In Liguria, one of the most typical food items in the culinary tradition of the villages overlooking the Gulf of La Spezia is the muscolo or mitilo (plural version: muscoli or mitili).
This Mediterranean mussel is a marine mollusk in the Mytilidae family. In the Gulf of La Spezia, it 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.
Cultivated since ancient Roman times, the muscoli are produced in fish farms of different sizes, with breeding cycles that vary from 13 to 15 months.
Muscoli are used in various local dishes, whether you enjoy a meal at home or in a restaurant. 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.
The beautiful town of Lerici celebrates the mitili and local seafood traditions in an annual event called Mytiliade.
The event generally takes place in September, lasting from 3 to 15 days, during which Lerici hosts original themed dinners, various food stalls with local delicacies, guided tastings, cooking shows by local, national and international chefs, open-air culinary lessons, gastronomic contests, cultural meetings and exhibitions.
The event goes beyond the foodie world, allowing visitors to discover the surrounding territory with guided trekking excursions in the hinterland as well as boat rides to learn about aquaculture in the Gulf of Poets.
During the 2015 edition, a book by professional photographer and photo reporter Claudio Barontini was presented to the public. The photographic book is called “Muscolai” and portrays the daily lives of local mussel growers of the Cooperativa Mitilicoltori della Spezia.
The amazing photographs tell the story behind the early wakes and setting out at sea, friendships, struggles, efforts, satisfactions. It’s a black-and-white homage full of poetry that gives a unique “behind the scenes” insight in the production of this precious treasure from the Gulf of La Spezia.
Here is a small glimpse of the stunning images in the book, courtesy of Claudio Barontini.