Friday, May 27, 2011


500 miles of coastline, 3 national parks and 1000’s of acres of olive trees, vineyards and citrus groves makes Calabria is one of the most diverse regions in bell’Italia. Combined with the enduring influence of Calabria’s past conquerors (notably the Greeks, Spaniards and Arabs) there is a distinct uniqueness to Calabrian cuisine. My friends Cherrye and Tanya down south have put together a fun and oh-so delicious adventure in their gorgeous and less traveled region and I want to spread the word!

Having handpicked some of their favorite towns and villages (many of which you’d never find in a guidebook!), the girls down south are offering a truly authentic culinary and cultural experience.

The Calabrian Table Tour will take place October 16 - 23, 2011, hosted by two fabulous gals who have made Calabria their home.

For a complete itinerary, click here!

Any for booking details, you can either contact me or Cherrye or Tanya directly (let them know I sent you!).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Oops, We Did It Again!

This Time, Noli...

We had another “escape” weekend up to this gem (I had recently come across a new accommodation that I wanted to check out so that was our excuse). Although I expected cute, I was actually very impressed.

Located on the Riviera Ponente between Savona and Imperia lies the quintessential maritime borgo of Noli. You probably haven’t heard of it, unless you were fortunate enough to stumble upon it while driving between France and elsewhere in Italy, but it deserves to be “on the map”.

Noli has less than 3,000 inhabitants living within its tiny medieval, cobblestone streets (ok, and in a few swanky villas on the hillside), but possess all the good qualities of a charming seaside resort: a charming historical center, a gorgeous and very clean cove-like beach, ruins of an old fortress on the hill, some excellent restaurants and a couple of very nice places to stay. It’s history dates back to the 1st century B.C. when the Romans built a shipyard in the bay which now houses lively beach clubs and waterfront cafés (we became partial to Marea, having both an aperitivo and mid-morning caffè there) . It also a member of the prestigious “I Borghi Piu Belli in Italia” (Italy’s Most Beautiful Hamlets).

There isn’t a whole lot do to do in Noli, but that is part of its charm. Sometimes a place needs to be about relaxing, strolling, enjoying the views and just “soaking up the local atmosphere” (my signature phrase!). But if one wants more to do, Genova is just an hour’s drive away, the Grotte di Toirano about 30 minutes and even some fine wineries of Piemonte not too far by car.

We stayed at Ca’ de Tobia, a brand new luxury guesthouse along Via Aurelia (the seafront highway). It is a lovely little place decorated to perfection and the owner, Andrea, is very accommodating. There are only 3 (super) rooms but there is a plan to add another three next year (two with sea view balconies). The place is going to be a hit!

At Andrea’s recommendation we ate at Bucùn du Preve (translated from Ligurian dialect is "Il Buco dei Prete or in english, The Priests' Hole int he Wall), a lively old tavern like restaurant with special dishes of the region and more than 7 homemade desserts (that sadly enough, we were too full by then to eat!). We enjoyed an incredible “toma” cheese made only in Albenga with fresh honey and pears, mini-octopus “drowning” in hot sauce, homemade taglioni with shrimp and asparagus, a gorgeous cuttle-fish salad and anchovy stew, along with a bottle of local Pigato. It was delish and much more reasonably priced than any of the places in our neck of the Riviera.

Our lazy Sunday consisted of a morning stroll and then out first day at the beach for the 2011 season at the very chic and cozy Vittoria Club.

When it was time to say “arrivederci” to Noli, I felt a twinge of melancholy as another day or two of doing nothing would have been nice. But it’s only 2 hours away and there will always be another excuse to escape! :)

Monday, May 02, 2011

A Day Escape to...

The 1st of May is a big holiday here in Italy. Technically is the workman’s holiday. But in our little borgo of Solaro, it seems to take on a whole different , and not so attractive, meaning. We live just above the “cicolo arci”, (also known semi-jokingly as the communist club) which every year holds a huge party in honor of this day. It starts at about 10 in the morning and goes until at least 10 at night. There’s an enormous BBQ which has no other path but to blow all the smoke and smells into our house plus karaoke, very bad karaoke. It’s all fine and dandy they want to celebrate, but the idea of 20-something year olds hanging out in Che Guevara or Stalin t-shirts and getting as drunk as possible, disturbs me. So, every 1st of May, it’s time to “get out of Dodge”, even if only for the day.

Lui and I made our way an hour and a half south down the coast to the “Maremma Livornese” (also known as the Etruscan Coast). Just south of Livorno, there is a whole wonderful world of charming villages, white sand beaches, good food and SUPER wines to discover. In fact, the area is probably best known for its Super Tuscans, such as Ornellaia and Sassicaia. Our destination for the day was the tiny hamlet of Bolgheri.

Getting off the super-strada at “La California” (always makes me laugh), we drove along a spring bloom filled road which led us to the famous cypress line street that takes you right up into the village. Its most prominent landmark is the castle which belonged to the counts of Gherardesca which was, along with the village, completely destroyed in WWII, but rebuilt perfectly to its earlier beauty.

There’s not a whole lot to see in Bolgheri as you can walk around the entire hamlet is about 10 minutes, but it is filled with cute shops, nice restaurants and some lovely views to enjoy. We enjoyed a good meal at L’Uva Nera, sitting in the outside patio along with a bottle of Ornellaia (their table wine for today NOT their super duper wines!).

After lunch, we “got lost” amongst some of the gorgeous and winding back roads before heading down to the sea for the long, scenic route back home, where the party was still going fairly strong, but at least we managed to avoid most of it.

I just love this area of Italy. Unlike its sister wine zone of Chianti, the Etruscan Coast feels less touched but still with exuding elegance and a whole lot of beauty. Bolgheri is just one of many lovely places to visit here. I suggest 3-4 full days to fully enjoy and appreciate the area and here are just a few ideas of what you can do and see while visiting this fabulous pot on the Tuscan Coast:

* Wine tastings and tours at Ornellaia, Petra and Tenuta Guado al Tasso.

* Day trip to the island of Elba

* Visit the beautiful Suvereto and Castagneto Carducci in addition to Bolgheri

* See some of the better known sites such as Pisa or Volterra

* Spend the day at the beach!

Add the Etruscan Cost to your list of places to visit on your next trip to Italy. You won’t be disappointed!