Liguria, the region in the Mediterranean Sea in northwestern Italy that foreigners call the Italian Riviera, may be as close to paradise as one can find on earth. The gift of warm weather, sea, air and mountains that shelter the region from northern cold has created a little paradise where flowers and herbs blossom in astonishing and fragrant profusion and variety, while delicate vegetables, succulent fruits, and outstanding wild mushrooms abound.

Fred Plotkin

Recipes from Paradise (1997)

Liguria. A Mediterranean region compressed between land, sea, and sky. From the sea to 2,000 metres of altitude within 20 km.

Crescent-shaped Liguria is a thin sliver of a region bordered on the north by Piedmont, on the east by Tuscany and on the west by France, curving along the Mediterranean Sea to the south. A ridge of high mountains protects Liguria from harsh weather, and temperatures are mild all winter long. Land is scarce so vineyards, olive groves and farms are terraced into the rocky mountainsides that face the sea.

Liguria has some of the most stunning coastline in the Mediterranean; it includes the Cinque Terre, one of Italy’s top tourist attractions. Dramatic cliffs plunge into a deep blue sea; there are tiny rocky coves and beautiful seaside villages like Santa Margherita, Portofino, Cervo and Sanremo, the world-famous town of sun and flowers. That said, Liguria isn’t all about glitz. The Ligurians like the simple life and the hinterland is well off the touristic track. This is somewhere to have a truly Italian experience.

The coastal strip is very narrow and the hinterland, known as the entroterra, is hilly and mountainous. Liguria’s highest peaks are in the west where Monte Saccarello reaches 2,200m. Some farmers’ plots are so remote that they can be reached only by small boats. Herbs, grapes, olives, and vegetables thrive on the sunny slopes.

A landscape having no in-between: the sea ahead – coasting the whole southern area of the region – and the mountains behind: two conditions which strongly influenced the gastronomic culture of the region.

One of the real wonders of Liguria is its fantastic food. This is the home of Pesto sauce and you will never have eaten a version as tasty as the one we make in the Italian Riviera, in the traditional way, using a marble mortar and a wooden pestel.

What is truly fascinating about eating in Liguria is that, although it is one of Italy’s smallest region, the cuisine is highly varied and changes from valley to valley.

The cuisine of Liguria is a delicious representation of the Mediterranean Diet – lots of plant foods, plentiful herbs, sweet and fruity extra virgin olive oil, Taggiasca olives, fish and seafood, tied up beautifully in preparations that reflect the region’s history, culture and topography.