Here, where the sun always seems to shine and the sandy beach beckons, one can immerse yourself in a world of sun-drenched pleasures and culinary delights. Laigueglia, a name that resonates like a Mediterranean melody (lah-ee-GLYAH), invites me to visit the Agriturismo PEQ and the award-winning Michelin-starred restaurant Vignamare, nestled in the hinterland, a winding road uphill. But here in the hills, you'll find plenty of space for a tranquil and green holiday amidst olive groves and vineyards.
Seen from the sea, Laigueglia resembles a colorful Instagram filter applied by an influencer's hand. There, in the background, the parish church of St. Matthew proudly stands like an extravagant set piece, with its late Baroque facade that's slightly overdone and two bell towers that appear slightly askew. Laigueglia is like a postcard of a typical coastal village, complete with charming squares and fishing houses posing on the beach. The name of the village is said to be derived from 'eagle,' which sounds pretty cool because it was the symbol on the flags of Roman soldiers. The Aurelia road, always bustling with traffic, cuts through the village, naturally built by those Romans. Unfortunately, it's also the only way to reach my destination.
The heroic Catalan fishermen of Laigueglia
In the 12th century, Catalan fishermen arrived in Laigueglia, bringing a tremendous boost to the coral fishing industry. It was a flourishing business until those pesky pirates, including the notorious Turgut Reis, disrupted 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 construct seawalls to protect Laigueglia. A clever plan, as you never know when those pirates might once again haunt the coast. There's even a 16th-century tower named 'il Baluardo' standing as a silent witness to that era.
What to eat in Laigueglia?
But enough history, let's talk about food! My favorite subject. The white farinata is the specialty here. It's a typical product from the province of Savona, made from wheat. It's crispier than the regular chickpea farinata and has a beautiful white color. You can enjoy it on its own or with rosemary, olives, bacon, or other tasty additions.
Adventure in the hinterland of Laigueglia
But Laigueglia is not just 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 that lead you past the ruins of Andora Castle and through beautiful backroads. If you're lucky, you might even witness the 'battle' held annually between late July and early August at the seaside to commemorate the historic landing of the Saracens. It's a mix of sports, history, and spectacle.
And then there are some cultural highlights that you shouldn't miss. Of course, the magnificent church of St. Matthew, impossible to overlook, adorned with artworks by notable artists like Bernardo Strozzi to name just one. If you'd like to venture 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
But let's be honest, in summer, it's all about the festivities and events here. From festivals 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.
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 the Thor Heyerdahl, the explorer. This famous Norwegian undertook the most daring 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?
A following of Norwegians ensued, purchasing second homes in the area, perhaps that's why Nordic Walking has become so popular here! The surroundings of Andora are known for the many sports activities, in particular Nordic Walking as mentioned, but there are also numerous mountain bike trails, and many cycling enthusiasts will want to conquer the steep slopes of the valley. However today, I'm here for a culinary experience, specifically at the restaurant Vignamare, which was recently 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.
Before I tell you more about this place, I must emphasize that it is absolutely unique. I traveled here specifically, something I wouldn't normally do. In Liguria, there are many restaurants, even with Michelin stars, but this is truly something special. The concept was conceived by Giorgio Servetto, former chef of NOVE, another renowned 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. When you park your car and take the path uphill, you reach the base.Ristorante Vignamare - Strada Castello, 20 - Colla Micheri, Andora, 17051, Italy - Starting from €100 per person - Email:
Then, several stairs or paths covered with resin (making them suitable for high heels and wheelchairs) lead you to the top, where you'll find a small coffee shop offering local ingredients and wine from the estate. In this exceptional establishment, chef Giorgio Servetto presents an exclusive tasting menu, offering a choice between an extensive or a short version. The menu is regularly refreshed and is entirely based on seasonal and predominantly self-cultivated ingredients from the on-site vegetable garden. And as if that's not enough, they exclusively serve delicious wines produced on their own estate (PEQ Agri società agricola). It's a true culinary experience you wouldn't want to miss.
On the first level, you'll find the fine-dining restaurant VignaMare (awarded a green Michelin star in 2023), featuring outdoor terraces at different levels. One level above is the trattoria Terrazza Praié, surrounded by comfortable lounge chairs where you can enjoy an aperitivo while taking in the views of Val Merula, Borgo Castello, and the coasts of Andora and the Mediterranean Sea. Between courses I decided to walk among the olive trees and the fragrant herbs that bloom everywhere - thyme, rosemary, juniper, lavender.
The restaurant Vignamare is located in an old water reservoir from 1970. It is nestled amidst beautiful vineyards, olive trees, and forests. The round 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. Vignamare Restaurant is open for dinner on Wednesday and Thursday (from 8:00 PM); Friday and Saturday for lunch and dinner, and Sunday for lunch only.
From Wednesday to Saturday, you can also visit Terrazza Praié from 6:00 PM for an aperitivo in the cellars where you can taste the estate's wines, such as Lupi and Guglierame, accompanied by various local delicacies, the prices are democratic compared to the Michelinstar restaurant. The trattoria is open on Friday from 12:30 PM for lunch and from 7:00 PM for dinner, and on Sundays for brunch from 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM.Terrazza Praié - Str. Castello, 20, 17051 Colla Micheri SV Tel. +39 351 713 5050 - Website: https://www.peqagri.it/
In the picturesque village of Tovo, nestled between the tranquil Maremola river and the stunning Ligurian landscape, lies the PEQ Agri Resort with a swimming pool. No ordinary location and an authentic experience for guests seeking something special. Giorgio Servetto of Vignamare has also taken creative leadership here, evident not only in the cuisine but also in the renovated decor. Particularly popular among families, you can savor the delicious flavors of his kitchen and the products grown on the resort.
The restaurant, led 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, with the majority sourced from the organic farming on the estate. The farm at the resort 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 - Prijzen & Reserveringen?
Looking for a second home in Italy? Explore Borgata Costa d'Agosti
Just above the village of Andora, about a 20-minute walk away, you'll find a unique renovation project. Borgata Costa d'Agosti is originally an old village that has recently undergone significant restoration work. It consists of 65 real estate properties, together forming an enchanting collection of small houses, terraces, and arches in shades of pink, green, ochre, and stone grey. Nestled in the green hinterland of one of the most fascinating areas of Val Merula, this location offers moments of relaxation in intense peace and quiet, yet only a few kilometers from the sea.
The residential units are comfortable and environmentally friendly, with an energy class rating of A. They feature spacious outdoor areas and can be stylishly furnished. The materials and colors create an authentic appearance, paired with advanced technologies. If you're interested, contact this real estate agent for more information.