Magic & Pasta | A Taste of the Italian Dream
Updated: Jul 17, 2022
'For us to go to Italy and to pentrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self discovery, back, back down the old ways of time. Strange but wonderful chords awake in us and vibrate after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness.'
D. H. Lawrence
It's been four years since our last holiday abroad in Cefalu, Sicily and we couldn't wait to travel again. Our trip to the medieval village of Isolabona near to Ventimiglia in Liguria lived up to our one year eagerly awaited expectations and more. Finding somewhere to go on holiday can seem like finding a needle in a haystack, so I jumped at the opportunity to stay in a two bedroom house right in the heart of the medieval commune of Isolabona, knowing that the owner and his family had been coming here for years. It had to be special being this much loved and it didn't fail to disappoint in fulfilling our dream of getting to know the true, local side of Italy.
A big part of our trip was to find the real taste of Italy in a quest for local wines, produce and traditional pasta dishes, and we were not disappointed. Pigote white wine was the definite favourite so much so that I've had to buy some bottles on my return to the the UK. You can purhcase Pigato wine from Svinando who supply wine direct from Italy. Made from Pigato grapes this ligurian white wine has a beautiful yellow golden colour with hints of peach and honey and with a mineral background, there is none of the usual acidity that white wine can give. It's the perfect accompaniment to that traditional Ligurian pasta or fish dish or in my case, my favourite, pasta alle vongole.
We were lucky enough to have gone on our trip with a handful of gold dust recommendations that I am truly grateful for. We managed to visit every restaurant on the list including Apricus, in the stunning mountain village of Apricale, which has been called the prettiest village in Italy. Owned by two farmer brothers, this restaurant provides a dedication to good local produce and wines and if you eat on the terrace, unsurpassable views of the mountains - delicious steak and smooth, light red wine were the order of the day.
Next to Isolabona we found the serene hamlet of Dolceacqua. Larger and busier to Isolabona, we visited this charming commune every morning for coffee and often in the evening for a drink at Bip Cafe. This cafe was always bursting with life with the most charming and welcoming owners and a pleasure to visit every time. It's also worth visiting for its bridge alone. The setting is so serene that after visiting in 1884, Claude Monet revisited and, being in so in awe of the bridge, calling it a 'jewel of lightness', he immortalised it in his painting 'Bridge at Dolceaqua'.
The restaurants and bars are friendly and bustling, and the modern, Ristorante Case E Bottega, in the main square is definitely worth a visit. I was in heaven with their pasta alle vongole for two served from the pan at the table and incredible attentive service. We also visited Bar Bistro several times, this traditional and unique bar was a great place to pop in for a few cold beers to escape from the sun and again the host couldn't have been more welcoming, providing different delicious local food with every drink ordered.
The commune of Isolabona provided the perfect get away in our quest to find the real Italy.
It’s absolutely stunning with all the winding pathways and eclectic doorways providing such an authentic and unique environment to stay.
The medieval part of the village has several bars and Bar Caffe Delle Harpae took us totally by surprise. Having been at a quieter bar, we decided to just explore the imposing church further up the street, and around the corner we were amazed to find this square bustling with locals of all ages drinking and eating at this bar. We of course then joined everyone and it was amazing to feel so welcome and to be privileged enough to see and be a part of it. The owners were the friendliest couple, nothing was to much trouble and they really looked after us, providing us with the obligatory complimentary bruschetta, pasta and gnocchi with every drink.
Perhaps one of our favourites moments had to be waking up in the early hours and passing the balcony to see what at first looked like a wolf of wild dog walking through the river bed bathed in moonlight. When it turned we realised it was in fact a wild boar, or as the locals say, a cinghiale, snuffling for food. It was just one of those special moments and I know I now have a special fondness for them.
There is so much to do in this beautiful unspoilt part of Italy, from hiking in the mountains, swimming in the fresh water pools, exploring the individual medieval villages, cycling, shopping in San Remo, visiting the marina or beaches in and around outside Vengtimilia or perhaps just taking it easy with a glass of local wine and watching the world go by.
Isolabona truly did provide magic and pasta with a generous, perfect taste of the Italian dream.
'One of the great joys of traveling through Italy is discovering first hand that it is, indeed, a dream destination.'
We stayed at Via Orsini in Isolabona. If you are interested in booking this unique accomodation you can read more here.
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