journey at the most.
But what spots have a real place in our heart? Which are the “unmissable” corners, the ones that must be visited to be able to say that you have seen the real Western Liguria? We have collected them in a list for you:
Bussana Vecchia is a small village difficult to describe with words due to its unicity. Destroyed by an earthquake in the late nineteenth century, it was partially rebuilt in the fifties by Italian and foreign artists who settled there. Even today it hosts an international community of artists who have transformed this medieval village into a real unicum of our region, now known to most as “the village of artists”.
I love to consider Cervo as the sixth addition to the “Cinque Terre” towns. Of course, don’t expect the exact same colours and architecture as the well known Ligurian marvel, but without doubts the small village of Cervo can give you the same thrill if you decide to venture through its narrow streets, dotted with shops, artisans and small bars. Tip from the locals: if you fancy a dip in the sea or a cocktail with a breathtaking view, don’t miss the Porteghetto Beach Bar!
The western part of Imperia, Porto Maurizio, is a true Ligurian gem thanks to the relaxing walks along the coast, the small neighbourhoods such as the Foce, the Prino and the Marina ones where fishermen still live, and the Parasio hill overlooking the city with the magnificent and imposing cloistered monastery of Santa Chiara. Absolutely not to be missed.
Yes, it will cost you about 40 minutes of travel, but it will be worth it. Finalborgo is a place that will enchant you from the first moment you cross the ancient doors to its walled city centre. Every time I visit, I would spend the whole time wandering around its alleyways in adoration, always ending up enjoying the same plate of homemade ravioli from Osteria I Torchietti: a guaranteed treat.
Craving for art but the day is too beautiful to shut yourself up in some museum? No problem, because there is Valloria, the town of painted doors! Take a nice walk through the narrow streets to appreciate the skill of 150 artists, each of whom was responsible for giving life to every door in this town…making it very, very colourful!
The arrival of Christmas, here in Borgomaro, is announced by the yummy scent that hovers among the alleys: Aunt Bruna has been busy for weeks baking the very famous “Panettun du Burgu“, the traditional Pandolce that has been created for decades by her bakery, “Il Forno di Nonna Pierina” in Via Merano, 36.
And the only secret recipe for the Pandolce di Borgomaro was the one grandmother Pierina, Bruna’s mother, created: not really a panettone, nor a classic Genoese pandolce, but a recipe all in itself! The ingredients are simple: flour, eggs, sugar, pine nuts, raisins and orange; so simple that once every family prepared it at home on Christmas Eve, and there was nothing more beautiful than sharing it as a festive greeting.
Traditionally, in the city of Genoa, the pandolce was served decorated with a sprig of laurel, that the youngest of the family removed before the eldest cut the sweet into slices and distributed to all the diners, setting one slice aside for the poor. The ritual that accompanied the cutting of the pandolce underlines the importance of continuing the traditions within the family.
During Christmas, the family also returns as the protagonist on another very traditional stage, this one wearing the shades of white and moss: the Nativity scene. Anyone wandering through the valleys and along the coast can stop and admire real works of art, representations of the Birth of Jesus. (Click here to see the best nativity scene in Liguria), and also the beautiful Nativity on the Borgomaro river which for some years now has made our stream even more romantic!
But there is one tradition that warms my heart more than the others, and it is the collection of “Strenne” (traditional Christmas presents) in the town of Conio, in the Alta Valle Impero (the town of Martina’s grandparents). A custom that goes back to Ancient Rome and that in this little town had been reinterpreted: despite the tradition would be exchanging gifts, here there was no real swap of presents…and that was the lovely thing! Yes, because the gifts were simply bags full of sweets that grandmothers prepared for every child in town. The custom was that children, during the first days of the new year, wandered around the village and when knocking on the doors of sweet grandmothers had their arms filled with a myriad of gifts and candies as a good wish. In exchange? The pure joy in the eyes of all the children, whom for one day felt like real kings and queens.
There is no doubt about it: the countryside, at Christmas, is like a big family!
And from our small town, we all wish you a wonderful Christmas, together with your loved ones.
That time of year has arrived, when the countryside around us is filled with people working for the new olive season: every small town in the Ligurian hinterland has at least 5 or 6 oil mills and producers of oil, our liquid gold.
To make this important tradition better known, there are many small local companies that organize activities with a focus on the world of oil: from days in which you can take part in the collection of the olives and return home with some fresh oil to oil massages under the olive’s trees, up to relaxing walks in the olive groves.
