One of the best reasons for visiting Liguria (capital, Genoa) is the wonderful food. With its long coastline, the region is renowned for its excellent seafood. Then there are regional products like foccaccia, farinata (a delicious chickpea pancake), Albenga artichokes, salt cod, and, of course, pesto.
On 16 April, the capital of the region, Genoa, hosts the 6th World Pesto Championship at the Palazzo Ducale (www.pestochampionship.it). Over 100 competitors prepare the vibrant green sauce in the hope of winning the ‘golden pestle’. If you’ve never had the real thing (and you haven’t, if it came from a jar), you must understand the importance of freshness. Ingredients include plenty of DOP basil (yes, even the small-leafed basil has to have grown in the region). Add garlic, a fistful of pine nuts, parmesan and pecorino cheese, and smash, with lashings of DOP Ligurian olive oil.
There are variations on a theme – there’s pesto rosso, with tomatoes and almonds, rather than basil. But for me, you can’t beat pesto alla Genovese, traditionally served with trofie (compact little twists of pasta), green beans and boiled potato. (Note to self… sow basil seeds).
Sticking with local foods, on 8 May there is also the Sagra del Pesce in the pretty seaside town of Comogli. The fish festival is linked to the festival of San Fortunato, the patron saint of fishermen. One of the largest frying pans in the world is taken to the town square to fry fish for locals and tourists alike. In the evening there are bonfires and a competition between the two districts of Porto and Pinetto, commissioned to build a sculpture from waste material.
Then, on the 16 May a Lemon Festival takes place in nearby Monterosso (one of the five hilltop villages in the Cinque Terre). The town is painted yellow, and a host of lemon products are sold everywhere. You’ll be able to sample limoncino, lemon cream, marmalade and lemon cake. During the afternoon, visitors can do the ‘8000 passi al profumo di limone’ (lemon-scented steps). Start at the house of poet Eugenio Montale, pass by the most famous places in the area, and visit a lemon grove. In the evening a party takes place in the main square.
And beyond food? Genoa was probably the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, but certainly of Renzo Piano. The architect was responsible for revitalisation of the port area. There’s a wonderful medieval centre, excellent art galleries, and that long coastline. Don’t miss delightful hilltop villages of the Cinque Terre, beautiful Portofino and, the fisherman’s village of Boccadasse.
See also my Top 10 Things to Do in Genoa.
For mor published features, see here.