Here, where the sun always seems to shine and the sandy beach beckons, you can immerse yourself in a world of sun-drenched pleasures and culinary delights. Laigueglia, a name that sounds like a Mediterranean melody (lah-ee-GLYAH), invites me to visit the Agriturismo PEQ and the award-winning Michelin-starred restaurant Vignamare, tucked away in the countryside, up a winding road. But here in the hills you'll find plenty of space for a quiet, green holiday among olive groves and vineyards.
Seen from the sea, Laigueglia resembles a colorful Instagram filter applied by the hand of an influencer. There, in the background, the parish church of St Matthew stands proudly like an extravagant set piece, with its late-baroque façade that's slightly overdone and two bell towers that appear somewhat leaning. Laigueglia is a picture postcard of a typical seaside village, with charming squares and fishermen's houses perched on the beach. The name of the village is said to derive from 'eagle', which sounds pretty cool as it was the symbol on the flags of Roman soldiers. The always busy Via Aurelia cuts through the village, which was built by the Romans, of course. Unfortunately, it's also the only way to reach my destination.
The heroic Catalan fishermen of Laigueglia
In the 12th century, Catalan (Spanish) fishermen arrived in Laigueglia and gave a huge boost to the coral fishing industry. It was a flourishing business until those pesky pirates, including the infamous Turgut Reis, destroyed everything. The village was razed to the ground and then rebuilt. As a token of gratitude for all this misery, the Republic of Genoa decided to build sea walls to protect Laigueglia. A wise plan, because you never know when the pirates might come back to haunt the coast. There's even a 16th century tower called "il Baluardo", a silent witness of that time.
What's on the table in Laigueglia?
But enough history, let's talk food! My favorite subject. White farinata is the speciality here. It's a typical product of the province of Savona, made from wheat. It's crispier than the usual chickpea farinata and has a beautiful white color. It can be eaten on its own or with rosemary, olives, bacon or other tasty ingredients.
Adventures in the backcountry of Laigueglia
But Laigueglia is not only a picturesque sight, it's also a playground for adventurous souls. Nordic walking in the Nordic Walking Laigueglia Park, challenging mountain bike and cycling routes which will take you past the ruins of Andora Castle and through beautiful back roads. If you're lucky, you might even be able to witness the "Battle" that takes place every year between the end of July and the beginning of August on the coast to commemorate the historic landing of the Saracens. It's a mix of sport, history and spectacle.
And then there are a few cultural highlights not to be overlooked. Of course, the magnificent church of St Matthew, which is impossible to miss and is adorned with works of art by famous artists like Bernardo Strozzi to name just one. If you want to go higher, climb the hill to the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora delle Penne (a Catalan word meaning 'rock'), built by Catalan fishermen on the Capo Mele cliff, near the lighthouse. A place full of history and breathtaking views.
Festivals and Events in Laigueglia
But let's be honest, in summer, it's all about the festivities and events here. From sagra's to markets, there's always something happening in Laigueglia. There are two events that are unforgettable: 'Il salto dell'acciuga', usually held in October (culinary delights, workshops, exhibitions, and shows along the salt roads) and the Perc Fest (June 14-17), an international music event dedicated to percussion that simply sets the standard. So put on your dancing shoes and join the party! Click here for more information about this event.
Andora and Borgata Castello
My destination today is Andora, a region in the hinterland of bustling Laigueglia, characterized by forests, vineyards, olive groves, watchtowers, and castle fortresses. The old heart of Andora, Borgata Castello, stands guard on the hilltop, proudly protecting the Val Merula.
The Val Merula is dotted with ancient fortresses like Colla Micheri. This spot nestled among the olive groves was actually put on the map by Thor Heyerdahl, the explorer. This famous Norwegian undertook the most daring of expeditions, such as crossing the ocean on a wooden raft. The irony is that the abandoned village captivated him so much that he, yes, this man who traveled the world, decided to restore it and bring it back to life. He even called it a "paradise on earth." And who are we to contradict Thor?
Andora, a Norwegian settlement
This was followed by an influx of Norwegians who bought second homes in the area. Perhaps that's why Nordic Walking has become so popular here! The area around Andora is well known for its many sporting activities, especially Nordic Walking as mentioned before, but there are also many mountain bike trails and many cycling enthusiasts will want to conquer the steep slopes of the valley. But today I'm here for a culinary experience, specifically at the Vignamare restaurant, which has recently been awarded a green Michelin star.
What is a green Michelin star?
