Thursday, August 25, 2011

Varese Ligure:
Another Hidden Gem of Liguria

Old Photo of Varese

Find yourself 30 minutes inland from the Mediterranean sea (and Sestri Levante) and you will find Italy’s “organic valley” and the charming village of Varese Ligure. My pal, Kate at LittleParadiso, took me on a “field trip” to visit this beautiful area, celebrate my birthday with a typical and delicious Ligurian lunch and pick up a few “biological” products along the way. Knowing that Kate is going to write a fabulous blog on Varese, I’ll just post a few photos from our day to give you an idea...

A village full of color...

Skinniest home I've ever seen!

The Fortress

More & more Ligurian colors...

Medieval Walkways

Hidden Passageways

La Madonna in Sassi

The Cathedral

Last but not least...
Crepes of chestnut flour and pesto!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ferragosto Dinner:

Seppie & Fagioli

I’m no gourmet and nor try to be. I keep it real simple and it seems to work, or so that’s what my husband tells me! Here’s what I made for dinner on Ferragosto:

1 chilo of cleaned seppia (cuttlefish)*

400 grams of cannellini beans

200 grams of borloti beans (like pinto beans)

A small handful of rosemary

1/2 Tropea onion (a red onion will do)

1 garlic clove

salt to taste

peperoncino (pepper flakes) to tastes

1/2 of wine

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Some of you are thinking what the heck is seppia? Seppia is cuttlefish, used often on the NE coast of the states and served widely through out the Med. It’s very similar to calamari and can actually be substituted with calamari if you can find seppia (or are not feeling quite so adventurous).



If your "seppie" are not already cleaned (highly recommend: take a look at the photo above and you’ll understand!), then you will need to do so and then cut it into small pieces. Keep them in a colander with a bowl under it as they can be pretty watery.

Mince finely the rosemary, onion and garlic and add to a pan.

Drain the beans. (Now, I understand some of you may prefer soaking and boiling your own beans, but for those here in Italy, I think the ones you buy in the can at the Coop supermarket are darn good and don’t require all that extra time.)

Heat the pan with the rosemary mixture and the olive oil for about 2 minutes and then add the fish. Turn the fish until is well coated and then let sizzle for a few minutes, then turn again. Do this for about 6-7 minutes until the seppie is well cooked (you can tell because it becomes opaque white). Then add the beans, the half a glass of white wine, salt and peperoncino and let cook for another 2 minutes, covered.

And that is it. What you’ve got is a super simple and delicious main course perfect for a nice summer night. Oh, and don’t forget a nice bottle of rosato to go with it.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011


Quite possibly the most hidden gem of the Italian Riviera, Tellaro is quintessential seaside Italy at its best. Once a fortified village built on the rocks only meters up from the sea, this borgo (one of Italy’s finest) is now a beautiful summer escape more frequented by Italians and Northern Europeans.

I am quasi-embarrassed to say that I had not been to Tellaro in a couple of years, but after having dinner over that way with clients last night, I decided it was time to go back (with Lucy in tow) for a morning passegiata and caffè. And boy was I happy I did.

The colorful buildings and narrow alleyways leading to tiny terraces over the sea, add to the appeal and charm of this 500-year old village. You can’t help but make comparison with the villages of Le Cinque Terre, but there are big differences: less people, a very laid-back pace, and frankly, much better taken care of.

The Legend of Tellaro

Supposedly back in the 17th century, there was only a fortress where Tellaro now stands which served to protect another village, Barbazzano, a bit more inland from the sea from Saracen pirates who came to steal its famous and lucrative olive oil. The fortress was built on a very rugged coastline so disembarking was difficult and the bell tower of the church was used as an alarm in case of invasion. One stormy night the Saracens managed to sneak onto land as the village slept peacefully (including the man who was supposed to be on the lookout!). But somehow, or someone or some THING, rang the church bell, the village awoke and rushed to the defense of their precious land, beating the Saracens before they could reach the village. Legend has it that some of the townspeople saw a big octopus which has emerged from the sea and held fast to the rope of the bell awakening the whole village! From that day forward, the octopus, known as Tellarsi, symbolizes the village of Tellaro.

Nearby, there are fabulous coves for sunning and swimming plus several very good restaurants which I can highly recommend. Lerici is only a 10 minute drive and in the summer, buses and train trolley run regularly between the two villages.


Eco del Mare - high-end, expensive beach bungalows on a private beach. A must if you don’t mind breaking the bank.

Locanda Miranda - a cozy, 8-room B&B with a one-star Michelin restaurant.

Hotel Il Nido - A valid, 3-star hotel on the sea.

Food Drink & Fun

Locanda Miranda - Excellent food and not the usual Michelin star prices.

Gambero Nero - abundance of delicious food (don’t miss the never ending antipasto of the house)

Osteria La Caletta (Via Fiascherino, 100 Tel: 0187964000) - nice osteria serving a good assortment of pastas and fresh fish in a friendly atmosphere

Il Figoli - Music bar and enoteca in the main piazza

If you happen to be in the area this coming weekend (August 12-14), there is the annual “Sagra di Polpo” (octopus festival) with live music, a parade and of course all the octopus you can eat! And if you happen to making a trip this way soon, please put Tellaro on your list of must do and see’s. Just like me, you won’t be disappointed...