One of the greatest attributes Italy has is its variety in gastronomy. The south is renowned for its cannelloni, the north for osso bucco and every region in-between (20, to be exact) has their own specific menu.
For Liguria, the menu consists of focaccia. Focaccia with onions, cheese, olive oil and olives. In truth, you could survive in Liguria solely consuming the revered snack, with a glass of vino added in for good measure (it is a place renowned for its wineries).
Driving the long and twisted road from Milan to Vernazza, we stopped at a local town. Not for petrol or the toilet, normal and mundane car trip amenities. Rather, we stopped for the focaccia.
Focaccia di Recco is renowned within Liguria. In fact, this small coastal town is currently seeking European Union PGI Status for their venerated eatable treat. Made with fresh stracchino and uncharacteristically thin, it is served piping hot and fresh from the forno.
Unceremoniously, we hungrily consumed our delicious midday snack on plastic plates and by the side of the busy narrow street. We were joined by fellow hungry Italian travelers, all in pursuit of the narrow arc of the Riveria, yet unanimously deciding to take full advantage of Recco’s unique gastronomy.
Alas, Recco is not a destination, it’s a stopping point for hungry travelers. Consider, as we drove through the town’s two or three streets, it was punctuated with café’s serving steaming hot focaccia. It’s the backbone to the local economy and a lucrative one at that; people come from all over the region come to taste the gooey creamy stracchino cheese stuffed inside the salty dough. Simple yet sublime.
Additionally, Cinque Terre (our destination) is a place not only known for its charm and singular beauty – it’s a popular focaccia joint too. Alas, the Ligurians are rather cunning, and overcharge at the restaurants in the hope of attracting gullible and willing-to-pay tourists. 160 euros for a meal for two? We’ll pass.
So, we embraced the focaccia – it was our midday snack, lunch and dinner. Oozing with fresh olive oil and crystal sea salt, it was the epitome of snack-food-chic.
And, after three days of focaccia we were not yet ready to gastronomically depart.
As we said arrivederci to our daily substance, we did something horrendously un-Italian. Upon arriving in London Gatwick, we tried the focaccia from Pret; such was our longing.
Comparatively, it was the ugly sister of focaccias, the poorer relation and resembled not an ounce of our former friend.
Till next time, then.
The Focaccia – in-depth
- Focaccia is approximately 2,000 years older than pizza
- It is essentially a cross between a pizza bread and traditional bread
- The name derives from the Latin word ‘focus’, meaning ‘fire’
- Liguria is considered the homeland of focaccia
- The traditional preparation takes a long time. The dough needs to rise for at least 8 hours.