Tasting Vibrant Seafood in Liguria, Italy
Every third Saturday in June is the Sagra dell’Acciuga Fritta in Monterosso al Mare, Liguria. As can sometimes happen with Italian festivals, due to bad weather and lack of fish, it was postponed in 2016. Bad news for locals and travelers who were hoping to attend, but never fear, when in Liguria, anchovies are always near.
If you’ve grown up in the United States, like I have, your idea of anchovies is a bunch of salty, smelly fish packed in oil and stored for god knows how long. They come on top of your pizza or caesar salad and that’s about the only time you see them. On the Ligurian coast of Tuscany, anchovies are a whole lot different. I discovered this last year when I participated in the Mangialonga Levanto with friends Ann & Robin. Anchovies were one of the menu items and it was the food I thought I would like the least, but much to my surprise, I enjoyed it the most! They are served a variety of different ways but the local friggatorie shops make enjoying them a quick and easy meal mixed with other seafood and french fries.
Monterosso al Mare is part of the chain of five, seaside villages known as the “Cinque Terre.” Located in the Italian province of Liguria, the population of the Cinque Terre swells in the summer when tourists from all over the globe come to view its charming villages and natural beauty. The five pastel, jewel-box-like villages cling to the small ports and cliffs along the coastline. You can hike and walk between villages facing various levels of difficulty.
Liguria is a narrow region that follows the coastline of the blue Mediterranean Sea from the border of France south to Tuscany and includes the Maritime Alps and the Ligurian Alps. The only flat parts of the region are where the land touches the sea. Home to the “Italian Riviera,” Liguria has sandy beaches, port cities, fishing villages, mountain villages, and dramatic shoreline cliffs. One of the ancient maritime areas of Italy, the Ligurians are known as great seafarers. Several events take place along the coast between June and September that involve boat regattas. The Ligurian coast is dotted with many seaside villages accessible by train or car; it’s very easy to hop off the train and find yourself surrounded by Italians without a tourist in sight.
Seafood, basil pesto, lemons, farinata and focaccia are the five foods that spring to mind when Liguria is in the travel plan. There are festivals dedicated to each of these items between April and May. Local pesto is made from a blend of fresh basil, parmesan, pecorino, olive oil, pine nuts and garlic and is commonly used on pasta and in soup. Seafood is a main staple of the local diet, and Ligurian tables also include herbs from the mountain hillsides, fruits, and vegetables. A lemon festival takes place in Monterosso each May. Excellent “Take away” Friggatorie (fried food shops) dot the Ligurian Coast and serve freshly caught and fried seafood in a cone. Go on, give ’em a try; these aren’t your fathers anchovies!
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