When it comes to oil, all of Liguria is an area of excellence and it is not easy to choose which one is the best product; we have tried to do so for our customers, with a selection of products created with care by the people we have known from generations and who we trust. Who are them? Discover with us some of the oil mills and producers we love the most and whose products we offer every year in our very own corner of typical products:
Cristina Armato Farm – Lucinasco – www.olioarmato.it Cristina is a volcano of ideas, and also produces one of the best oils in the valley. She also created the nice initiative “Adopt an olive tree”. For the incredible quality of their oil, in recent years her company has also received European-wide recognition.
Dinoabbo Farm – Lucinasco – www.dinoabbo.it Generation after generation, the Dinoabbo company has made the history of quality Ligurian olive production and our oil known all over the world. It remains one of the few oil mills to still work with the millstone, just like in the past.
Frantoio Pellegrino Paolo – Borgomaro – www.frantoiopellegrino.it More than 70 years of history characterize this small family-run oil mill. High-quality oil and products, and a pesto recipe to make you lose your mind.
Giovanni Tallone Oil Mill – Borgomaro – www.oleificiotallone.com In the 1920s, the ancestors of this family were those who gave a great boost to oil production in western Liguria. They offer many products to choose from, always at the top of quality and in limited quantity.
Tera de Prie oil mill – Borgomaro – www.teradeprie.it Love and passion for our territory distinguish the choices of these producers. All products have biological certification and have won several international awards, year after year.
Contact us or contact our partners for information and orders.
Each of the companies we have chosen is a small local reality, and you will hardly be able to find their products in the classic shops.
Every day our customers can taste the dishes of our tradition starting from breakfast.
And actually, to be a true Ligurian, you cannot miss a taste of vegetable pie in the morning.
Our favourite is the one with Swiss chard and rice.
You can find it in the kitchens of every grandmother in Liguria, especially in the morning, baked and ready to taste before the eleven o’clock mass!
I’m well aware of that because my Grandmother Maggiorina has it for me ready every Sunday morning when I go to visit her.
She is from Conio, upper Valle Impero, and I would like to tell you that this is her original recipe but unfortunately, I can’t, because…well, what a question, of course, it’s a secret!
Granny Magiò always says that she cannot remember the doses, but I know that she is very jealous of her recipe. Anyway, by dint of eating it, over time I said to myself: Martina, by now you should be able to reproduce it!
And so here I am, after several tests, removing a few ml of water, or adding a few grams of flour, cooking the chards with the onion in a pan then trying to put them raw directly in the oven.
Of course, getting the doses right and finding the ideal balance between all the ingredients is certainly the hardest part, but don’t be afraid: even if you can’t see it, the trick is there and luckily for you…I know what it is! For the rest…feel free to make your veggie pie unique according to your taste:
For the pasta matta (crazy dough)
300 g 00 white flour
150 ml water
2/4 spoons of EVO oil
5 g salt
For the filling 80 g rice
600 g white chards
200 g Parmigiano Reggiano
150 g Pecorino
1 EVO oil spoon
Salt + Pepper
Dough Preparation Sift the flour and create a hole in the middle of it, where you will put water (room temperature), oil and salt in. Start mixing and help yourself with a fork at the beginning if it is easier for you. Mix for 10 min and then let the dough rest.
Cut the shallots and let them fry for a while before putting the chards in the pan (cut them roughly first!): leave it for 5 to 10 min and meanwhile boil the rice. My way: i fill half the pot with a 1/4 milk + 3/4 water for half the time needed. Mix the rice with the chards and add both grated Parmesan and Pecorino cheese. Let the mix cool down before adding eggs, salt oil and pepper. In the meantime you can split the dough into two parts and roll it. Be sure you poured a filo d’olio (little evo oil) on the baking paper before lying the rolled dough – same on the top of the pie once it will be closed. Pierce the dough (both of them) before spreading the filling
With this great heat, the thing we want most is to cool off by diving into a crystal clear sea, and no place better than our Liguria to do so since in 2020 it was the region with the highest number of Blue Flags (recognition given to the cleanest sea in Italy).
Maybe you don’t know this, but I’m a big fan of “wild & free”, so if by reading this article you expect a list of super-equipped beaches with every possible comfort, I’m sorry to disappoint you (maybe Elena, the Milanese one, will take care of that!).
I have lived in Liguria all my life and going to the beach has always been a tradition for me. On Sunday mornings our mother woke us up and in a flash, we were already in the car; destination: the sea. How many long waits under the palm trees, sheltered from the sun, for someone to finally free a parking lot! But it was worth the wait. In a jiff a towel was thrown on the shore, a quick dip, an ocean of shells, small coloured stones and only the sea to stem the imagination.
