When traveling to Liguria, most visitors immediately think of two typical products: pesto and focaccia. But what other local foods are there? Let us have a look at the main protagonists in the culinary scene of the Gulf of Poets and neighboring Cinque Terre.
One of the most typical food items in the villages overlooking the Gulf of La Spezia is the muscolo or mitilo. This Mediterranean mussel is an object of aquaculture: in the stretch of water between Portovenere and Lerici it is easy to spot grid patterns formed by poles, floats and ropes that are home to these bivalves.
Mitili are used in various local dishes. You can savor them without any further additions after cooking them in a saucepan, or use them as an ingredient for a risotto alla marinara or pasta sauces. Lerici celebrates the mitili in an annual event called Mytiliade, usually in September.
The anchovies from this part of Liguria, in particular from Monterosso in the Cinque Terre, are of a bright silver color. According to a legend, Saracen pirates were enchanted by the beauty of this land and introduced anchovies and the art of fishing to the locals, who then started excelling in the fish commerce.
You can enjoy anchovies in different ways: raw with olive oil and lemon or with a bit of oregano, garlic and parsley; cooked with potatoes, fried or stuffed. Monterosso celebrates this product with two annual food events, called Sagra dell’Acciuga (usually in June and September).
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This is one of the most prestigious and distinctive typical products from the area of the Gulf of Poets and Cinque Terre. The olives, which grow along the coast on the terraced hills overlooking the sea, are simply exquisite. The oil is thick and of a dark green color with a slight salty aftertaste.
Locals love to use olive oil with steamed salted mackerel fish or octopus, with fresh spring onions, with raw artichokes and on a bruschetta.
Golfo dei Poeti IGT Wine
This wine has the IGT (typical geographical indication) label and is produced in the province of La Spezia. It comes in all varieties: white, red, rosé and sweet.
Sciachetrà DOC Wine
This special, unique wine is sweet and has almost the feel of a liqueur. It is made with dried grapes grown exclusively in local vineyards, and the EU has awarded it with the DOC (controlled origin denomination) label.
Known since Roman times, the Sciachetrà has been praised by writers such as Petrarca, Dante and Miguel de Cervantes. Locals usually serve the wine cold at around 14°, to accompany desserts or cheese.
The La Spezia Slow Food Association promotes this niche sector. Quite a number of local farms embrace beekeeping and produce honey in small quantity, but of excellent quality – often using organic methods.
These citrus fruits grow particularly well along the Cinque Terre, and are used for producing typical jams. The Lemon Festival takes place yearly in Monterosso (usually in May), offering the opportunity to taste all lemon-based dishes such as limoncino (or limoncello liqueur), lemon cream, marmalades and lemon cake!