July 21, 2020
Most of us spend time by the sea when visiting along side of it. This adventure once again took me away from the water and up into the mountains above Imperia where I spent a day traveling well off the beaten track and meeting the most wonderful people. Come with me.
From dawn until dusk my tour leader and I traveled in the hills and mountains above Imperia to meet members of a Consortium of local, authentic, artisanal groups of wonderful and talented providers of Ligurian specialties. With this group there are ways to hike and bike with guides all throughout the hills and dales. There are museum curators, chefs, olive oil makers and vintners. I skipped the heavy exercising and went for meeting the locals and sampling their trades.
In the morning me met our professional driver, Gianni, who drove to meet Tiziana Guetelli of the Cultural Association Guattelli, a museum collection of the art and artistry of the Olive Oil Can.
Housed within this 17th century oil mill Tiziana arranged thousands of Metal olive oil cans from all over the world. Her mother had begun the collection many years ago. She appreciated the artistry involved in creating these very individual artworks.
She just kept selecting more.
Her daughter, as a tribute to her mother and to the history that is often tossed and lost, created the museum, displaying so many items she did not have enough room even in this location.
For those of us of Italian heritage, do you recall these old decorative cans around the house? My father often used them to store nuts and bolts, nails and other accoutrements for construction and repair. I recall perusing his selections and admiring their beauty.
I always wondered why they were in the basement. Walking through this museum brought back fond memories I had forgotten.
Many collectors had wanted to purchase some of these tin cans. One person, Francis Coppola, received 600 of them. Here is his letter of gratitude.
Now that is a memory for Tiziana to treasure.
You won’t see this museum on any large tour. Gianni’s automobile can carry 8 people and it barely fits on the road. Let me know if you would like to visit and I can assist you in arranging a tour of the museum and all else to follow.
Our next stop literally took my breath away. We traveled along winding roads to Lucinasco, the home of Christina, Adriano, her parents Silvano and Silvana where they own a B&B
With antique beds and modern baths.
This is also where they live and where they grow their olives making them into award winning Armato Olive Oil.
Cristina is a gem of a person. Her heart is big enough for everyone and I felt her care and generosity from the moment I met her. She is proud of her family, her town, her olive oil. In 2019, her olive oil came in second among olive oil producers all over the world.
This year, 2020 they just announced the following:
“7 July 2020, Cristina Armato Lucianasco—Passion and commitment to quality bear fruit. This week Cristina and Adriano of Agriturismo Nonni Devia Azienda Agricola prove it to us at the London International Olive Oil Competitions 2020. Out of 511 they once again received the Silver Award.” Quote from the press release of the Riviere di Liguria Chamber of Commerce.
They definitely have bragging rights. Yet, that is not how they behave. First, we visited their closest olive grove with Adriano and Christina’s father, Silvano.
We walked among the trees on this mountain top.
The olives are much smaller here than where visited before closer to sea level.
They own land up and down the hills and these olive trees are terraced like on small stone fronted shelves. This helps prevent land washing away, and, if I understood correctly, wild boar do not like the terracing.
Adriano told us that these olives would not be ready until December or January usually. He invites travelers to join him in spreading out their nets, shaking the trees and collecting the olives. He then presses it giving each helper a small amount from the pressing. He and Christina also allow people to claim an olive tree and he will name it for them. They usually shake their own tree and press their own olives from that tree.
Don’t worry. If you arrive in a different month to do olive oil tasting you can help Adriano fix the terraced walls. Get the feel of what it is like to work on an olive farm.
After picking, you must press the oil. Cristina and Adriano have everything they need to make their cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil. They have all the automated, modern conveniences shown below.
Their older, more hand run items are still here in storage.
These artisans appreciate modern ways as much as the rest of us, as long as the quality meets their same, high standards.
They do keep their old equipment for posterity.
Their pictures of their nonni e bisnonni are right alongside these items in their home.
We enjoyed seeing all this and had worked up an appetite.
Here is Cristina, after introducing her mother, Silvana, who was in the kitchen preparing and plating a meal to remember. Of course, we began with some of their olives.
Next, homemade crackers with their luscious olive oil spread. YUM.
Next came Silviana’s homemade pizza.
And homemade focaccia with their olives. Oh my goodness.
These are all traditional foods from the region, and they were each delicious. How about some candied fruit to clear the palate?
