Category Archives: travel tales from faraway

I’m really proud of these little stories. One day there’ll be more :)

Under the bridge and up the hill … focaccia col formaggio di Recco

We’d tried this before.

But it had been closed. Or we were too late. And in the months that followed when we were back in Australia, Paolo would send us photos of him grinning wickedly, holding a tray of fresh, hot, oozing, focaccia col formaggio … the autentica one, the 10 out of 10 one, the one under the bridge in Recco, the one we’d missed. Damn it!

So this time, we were on a promise.


I suspect that for many Genovese you only have to mention the word Recco and they’ll start salivating.


Because under the bridge, in this little coastal town just east of Genova, the Panificio Moltedo has made an art form of focaccia col formaggio – since 1874.

It’s a pilgrimage.


Finger in the cheek stuff, the Genovese sign for molto buonissimo.

louise-and-the-girls from moltedo-panifici-pasticcerie



Fresh, hand made trofie and pesto, another local speciality.  We’d come to that later in the week …


But first, back to the boys waiting impatiently in the car …

“Where have you been!!?? We’re starving!”

A speedy, winding ride up the hill to the quiet grounds of the Chiesa Nostra Signora delle Grazie.

Chiesa Nostra Signora delle Grazie, Recco

And let the picnic begin … creamy, salty crescenza cheese baked and melted between two, impossibly thin layers of pastry.

paolo and steve Recco

steve paolo and focaccia col formaggio

steve hoes in

Finger in the cheek all they way. 10 out of 10. But baste! Baste. Enough Paolo. I can’t. Yes, OKayyy you finish it 😉

A view that looks east towards Camogli and to the point of Punta Chiappa. On the other side of the peninsula lies the ritzy little port of Portafino.

looking towards camogli from recco

But this suited us just fine. We had the whole place to ourselves and behind the church, walking paths headed off in every direction past hidden villas.

Out of the river.

I think these narrow paths are one of my favourite parts of the Ligurian coastline.

This spot kickstarted a silly conversation that continued throughout the week “Imagine! Maddy could get married here! Or Darce!”


hidden villa recco

walking path behind recco

recco walking path



Invites are in the mail 😉

Tuck this one away if you’re ever near Genova.

Recco. Under the bridge. And up the hill.

It’s a little beauty.


Panificio Moltedo.
Via Biagio Assereto, 15, Recco, Italy

Chiesa Nostra Signora delle Grazie
Sal. Megli, 12, Recco GE, Italy

And directly opposite the church is a restaurant that Paolo said is very nice
Al Baretto

And Louise & Paolo’s Forest View B&B, Sottovalle.

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Discovering Sottovalle …

It started with 40 years of friendship …

louise and stephen

And like all good Italian reunions, it struck up again with food and wine, high in the mountains above Genova at a little country restaurant, the Albergo Capanne di Cosola.

Take note of this wine if you’re ever in the region, it was a surprise. A soft, light, sparkling red – perfect over lunch as most Italian wines are.

albergo capanne di cosola interiors

In the early 80s Louise left Australia, travelled to Italy to learn Italian and ended up falling in love with an Italian boy along the way. Four years later our own friendship began when I was backpacking my way around Europe and landed on their doorstep.

paolo and louise

Thesedays she and Paolo run an English school in Busalla and Genova but home is in the little village of Sottovalle, about 30 minutes north of Genova near Gavi, where eight years ago they set up a B&B.


Unbeknowns to them their Forest View B&B backed on to the E1, the European long distance path, a walking trail of 4,960km that begins in Norway and finishes in Scapoli, south east of Rome. They were trying to work out why they were getting all these foreigners tramping in their back door and then the penny dropped. A nice little unexpected bonus for an accommodation business.

