For this week's Insider's Guide, Kay D'Souza, regional manager of the slow travel specialist Inntravel (inntravel.co.uk), offers her top tips for a holiday in Liguria.
1. Don't miss Genoa's Museo del Tesoro – where exhibits include the silver platter on which the head of John the Baptist was reputedly served – and Casa di Cristoforo Colombo, the house where Christopher Columbus is said to have been born. Follow the seafront promenade east out of Genoa to Boccadasse to enjoy Genoa's best ice cream.
2. Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Monterosso and Vernazza make up the famed Cinque Terre ("Five Lands"), a stunning stretch of the Ligurian coastline backed by the azure of the Ligurian Sea. They are the most charming part of this lush, green region.
3. Taste and smell local flavours. Liguria is the home of pesto – basil being one of the many herbs that grow in abundance on the hillsides. Try it freshly made with the local pasta such as trofie (simple twists of wheat or chestnut flour) or trenette, similar to linguine.
4. Liguria offers some of Europe's finest coastal walks: the Ligurian Riviera is one of the natural wonders of Italy, where wooded mountains tumble down to the Mediterranean, with fishing ports and small picture postcard resorts hidden in rugged bays and sandy coves.
5. Walk from Monterosso to Vernazza, descending on rocky, well-trodden steps through vineyards clinging to the hillsides. A stop for refreshment in Vernazza is recommended. At lunchtime, try Il Baretto, where the spaghetti alla marinara is delicious.
6. In Liguria, little livestock is kept because of the mountainous terrain, so the typical cuisine features plenty of seafood and vegetables farmed inland. The seafood is excellent: try dishes made from baccala (dried cod), the shellfish soup zuppa di datteri, and anchovies – served salted, stuffed, soaked in sauce or fried.
7. The dark golden dessert wine, the Cinque Terre sciacchetra, is produced from Ligurian albarola, bosco, and vermentino grapes and is well worth sampling, although expensive. Also try the cheaper, dry version of this wine which accompanies fish very well or makes a pleasant aperitif.
8. Explore the Portofino peninsula, among the most beautiful landscapes in Italy and now in part a nature reserve. You can walk from Camogli to Portofino, then take a boat to San Fruttuoso, where you can visit the Benedictine abbey and take a dip in the sea. Return to Camogli, either by boat or on foot.
9. Be aware of ordinary-looking bars in Portofino as they can charge a small fortune, and restaurants charge twice the price of other parts of the Ligurian coast. Try the fishing village of Camogli as an alternative. Have dinner or stay at the Cenobio dei Dogi (cenobio.it; 00 39 0185 7241).
10. In Monterosso on the Saturday before Ascension (usually the third Saturday in May), there is a wonderful Sagra dei Limoni (Lemon Festival) when the town is adorned with lemons. Starting from the house of the Nobel laureate Eugenio Montale, you can walk 8,000 steps accompanied by the wonderful aroma of citrus.
For more information on an enormous range of Italian holiday options and ideas, visit the website of Abtoi (Association of British Travel Organisers to Italy) at loveitaly.co.uk.
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