The green Michelin star is a special recognition from Michelin for restaurants that excel in sustainability and environmental awareness. This star is awarded to restaurants that are committed to reducing their ecological impact, using local and seasonal ingredients, and promoting sustainable agricultural and fishing practices. It is an appreciation for restaurants that, in addition to culinary excellence, also focus on environmental conservation.
A unique Farm2Table concept
Before I tell you more about this place, I must emphasise that it is absolutely unique. I travelled here for a particular reason, something I wouldn't normally do. There are many excellent restaurants in Liguria, even with Michelin stars, but this is really something special. The concept was created by Giorgio Servetto, former chef at NOVE, another famous restaurant on the coast in Alassio. There is nothing ordinary about this place and it took me a while to fully grasp its essence. The layout is quite unique, resembling a tiered wedding cake. If you park your car and take the path uphill, you will reach the entrance.Ristorante Vignamare - Strada Castello, 20 - Colla Micheri, Andora, 17051, Italy - Starting from €100 per person - Email:
Then a series of stairs or resin-covered paths (suitable for high heels and wheelchairs) lead to the top, where you'll find a small café offering local produce and wine from the estate. In this exceptional setting, Chef Giorgio Servetto presents an exclusive tasting menu, with a choice between a long or short version. The menu changes regularly and is based entirely on seasonal ingredients, most of which are grown in the farm's own vegetable garden. As if that weren't enough, delicious wines produced on the estate (PEQ Agri società agricola) are served exclusively. It's a culinary experience not to be missed.
On the first level you'll find the VignaMare restaurant (awarded a green Michelin star in 2023), with outdoor terraces on different levels. One level up is the Terrazza Praié trattoria, surrounded by comfortable armchairs where you can enjoy an aperitif while taking in the views of Val Merula, Borgo Castello, the coastline of Andora and the Mediterranean. Between courses I decided to take a walk among the olive trees and the fragrant herbs that grow everywhere - thyme, rosemary, juniper, lavender.
The Vignamare Restaurant is located in an old water reservoir built in the 1970s. It is surrounded by beautiful vineyards, olive groves and forests. The circular design of the reservoir is inspired by the natural surroundings. Inside the restaurant you'll feel like you're in a cozy wine cellar with oak paneling. The fragrant resins evoke memories of the warm summer sun. The Vignamare Restaurant is open for dinner on Wednesdays and Thursdays (from 20:00), for lunch and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays and for lunch only on Sundays.
An extroridinary osteria Terrazza Praié
From Wednesday to Saturday you can also visit the Terrazza Praié from 18:00 for an aperitif in the cellars where you can taste the wines of the estate, such as Lupi and Guglierame, accompanied by various local delicacies. The prices are democratic compared to the Michelin-starred restaurant. The Trattoria is open on Fridays from 12.30 pm for lunch and from 19.00 pm for dinner and on Sundays from 11.30 am to 3.00 pm for brunch.Terrazza Praié - Str. Castello, 20, 17051 Colla Micheri SV Tel. +39 351 713 5050 - Website: https://www.peqagri.it/
The PEQ Agri Resort with swimming pool is located in the picturesque village of Tovo, nestled between the tranquil Maremola River and the breathtaking Ligurian countryside. No ordinary location and an authentic experience for guests looking for something special. Giorgio Servetto of Vignamare has once again taken the creative lead here, not only in the kitchen but also in the renovated decor. Particularly popular with families, you can enjoy the delicious flavors of his cuisine and the products grown on the resort.
The restaurant, run by the experienced Nicolai Bendtson, who has lived in Ireland for 20 years, serves typical Ligurian dishes from the region. Naturally, only the finest ingredients are used, most of which come from the estate's organic farm. The resort's farm is surrounded by nature and happy animals, including chickens, ponies, donkeys, and geese.Agriturismo PEQ Agri Resort di Tovo - Via Terra Molino, 25, 17020 Tovo San Giacomo SV - Book a room?
A 2nd home in Italy? Explore Borgata Costa d'Agosti
Just above the village of Andora, about a 20 minute walk on foot, you'll find a unique renovation project. Borgata Costa d'Agosti is originally an old village that has recently undergone extensive restoration. It consists of 65 properties which together form an enchanting collection of small houses, terraces and arches in shades of pink, green, ochre and stone grey. Situated in the green hinterland of one of the most fascinating areas of the Val Merula, this place offers moments of relaxation in intense tranquillity, yet only a few kilometers from the sea at Laigueglia.
The homes are comfortable and environmentally friendly, with an A-rated energy efficiency. They have spacious outdoor areas and can be stylishly furnished. The materials and colors create an authentic look, combined with advanced technologies. If you're interested, contact this real estate agent for more information.