A Crash Course on the Food of Liguria, Italy’s Sleepy Seaside Region

Staff Food

As borders start to reopen, avid travelers are probably already on the hunt for their next destination — well, we might have the answer for you, right here. The Italian province of Liguria is a paradise with the warmest turquoise waters and scenery lined with the most striking, jagged mountains. It is also home to Genoa, one of Italy’s largest harbor cities. Beautiful little fishing villages like Portofino and Cinque Terre line its coasts, and its terraced farms are known for producing the best olive oil in the country. The best part? Ligurian cuisine is to die for. So, in this feature, we’ll be introducing you to the best dishes the province has to offer.

Pesto alla Genovese

One of the most popular pasta dishes is pesto pasta, but if you ever get the chance to taste traditional pesto, you might never return to sauce you buy in the store ever again. National Geographic explains that in this particular region, pesto is made by hand using a mortar and pestle. With a mixture of pine nuts, garlic, pecorino, parmesan, and their world-famous basil and olive oil, pesto from Liguria is used in almost every dish. Locals love to add a dollop of pesto to minestrone soup, slather it on bread, and of course, in their pasta. It’s also their most popular food export.

Focaccia di Recco

This is perhaps one of the most famous flatbreads, and its most classic, well-known version can be found in Liguria. The word focaccia is Latin in origin and it translates to “baked in coals”. It is believed that pizza actually evolved from focaccia. Following pesto, focaccia is the second most popular Ligurian export. In fact, Liguria’s version of focaccia was even featured in Netflix’s adaptation of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, which shows the traditional way focaccia is made. Before baking, the dough is slathered in olive oil, which gives it a fruity flavor, a good crumb, and a crunchy texture. Ligurian bakeries produce fresh batches every day, sometimes topped with olives, onions, or cheese.

Anchovies and Mussels

If you’re more of a seafood fan, then you won’t be disappointed by the anchovies from Monterosso, Cinque Terre. Because Liguria is by the seaside, the catch is always fresh. Try stuffed anchovies, which is a dish rooted in Italy’s cibo povero tradition, or ‘peasant food’. Mussels are often incorporated into soups and pasta, cooked with parsley, garlic, and white wine. When accompanied with Liguria’s best ingredients, fresh lemon juice, white wine vinegar, and olive oil, the area’s best seafood is absolutely sumptuous.


Farinata is another must-try when you’re visiting Genoa. It originated in Genoa but has spread to different areas around the globe. It is known as socca in Nice, France, cecina in Pisa, and faina in Sardinia and Argentina. In FineDining Lovers’ How to Make Farinata, Your New Lockdown Kitchen Obsession, we learn that it’s essentially a savory unleavened chickpea pancake made with chickpea flour, water, salt, and oil — with the Ligurian version with rosemary leaves scattered on top. Sometimes it is deep-fried until crisp, but in Liguria batter is poured into a pan and baked for a few minutes so that the center is soft and sweet.

Liguria’s iconic dishes and fascinating sights means it is a truly wonderful place to visit. For more places to add to your bucket list, check out our 32 Summer Destinations to Ignite Your Wanderlust list.


Author Bio: Robert M. Byrne is a bona fide foodie with a big heart and an equally spacious belly for good eats. Among his favorite finds across the globe are India’s rich chicken makhani, the Philippines’ succulent adobo, and Japan’s simple but delicate omurice. Today, he is on the hunt for the best pastry dessert!