Last week, temps in Piemonte hit a record high with digits up in the high 70s! Forget winter skiing and visiting the cold mountains, we headed for il mare. After revisiting Liguria’s seaside towns, I came up with a few tips you might find useful if you ever decide to come. After all, it is only an 1 hour from Piemonte.#1 – GO IN THE WINTERTIME

In our younger days, we would fight the crowds and traffic (often going by scooter) to get in those precious rays of sun in the summer. If it meant lying on jagged rocks, paying an arm and a leg for a spot on the beach, and searching endlessly for parking, that was alright with us. But now things have changed and we see day trips to Liguria as more of a stressful endeavor rather than relaxing.

We do like to go in the winter when temperatures are generally warmer than Piemonte’s and the silent umbrella lido free beaches truly do give you that sense of peace.


#2 – CHECK THE WEATHER FORECAST BEFORE YOU GO

Don’t assume that it is ALWAYS nicer than in Piemonte. I made this mistake last week when we escaped the springlike temperatures in Fossano to come upon the gloomy dark clouds of the Ligurian coast. I should have known this being from the Bay Area, where the climate from one side of the Golden Gate can be completely different than the other side. Oh well, we learned our lesson!

#3 – IF YOU ARE WITH AN ITALIAN, MAKE YOUR PLANS VERY CLEAR FOR THE DAY

For my Italian friends and husband, the best part of going to the beach is sitting in a restaurant for hours during the middle of the day and gorging yourself with seafood antipasti, pasta alla scoglie, fish fritto misto or grigliata and drinking wine. I have always struggled with this habit of eating so much at the beach. I am sorry, but I want to take advantage of every ounce of sunshine and stay outdoors walking or catching some rays. (I know…not good for the skin but must be my need for vitamin D:)) On our way down to the beach, the hubby asked if I had done my usual hours of research for a good restaurant to eat at. Ummmm no, I was thinking of just grabbing a farinata or a foccaccia and walking from town to town. You can imagine his reaction. Lucky for him the weather was crappy!

#4 – CHOOSE  YOUR RESTAURANTS CAREFULLY AND RESERVE A TABLE

Since lunch time is strictly the same for all Italians (in the winter it is all locals), it would be a wise idea to reserve a table at a trusted restaurant. Being near the sea doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting fresh fish. Sometimes they even say the freshest stuff goes to the big fish markets in Milan and Torino where you are more likely to get the best quality. Since everything is also so cramped in Liguria, even the tiny restaurants in the center of town fill up very quickly, so call ahead!

#5 – IF YOU DON’T GET INTO A RESTAURANT, GO GET A PIECE OF FOCACCIA OR FARINATA

There is nothing like the focaccia and farinata in Liguria. For those of you who don’t know, farinata is served in hot slices and is made from farina di ceci (garbanzo bean flour), water and lots of Ligurian olive oil! It’s a good way to eat cheaply and compensate for parking fees or eventual tickets!

#6 – IF YOU WANT A WINTER JACKET, PURSE OR SUNGLASSES WAIT TILL THE AFRICANS COME OUT IN THE AFTERNOON

As soon as 3 p.m. rolled around and people starting strolling along the lungomare (a type of boardwalk/promenade), all the Africans start laying out the trendiest items on the street. They can be pretty aggressive so don’t make eye contact or look at the merchandise if not interested. This year, it is all about the Colmar jackets. It is unbelievable to me how almost every person you see has this brand of jacket. Is it well known in other parts?

If you are interested in buying, NEGOTIATE! Ever watch Pawn Stars? Offer them less than half and see what you can get. If you “shop” around 5-6 p.m. they may have to catch their trains and be willing to sell you items for much less.

#7 – TIRED OF EATING, WALKING AND SITTING IN THE SUN? SHOP ESPECIALLY IN JANUARY

The day we decided to go to the sea was also the first official day of the after Christmas sales! Even some of the small towns have some very fancy shops. Alassio is one of our favorite seaside shopping towns and Finale Ligure, where we were, wasn’t bad either. We ironically got Nico’s first winter parka at the seaside for half off.

#8 – TRY SOMETHING NEW LIKE CHINOTTO FRUIT OR GIANT LEMONS

Liguria is known for their citrus fruits in the winter like cedro (giant lemons) and also something called Chinotto (a bitter mini little orange like fruit). We were lucky that there was actually an outdoor market going on where we could admire all the local produce.

#9 – DRIVE A MOTORCYCLE OR A SCOOTER IF YOU CAN

There is hardly any parking on the Ligurian coast unless you go in low season. We suggest going with a scooter so you can squeeze it in any small place you can find. We were lucky to find a parking space near the train station. If the spaces are blue, that means you have to pay!

#10 – BREATHE IN THE AIR IF YOU SUFFER FROM SINUS OR CONGESTION PROBLEMS

The sea seems to be the place where all the elderly go to improve their help and breathe in the fresh sea air. We took Nico who usually gets pretty congested during the night, and he slept like a baby when we came home because he could actually breathe clearly. This is a good excuse to go to the sea

So that about wraps up my tips for visiting Liguria and I hope you find them useful.  I am always impressed with how refreshing it is to just pop on over the regional border to taste different foods, change atmosphere and hear the diverse accents even if it is only an hour away! Viva Italia.

 

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