June 20, 2023
One of the main structural choices I made when creating this Hidden Liguria Adventure was the idea that we could sleep in locally owned hotels, eat what the locals eat, and meet locals. Both Hotels we chose and nearly every meal eaten fit that premise.
As we changed hotels, we left the beach and moved into the hills of Liguria. We stayed in a very small town with an Albergo Diffuso, a hotel spread out in the town. This family decided to keep the homes of relatives as they passed on, and sustainably restructure them with hotel rooms instead of normal living spaces. Each home had from 2 to 4 hotel rooms. There was also the mother house which had the pool, outdoor area, 6 rooms and the food and drink area. The point of staying here was to meet locals, eat locally and experience life like a local.
On the night we arrived, we checked in and then joined the town in their first Sagra, or outdoor food festival, of the season. Each of us bought a ticket for whichever meal they chose from those listed, imbibed in adult beverages, and participated in the music and dance. I wish I had more photos of this experience.
The next morning, we all enjoyed an ample selection of items for breakfast, including gluten free and vegan choices. They offered everything you could think of, and it was all local food. Their organic juice, teas and coffee selections were perfect.
As breakfast was finished, Gianni and our bus arrived to take us further into the hills to meet my friend Cristina Armato and her family in a town of 80 residents.
When we arrived, we had free time to wander, see the cemetery, an old church, and the hills of the town. Next, we joined our hosts, all the Armato family.
Our group with the Armato ladies—women with reddish hair.
We spent a good deal of time watching the process, both old and modern, for pressing olive oil. Both Cristina and now her husband have won awards for their olive oil. Cristina recently won second place in several programs. It is light and luscious in my opinion.
The story of their olive oil is that for 6 generations the family grew olives and sold them to others to produce oil. Cristina decided she wanted to create her own oil and changed the family program. Since then, she has been winning taste contests repeatedly in the top two positions. Her mother cooks and runs her own B&B on site and her father assists in caring for the trees and making olive oil and other olive products.
Because their land is so high in elevation, essentially in the Italian Alps, their olives do not reach maturity until close to the end of the year. It takes special people to tend these olive groves and support the tiers where they are planted—this helps keep some of the wild boar away. But the tiers must be reinforced with more stone off and on.
You can even order her oil and other products online. But if you do not go there in person, you will miss this member of the family.
If you do reach out to them, I would appreciate it if you gave them my name.
You also will not get the tour of the town.
Door photo by Patricia Lewis.
This door knocker photo was taken by Patricia too. She suggested that we should sing “If you like it, then you should have put a ring on it.” Lively group.
We visited 2 churches, a sacred heritage museum and a museum of a home shown as if it had been lived centuries ago. By this time, we had worked up quite an appetite.
I think we had 5 courses of food. It was so good, and all homemade.
I just love these two. They insisted on a photo of us together with their family photos.
We also drank wine from Tenuta Maffone, our second visit for this day.
After hugs and cheek kisses all around, we said our farewells, joined Gianni in the bus and headed into another hillside town nearby.
Both the Armato family and Tenuta Maffone are members of trecentosessanta Liguria—360 Liguria—a consortium of local, like-minded small businesses who advertise together and support one another. They are almost all Organic with many other benefits such as 0 KM—local products. Cristina was a co-founder of the group.
When we arrived at Tenuta Maffone we were escorted to see their vineyards in the hills. Bruno and Eliana were unavailable today. But their assistants were patient and so generous with their time and their patience.
It was a beautiful area in an organic field—one of several fields that they grow. This one is at the highest elevation. These are all Orinasco grapes—grapes only grown in the hills and high elevations. Their flavor is unique.
We sat at a table, learned about their specific wines and all their awards. The walls were covered with awards.
They also provided food. And even though we were stuffed from our experience with the Armatos, we tasted 6 types of wine and two types of grappa!
Above are two of their wines.
Their Unique Grappa made from their Orinasco grapes also won awards. Yes, after 4 different tastes of wine we tasted two versions of this Grappa.
I must say, we enjoyed the people we met, we were all stuffed, and each of us had plenty of adult beverages. Thanks to our hosts we had bready food to soak some of the alcohol up. One guest had several bottles of wine packed for carrying home to the USA. I purchased some too.
During the ride home, we realized there was no need for dinner. We cancelled our reservations for that evening, and all went our separate ways after arriving at our hotel about 630 PM.
For me, I cherished connecting with people who are so down to earth, so real, as the people we shared this day with. Everyone else enjoyed them too.
Stay tuned for more exploration into that part of Liguria that most Americans never see.
Ciao for now!
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Ciao for Now!
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