If you're planning a trip to Italy, Liguria might not be the first destination on your list. Tuscany is next door, with the art and shopping of Florence and the historic sweep of Siena. But don't overlook the sights and the flavors of this small region, framed by steep mountains and warm seas, with a culture all its own.
To start with, there's Genoa's annual wine fair, held every June [source: Bacchus & Comus]. An Italian food festival -- a celebration of culinary pleasure in a country that understands culinary pleasure better than almost any other -- is not to be missed. Not only will you get to sample rare Ligurian wines, but vintners from all over Italy will visit with their wares. And you'll get the decided treat of Ligurian cuisine -- a happy combination of basil, garlic, citrus, vegetables, pasta and seafood.
Liguria also has some of the most glorious landscapes in all of Italy:
- the Riviera di Ponente and the Riviera di Levante
- the resort towns of San Remo and Portofino, long a haven for writers and artists (one area is even known as the Poet's Gulf)
- the high seaside cliffs and villages of the Cinque Terre ("five lands"), framed by rugged forests
- the colorful, bustling waterfront of Genoa, a popular departure point for cruises along the Italian coast
- steep terraces thick with vines, olive trees, oak, heather and flowers -- even orchids
Liguria's rocky hiking trails are justly famous, particularly those that connect the five villages of the Cinque Terre (sometimes spelled Cinqueterre). The best known is the Via dell'Amore, or walk of love, along which lovers through the ages have carved initials and left keepsakes, tokens and mementos [source: Riviera della Liguria].
This article explores the history of Liguria's challenging terrain, how grapes have come to grow there and the Italian wines those grapes produce.