E1 sottovalle

After a delicious, long lunch – the first of many over the next few days – we decided we should walk it off with a circuit around the valley. It’s such a pretty part of Italy and somehow it’s escaped the rash of tourists in other parts of the country.

sottovalle textures

The village itself is very quiet. There’s no cafe here, nor shops, although in summer the locals cook up a storm on weekend evenings at the community hall. Many of the houses are country residences for people who live in Genova. At 500m high it provides a respite from the sticky, humid heat of the coast.

walking through sottovalle

The guesthouse is over there on the far right, surrounded by thick chestnut and oak forests.

sottovalle from across the valley

Louise and Paolo and 10 month old Zen.

paolo louise and zen

The area around nearby Gavi is renowned for its white wines and part of that is due to the strange soil formations that you see around the district. They look like slip areas or landslides but it’s actually tufa, a stable, granular limestone.

sottovalle panorama


So peaceful …

walking through sottovalle

sottovalle fields

sottovalle walking

Louise and Paolo live on the left side of the building and the B&B takes up the right side and this was our base for the next nine days. The guys took the week off and we did day trips along the coast every other day. We’ve got some gorgeous spots to share with you, places that we would never have found by ourselves.

That’s the beauty of staying with locals.

The beauty of staying with friends.

forest view b&b sottovalle italy


Living in the shadow of your big sister

It must be hard, living in the shadow of your big sister, especially when your big sister is Venice.

But somewhere, in the recesses of my brain, there were memories of a conversation about a town just west of Venice where Galileo had taught at one of Italy’s oldest universities, a university that housed the world’s first anatomical theatre … and a botanical garden … the original of all botanical gardens throughout the world.

I was grappling. Was it Verona, Vicenza or Padua? My money was on Vicenza but it was hot and we were tired and Padua was closer. So Padua it was. And oh so happily, Padua turned out to be exactly the place I had wanted us to be.

Talk to the locals and they will say “Ah Padova doesn’t have the big tourist attractions of Italy’s other cities, but it is nonetheless a very interesting place.”

But you know, not having the big attractions can be a good thing.

Every place has its jewels. Its stories. And secrets. Sometimes you just have to work a little harder to find them.

beautiful letterbox

We can’t all be the star turn. But each of us can sparkle in our own way.

stars padova

Star lined arcades and golden arches. Welcome to Padua.

arcade padova

padova building

An historic central salone …

sundial salone padova

Surrounded by bicycles and open air markets …


flower market padova

A first floor reserved (on this day) for well dressed dentists …

dental conference padova

And a ground floor, the central meeting point in the city, buzzing with food shops as only Italy can do.

salone padova

padova salone

How about I see your Two Gentlemen of Verona and raise you Three Beautiful Boys of Padova.

three teenagers of pad ova

We are right out of gondolas but I can offer you canals.

canals padova

And hot pink Gaura crowning every lampshade in a city of Donatellos.

gaura padova

A basilica filled with pilgrims, hoping one, and all, through tears and prayers that St Anthony will find what’s lost.





And within walking distance from its magnolia’d cloisters, the Padua Botanical Garden. Unesco World Heritage listed in 1997, it was included as a cultural landmark on the following remarkable grounds: “The Botanical Garden of Padua is the original of all botanical gardens throughout the world, and represents the birth of science, of scientific exchanges, and understanding of the relationship between nature and culture. It has made a profound contribution to the development of many modern scientific disciplines, notably botany, medicine, chemistry, ecology, and pharmacy”.

Suddenly we are walking in the steps of Galileo with pilgrims of a different kind.

It is quiet, moist and cherished, even the air feels nurtured within the confines of this original simples garden. Photos just don’t do it justice.

orto botanico padova

A huge modern glasshouse with climate controlled areas replicating different parts of the planet.

orto botanico steve

A world of astonishing diversity under one light-filled roof.

orto botanico padova

orto botanico padova


It’s a lovely realisation – which some of us come to too late in life – that there is a place for us all at the table.

That if we were all the same it would make for a very dry old dinner party.

There is a place for Venice. And there is a place for Padua.

And neither is more. Nor less.

Just different.


Just as it should be.


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