Liguria is a crescent shaped coastal area flattened by the Apennines on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It’s located in the North-West of Italy and is bordered in the East with Tuscany, in the North with Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont and in the West with France. The unique quaintness of this region is made up of steep streets, perched villages and spectacular inlets, making it one of the most dramatically stunning regions of Italy.
The bright colored villages jut out into the deep blue of the sea, appearing and disappearing from view along the hairpin bends of the Via Aurelia which runs along the region from the east to the French Riviera in the west.
The Ligurian Sea that creeps into the small bays along the jagged coast, has always been an indispensable resource. A historically important merchant port, today the sea gives the Liguria Region the highest number of Blue Flags in Italy. Blue flags are the recognition of the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) which rewards 30 locations for the quality of bathing water and the nautical services offered.
It is no coincidence therefore that this stretch of sea is one of the most productive and life-rich pelagic environments in the Mediterranean. There are numerous boarding points on the Riviera di Ponente from which to start a Whale Watching experience in the Cetacean Sanctuary where visitors can photograph exciting encounters with dolphins, sperm whales, sea turtles and fin and sperm whales.
Alps and Apennines
But the sea is not the only attraction: from the west to the east, the Alps and the Apennines, Liguria is also a fascinating attraction for trekking. The Alta Via dei Monti Liguri crosses the region in enchanted paths and mule tracks that run between the sky and the sea, rarely falling below a thousand meters of altitude. From here, the sunrises are witnessed at three hundred and sixty degrees, from Corsica to Monviso, from Gorgona to the Rosa Massif.
Vineyards and Olive Groves
Going down to the valley, you’ll be immersed in the different scents; first of the forest, then of the meadows and finally of the sea. You will find vineyards and olive groves, supported by risky dry stone walls, a sign of the indomitable character of the Ligurians. The locals are skilled merchants, yes, but also architects capable of shaping a rugged and yet generous territory.
The most striking example of how it is possible to model such an impervious environment without altering its beauty is the Cinque Terre National Park which, together with Porto Venere and the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, is part of the World Heritage List of Unesco.
Genoa, The “Superb”
Visiting Genoa, the capital of Liguria, means experiencing the story of an illustrious and adventurous past, which speaks of merchants and explorers but also of architects who have designed a city that knows how to surprise at every corner.
The medieval origin merges with the Baroque and again, with the Liberty and il Rationalismo. The styles will continue to evolve to the point of marveling at the contemporary installations of the Marina del Porto Antico and its Aquarium.
The ancient Maritime Republic enters the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006 with the late Renaissance Strade Nuove and the System of the Palazzi dei Rolli, the first example at European level of urban planning carried out by the city authorities with a unitary design to meet specific organizational and representation needs.
Ventimiglia, The “Western Gate of Italy”
Just 8 km from the French border, this old city and its hinterland are unmissable destinations for those who love slow tourism. Ventimiglia is made up of meditative stops in enchanting places that have inspired artists such as Monet and Renoir.
Prehistoric traces are visible near the rocks of the Balzi Rossi, as well as the Roman remains preserved in the nervine archaeological area and the medieval churches of the historic center of Ventimiglia, one of the most important in the region. Do not miss the Botanical Gardens of Villa Hanbury, an explosion of color that slopes down to the sea. These gardens are the realized dream of the Hanbury brothers who, taking advantage of the microclimates of the property, set up one of the richest botanical gardens in the world.
The hinterland that reaches from Ventimiglia to Imperia is full of quaint side streets that climb up the narrow valleys. Discover the fairytale hamlets of: Dolceacqua, Camporosso, Bussana Vecchia, Triora, Apricale. These timeless villages host artists, exhibitions and events for most of the year.
Medieval Hamlets, Stone Bridges and Romanesque Churches
Whether perched on the hills or overlooking the sea, the small Ligurian villages offer unique views for those who love to immortalize the visual experience and unforgettable delicacies for those who appreciate the encounter with local cuisine.
Liguria very best lies at its extremes, in the provinces of Imperia to the west and La Spezia to the east. Between medieval villages, stone bridges and Romanesque churches; ancient, intact rhythms are savored.
The legends handed down to today, tell of ghosts and witches that animate the nights of Bussana Vecchia and Triora. They tell also of the spectacular views that frame the romantic Via dell’Amore, carved into the rock overlooking the Cinque Terre sea, connecting Riomaggiore and Manarola. There, Eugenio Montale, Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote his most famous poems. Even Dante, Goethe and Lord Byron celebrated their harsh beauty of the sea so much that, in 1910, that stretch of coast was called the Gulf of Poets.
Such extreme places, enclosed between mountains and sea, could only refine the creativity of zero-kilometer cuisine: the pesto, the trofie, the focaccia, the oils and the fragrant wines, become the purpose for gourmet stops in magical villages with breathtaking views.
Pesto, Focaccia, Olives and White Wine
Visiting Liguria also means tasting its typical cuisine, identified by many as the most representative of the Mediterranean diet. The foundation of this cuisine is in fact represented by aromatic herbs and vegetables that arise spontaneously and that are expertly processed to create recipes appreciated and spread all over the world. The most world renown is possibly the Genoese Pesto.
Unforgettable are the focaccia-based breakfasts and aperitifs, perhaps accompanied by a fresh white wine. Produced from vineyards exposed to the sea breeze and heroically cultivated in steep cliffs that slope towards the sea, these flavors are unparallel.
The millennial history of the cultivation of oil in Liguria has given its “gold” to the merchant Genoa of the fifteenth century, giving rise to the transformation of the territory with the imposing terracing work. Even today, production remains prominent in the renowned Taggiasca olives and soft oils of the Ligurian Riviera.
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