Or homemade crisps to dip into the olive oil?
Now I am ready for some meat—in fact, it was carpaccio di vitello—delicious!
Next was more meat, another typical form of protein all over Italy, Rabbit.
It was very tasty. But please, don’t tell my granddaughter, mia nipotina, I ate a bunny.
Even after all this food, we had a bit of dessert. I cannot even recall what it was. But I will never forget these people, this meal, their kindness and warmth. Who wants to go with me next time? Remember them.
Cristina and Adriano joined us as we drove in Gianni’s big vehicle to our next artisanal location, Tenuta Muffone, high up in Valle Arroscia, a challenging area to grow grapes. The owners and their helpers work harder than most to achieve their goals and often choose classic methods to achieve great heights of taste.
Bruno and Eliana, pictured above, have created so many award-winning wines, plus grappa and more, that their walls are full of awards.
The one in the middle is the absolute highest award they could win.
Yet, Eliana told me that her best award is when we love her wine.
Their sparkling wine is the black bottle below, made in a very traditional way.
The ormeasco grape is picked before being fully ripened. When it is made into wine, my understanding is that it is put into bottles with yeast at the top. These bottles are adjusted frequently changing the angle of the bottle in a rack similar to the one below.
As you can see from this example each bottle is at a different angle. They are checked visually, turned and angle changed for quite a while. I believe this process goes on for 30 months up to 60 months. This is the first wine we tasted. Here it is—beautiful, isn’t it?
That color and the crisp taste was remarkable.
Next, we tried Ormeasco del Pornassio.
This still wine was a personal favorite, crisp, light for the hot summer day, I could actually smell fruit here.
Next, we sampled a first of its kind, award winning GRAPPA made with Ormeasco grapes.
Bruno was really quite proud of the grappa. I enjoyed it but as always Grappa has a bite.
I took a couple bottles home with me from this visit, including a Vermentino that I have yet to try. Tenuta Muffone is a winery I would highly recommend. The flavors, the people, the environment, as all outstanding.
Before saying farewell to our hosts, all four of them, Eliana insisted that we see their town which is a couple kilometers downhill from them, Pieve di Teco. I am so glad that we visited there. The town itself dates back to at least 1233A.D.
Pieve di Teco is known to have more portico length than the ones in Bologna. You know me and portici!
These are ancient ones. Note the differing heights and styles of the ceilings as you look down the portico. People built out over archways to enlarge the interior space while avoiding some taxation—it was based on what touched the earth. (It is the same in Bologna.). The higher the ceiling the wealthier the original family was.
Then, Eliana and I walked up ahead where she could show me her favorite door.
I loved this ancient entrance plus several
The heart of this medieval village is La Chiesa Parrocchiale San Giovanni Battista. The Church of St. John the Baptist.
The original church was there in the 1200s, replaced in the 1600s and this one is from the late 1700s,
designed and built by Gaetano Cantoni. What can I say? Let the photos talk.
It is quite ornate.
It was definitely worth the visit but the town itself has even more beauty than the church. I will return to Pieve di Teco in the future for a longer stay. Now it was nearly time to call it a day.
We said farewell to our hosts and Gianni drove us to a restful place, AZ. Agricola Biodiversally, a biodynamic Lavender grower to see his process.
It was very hot by this time of day. I was tired. We walked uphill from the parking area and then into the land of lavender. As I walked over the bumpy ground, I, unfortunately turned my ankle. Still, there was lavender everywhere. And it calms and heals.
I loved smelling the scent from the plants.
The copper contraption below steams away some of the lavender products and makes lavender water.
The scent is not as strong in the water as it is in the oil. I used some of the lavender oil sample to rub into my ankle and it began to feel better.
There are two separate fields and different types of plants. In his other location in the Upper Argentine Valley, he grows a lavender suitable as a food. He had made cookies with the lavender that were delicious. If, while traveling, you want to meet a local who sells his own lavender products this place is for you. The views of the sea and the sea breezes add to the calming nature of the lavender blowing in the wind.
Just don’t be like me and trip on a thick root. Ah well, life happens, and I am fine.
But by this time, I was tired. Time to go back to my air-conditioned hotel room and relax a bit before dinner.
Who would like to visit any of these places with me? I know I will return. Would you like to come along?
Andiamo! Let’s go!
Ciao for now!
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