Here they are, then, our favourite “wild and free” beaches in Liguria, even if I promise that some have the comforts that Elena likes so much 😉
1. Bergeggi beach @ Bergeggi, Savona
Leave the car along the road, the perfect spot is around the ice cream stall. A small path among Mediterranean bush will lead you to a tiny oasis of peace. Don’t forget to stop along the way to admire the beautiful panorama that lies ahead of you.
2. Balzi Rossi beach @ Grimaldi, Ventimiglia
Full of services, chic, intimate. If you want to feel a little like on the trendy Emerald Coast, this is certainly the ideal destination for you. Park in the pine forest and enjoy the fresh path among the natural scents of our Liguria. Then reach the Balzi Rossi, the large brick-coloured stones that here surround the beach hiding it and making it almost secret. The price for a front-row spot? You don’t want to know. The little restaurant, for all budgets, is truly delicious.
If you want to stay “wild” you can lean on the rocks next to the private beach.
3. Baia dei Saraceni beach @ Varigotti, Savona
A breathtaking panorama from a very wide strip of land: this beach stands out among others for its vastness and openness. The fine sand, the tone of the seabed and the majestic Capo di Noli, frame this location making it unique. Parking is easy-peasy, right on the street, and if you can, don’t miss a stroll with ice cream in the centre of Noli.
4. The Porteghetto Beach Bar @ Cervo, Imperia
Are you dreaming of a lunch or dinner lulled by the sound of waves? The Riviera dei Fiori is pleased to present you a small nest, un coin de paradis: the Porteghetto Beach Bar. Lunches, dinners, aperitifs and relax overlooking the sea in the small village of Cervo, which has nothing to envy to the Cinque Terre! A public car park is available on the left just before arriving.
Here, too, the “wild and free” option is available on the rocks, next to the private beach.
5. Capo Mortola @ Mortola Inferiore, Ventimiglia
Accessibility level: Bear Grylls. Leave the children and grandmother at home, because we are going into the deep green. There are many free beaches in Capo Mortola, some of which are easier to access, other much less. It is also true that the most hidden places are always the most real and uncontaminated ones, so have fun finding them! Here, the primordial call of nature permeates everything, so…beware! As happened to me too, you might come across some nudists!
Discover also the offer dedicated to the seaside and the beach, click HERE
It is eight o’clock in the morning of a somewhat different 15th June and the bells of our church, here in Borgomaro, ring calmly. The grand reopening scheduled for the 2020 season was long in coming: nonetheless, we opened the doors of the Relais with great enthusiasm!
Of course, as you may imagine the already slow life of our town has been put to the test. In Borgomaro, as the good rural people we are, every year we await the arrival of spring with joy and hope: the fields bloom, the hills turn green, the long-awaited period of town festivals begins and finally…finally the Relais reopens! This time we knew it was going to be different.
Despite all this, can I tell you something? Unlike in the city, where silence and emptiness can be a scary echo, here in the countryside the rumble of the flowing river, the cockcrow and the laughter of the children in the square are the same as always. Can we really say that something has changed? Yes, our smile will most often remain hidden by a mask. Yet it as well will be the same as always. And isn’t that what really matters?
Isn’t that amazing in the first place that the hens continued to lay eggs, the artichokes were born, as usual, the earth froze, then the rain came, that the sun always peeks east, the bed of the river has dried up to be filled again, that life has continued before our eyes, unaware? On behalf of those who live in the countryside, I can tell you that it was surprising to see how, despite mankind and all that derives from it, the earth has continued its indifferent course. Perhaps when you are used to relying on the randomness and unpredictability of nature, because you are surrounded by it, then it automatically becomes easier to accept a negative variation on the course of things. The man who, bent under the September sun, crouches to collect the grapes devastated by the hail, deep inside already knows that it will be a ruined vintage, and already works for the next: we cannot afford the luxury of crying or complain, in the countryside.
And this is exactly what all those who, like us, did not want to pity themselves did: from Brigitte and Laura who still work assiduously at Ca’ Sottane to be every week in the square to guarantee the KM 0 market, to the mayor of Chiusavecchia, Luca Vassallo, who invested in “green” tourism by bringing his small town directly under the limelight, to Milena and Marco who as soon as possible reopened the doors of their restaurants without wondering if it was worth it, to Cristina and Adriano who never lost love for their job, despite everything; and all the others who, like the man bent under the September sun, know that this is simply the game of life.
So did we too. We have adapted, we got organized, we did our best and now we are looking forward to welcoming you and let you know that we are here, and we have never stopped believing, not even for a moment. What can we add? Well, I would say that…the only missing thing is you!
Welcome back, we will be waiting for you as every year at our Relais.