July 14, 2020
Besides being a land filled with beautiful seascapes, Liguria is famous for its history, culture, wine and olive oil. The people are kind, reserved but friendly. Still, much of Liguria and its people are unknown to tourists from the USA. Travel further with me as we visit Toirano e Verezzi off the beaten path.
Toirano is one of the oldest townin all of Italy. As far back as 12,000 years ago, people inhabited this area, living and hunting in its caves which you can visit today. Unfortunately, I chose not to visit the caves but wish I had.
The town of Toirano is a medieval masterpiece.
Corbelled arches, stone streets, flying buttresses are everywhere.
Pastel colors are common here as in most places in Liguria.
The one above, adjacent to the river,
is almost as stunning as the waterfalls.
Still, the highlight of Toirano for me was the Museo Etnografico della Val Varatella. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This museum is housed within the confines of the Palazzo del Carretto, once the home of the Counts D’Aste before the Marquises Del Carretto.
Medieval construction enlists the use of these double arches to help support the weight of upper floors and roofs. For me, they transport me back to the Middle Ages and the romanticized, upper class lifestyle we see today in films.
This museum, however, was furnished with gifts from the people of Liguria who want to treasure their history and traditions for future generations. Before seeing the upper crust rooms, you see tools of the peasants, the masses.
Animals OR humans forced this wheel around in ancient times.
Donkeys or humans used these components to carry items home and abroad.
Tools for making olive oil, the oil for lamps, food, life itself—The olive press.
Below are lamps fueled by olive oil.
Oil was often stored or carried in these containers.
However, the common man used the skin of a goat to transport his olive oil from the press to his home.
The goat meat was eaten first. Nothing was wasted.
The metal shapes of body parts shown above were used in medieval medicine to heal those particular body parts. I found them fascinating. How about you?
On the upper floors of the museum were reconstructed rooms of the palace. My favorite room was the salotto.
Envision yourself living this lavish lifestyle.
I would have hated to be a maid here, though.
Once outside we hopped into la macchina, the car, and headed for lunch and olive oil tasting at
Agriturismo Le Terre dei Barrone. Anna and Giuseppe met us when we arrived at their home, rental lodgings and olive grove. Anna prepared an amazing lunch for us while Giuseppe showed us his land.
Here is what Giuseppe called the Nonno, grandfather, olive oil tree in this olive field. They often have school children visiting who find this gnarly specimen to be extra special. It is over 200 years old.
They do all their own olive oil production on site using the local Taggiasco olives and, also, for their Nobile olive oil, they combine a different olive with the Taggiasco for a more spicy, herb flavored oil than the traditional Ligurian Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Sea breezes and excellent terroir plus the loving care from Anna and Giuseppe create a very tasty olive oil. We sampled the olive oil first in little cups, followed by lunch with the olive oil and so much more.
I was so busy tasting all these delicacies that I only captured half the food spread. I particularly enjoyed their olive spread and their kindness. Agriturismo Le Terre dei Barrone one of two remarkable olive oil experiences I enjoyed on this journey. I will feature the other one on my next post.
Our next stop along the road of hidden gems in Liguria was another member of I Borghi piu`Bella D’Italia,
Verezzi is a town of four different villages. We visited two of them, Piazza and Roccaro. We parked by Piazza, the most popular of the four. Here, in the heat of summer, Piazza hosts a Theatre Festival in Piazza Sant”Agostino overlooking the sea.
The view is incredible. The program would overlook the sea, located where the tables are set up in the photo below.
These ancient, medieval hamlets feature the stone ground, archways, and stone buildings we love to experience.
Romantic walks along these little alleyways are enchanting.
Colorful and quaint, I love wandering along these streets. The flying buttresses hold up the walls of the homes, carrying the weight.
It was a beautiful, sunny day highlighting the colorful façades but the temperature was 30 degrees Celsius, 86 degrees Fahrenheit. I needed water and some shade. My tour leader Gabrielle and I returned to the warm car, turned on the air conditioning and headed up the Roccaro (I believe that was the village) and the church with a view.
We were unable to park close to centro storico. We headed upward and began to observe this incredible medieval hideaway.
The arches and posts appear artistic but are actually support structures embellished by floral arrangements. Walking on stones was a challenge but worth every step.
It was surreal to discover this basketball hoop on what looks like a 1000-year-old wall!
I wondered how old this door was.
Look at this entry!
And this wall, staircase and what looked like a leaded glass window.
My feet were stumbling along, and I was perspiring in the heat. We were walking uphill at about a 30-degree angle on loose rocks. I realized that I was not in the shape I used to be. This was easy for Gabriele—not for me. It was still worth every droplet.
The thin rock walkway with no wall suddenly opened.
Was I dizzy from the view or just exhausted? It was gorgeous. I wanted to stop, breathe, rest. But we were only about 50 meters from the top. I held onto whatever I could and kept going.
Thank goodness there was a bar at the top! I thought it was just a church! Water and this view and I became drunk on the joy of it all.
We sat outside in the shade drinking water, sprite, Coke Zero, I do not recall. I looked around and just breathed in the beauty to fill my lungs with fresh salt-sea air way up here. We were over 500 meters up, at least 1650 feet.
After about 30 minutes, we explored the church a bit.
We had the place almost completely to ourselves. I sang the entro to Shubert’s Ave Maria inside the church. I, then, walked along the side and found the World War I memorial of the locals killed during the Great War.
They are everywhere in Italy. This one has the names of the lost. And it all brings me back to reality. Life is not promised. War stinks. Live today in the present moment and share your discoveries with others, share with joy. I am fortunate to be able to experience all this.
It was time to head back down to sea level. The walk down was quite a bit easier than the stumble upward. Still the rocks would shift under my feet. I would strongly advise you to visit here. It is worth every second. But wear good walking shoes. Mine were not thick enough for this walk.
When we returned to the car, Gabriele cranked his air conditioning up high. We waited a few minutes before heading down the hill once again.
About halfway down we saw the deck on the residence to above and thought how perfect the view was. I could hardly wait to return to the sea.
Thanks for traveling with us today. These are the places you will not see on a typical tour. These are the homes where the locals live, perhaps for generations, where olive oil production has gone on for centuries, where peasants lived and died for freedom and their descendants remain. This is where you meet Ligurians away from the clamoring hordes of tourists on the beach.
If you want to see more off the beaten path locales in Liguria, Italy’s undiscovered province, I will share more next week.
Ciao for now!
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Ciao for Now!
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