Rosa Jackson's Edible Adventures

Wednesday, 15 October, 2008

A weekend in Liguria


I've been to Italy more times than I can count, especially since I moved to Nice. So you would think I would stop getting so childishly excited when I cross the border, which is now only 40 minutes away by train or car. Yet every time I can't help but fall head over heels for this country all over again: The coffee! The gelato! The muscular cyclists in their snazzy outfits! Last weekend, which I spent in an agriturismo just an hour from Nice, was no exception.

Porto Maurizio

This time we stayed in Imperia, which is divided by a river into two halves: the fishing port of Oneglia and the historic town of Porto Maurizio perched on a hill overlooking the sea. Our agriturismo was far enough from the center of Oneglia to feel secluded, but within easy walking distance had we not been feeling lazy. Friday night found us predictably dragging Sam from restaurant to restaurant in search of the perfect mom-and-pop trattoria. I've trained him from birth to tolerate this kind of behavior, so he followed with almost amused patience. His reward was a huge plate of spaghetti allo scoglio, which at the modest-looking Ristorante La Patria (Piazza E. De Amicis, 13) just off the port was loaded with mussels, octopus and shrimp. I was equally happy to eat spaghetti with clams, while Philippe had fat strips of homemade pasta with fresh porcini mushrooms, which could easily have passed for an haute cuisine dish had it not been for the price (€12) and the paper tablecloth.

The summery temperature made it tempting to linger by the pool on Saturday, but first there was the need for cappuccino, which I had in an old-world café in Piazza Dante with an Austrian-inspired cake named krapfen: a kind of custard-filled donut fried in olive oil which was every bit as rib-sticking as it sounds. Then, of course, I couldn't miss the food market, which on Saturdays spills out of the covered hall into the surrounding streets. This market was heavy on clothes and light on local produce, but with a little searching I found some treasures, particularly the delicate local olive oil made with taggiasca olives (exactly the same variety as the small purply caillette grown around Nice, but with a different name). 

By Saturday night we were much more sure of our bearings, so we headed straight for the wine bar A Cuvea (via Maresca, 4/B) whose handful of tables were draped in crisp white linen. Here, Sam was in mussel heaven again while Philippe and I shared a wonderful plate of squid risotto, silky tuna carpaccio dressed in minimalist olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, and a bottle of Vermentino.

Beach Porto Maurizio

We started out with good sightseeing intentions on Sunday morning but somehow ended up on Porto Maurizio's beautiful sandy beach, where Sam frolicked alongside a group of teenage boys who skimmed the surface of the shallow water on flat wooden boards. When we started to feel hunger pangs we walked a few steps to a beach café, where what was described as a plate of crudités turned out to have all the elements of a traditional salade niçoise: fresh tomato, thinly sliced peppers and onion, golden-yolked boiled egg and tuna, with a bottle of local olive oil for dousing. To think that Nice has been taking the credit all this time...


Surely the highlight of our short break, though, was the Festa della Zucca in Vallecrosia on the way back. I can imagine that Vallecrosia's old town a few kilometers from the seaside would be quite sleepy the rest of the year, but the pumpkin festivities attracted hundreds if not thousands of people who dumped their cars in the ditch and filled the village squares to admire the displays of squash and children's art, taste pumpkin dishes and exchange a year's worth of gossip. Pumpkin gelato proved to be not a bad idea at all, and I loaded up on decorative squash, fresh walnuts, bunches of chilis to hang from my chandelier and the biggest bell peppers I had ever seen.

Like Cinderella, I knew that the party would soon be over.

Tags: Restaurants, Travel


3 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.

Sunday, 19 October, 2008 2:19am [ 1 ]

Hey Rosa!

I just read this - after making pumpkin milkshakes with the kids this afternoon. Yum! They were so tasty, like cold pumpkin pie, said Anna. Eamon said they were delicious, too. Nice to think that the Italians have cottoned on to this wonderful treat.

Wednesday, 22 October, 2008 8:35am [ 2 ]

Wow Roisin, where did you get a recipe for pumpkin milkshakes? Or did you make it up? Did it have spices in it?

Thursday, 23 October, 2008 3:43am [ 3 ]

Hey again,

I got the recipe from a kids' magazine - basically, ice cream, milk, some pumpkin I had roasted and mashed earlier, and nutmeg and cinnamon. Delicious, and maybe even healthy...

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