Category Archives: travel tales from faraway

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

Traditional spaghetti alla marinara ‚Ķ in which Paolo reveals his mother’s secret ingredient

I learn something in the kitchen every time we visit these guys.

They are great cooks. Not flash chefs, just seriously good cooks, using the best of what’s on hand which in Liguria tends towards vegetables, seafood and salads.

In nine days at Sottovalle, we did 2700kms worth of day trips into the mountains and all along the coastline. Long, happy days filled with good food, big walks and plenty of laughter. But today was a rest day.

The boys had been sent down to Aquarta Scrivia earlier in the morning to get some seafood ‚Äď any excuse to visit ‘The Office’ ‚Äď read plane tree covered cafe spilling with pastries.

The recipe is below but I’m going to point out a few tips I learnt along the way …

It all starts with parsley and one and a half¬†small cloves of¬†garlic. Don’t overdo the garlic. Chop together finely¬†and divide into two. One half is held back and added right at the end.


Now the secret ingredient…

2 anchovy fillets (under salt!) washed and rinsed three times under water.

(A later P.S. to this ‚Ķ I can’t find anchovies under salt so I’ve used the little ones in oil. I’ve made it twice and the second time I used about 8 little anchovies and it benefited from the extras)


chilli jar

Normally I would heat my pan and then add my first ingredients. But no!

Put them into a cold pan and VERY, VERY gently bring up the temperature and fry them off.

gently frying

If the garlic burns you MUST start again.

frying off parsley garlic anchovies chilli

Mussels, clams and prawns measured by the handful.

clams mussels prawns

Clams soaked in salt water to get rid of any muck.

Mussels steamed in a separate pan. Remove from their shells and don’t keep the juice. These guys regard it as dirty.

clams soaking


The squid is very gently fried and then the temperature turned off till we are ready with everything else.

frying off the squid

Get yourself a couple of handy prawn peelers.

steve and paolo peeling prawns


Back on the heat and the mussels and clams are added.

mussels added

clams added

Throw in the prawns, a few chopped tomatoes, a little glass of white wine and cover till the clam shells open.

tomatoes and parsley and garlic

table and garden

Meanwhile bring your pasta water to the boil and you¬†know when they say “Add salt.” ¬†Add salt!


When the pasta is cooked and stirred in with the seafood, that’s the moment to add your remaining garlic and parsley. It¬†adds a note of freshness right at the end.



Find yourself a pretty setting and some good company.


And allora! Spaghetti alla marinara Forest View B&B style courtesy of Louise & Paolo and¬†Paolo’s mama.

louise and paolo


Thanks for sharing lovelies.

Enjoy  xx


Spaghetti alla Marinara

1 and 1/2 cloves of garlic
A small handful of fresh parsley
2 anchovies (under salt!) washed and rinsed three times in fresh water
(If you can’t get them under salt I used 8 small ones in oil)
1 chopped, dried red chilli
Extra virgin olive oil

A handful of prawns (when peeled)
A handful of squid
2 handfuls of clams
2 handfuls of mussels

1 little glass of white wine, say …  half an Australian glass of white wine.

A handful of chopped fresh tomato.




1. Cover the base of a fry pan in extra virgin olive oil. No heat yet.

2. Chop the garlic and parsley finely and add half to the pan. Reserve the other half till the end.

3. Wash the anchovies three times under fresh water. Chop and add to pan.

4. Chop 1 dried red chilli and add to the pan.

5. Very gently bring the heat up and fry and stir till the anchovies dissolve into the mix. The mixture MUST NOT burn. If it does you MUST¬†start again. It’s a very gentle process.

6. Add your chopped squid to the pan and fry gently.

7. Add the prawns and mussels. Stir gently.

8. Add the clams, tomatoes and white wine. 

9. Stir and cover till clam shells open.

10.Turn off heat till pasta is al dente.


Meanwhile …

11. Bring pasta water to boil. Add plenty of salt. Cook spaghetti till al dente.


12. Drain spaghetti. Pour into the seafood pan.

13. Add the remaining chopped parsley and garlic and toss gently.

13. Pour into a warmed platter and serve.


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 ‚Ķ 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 ‚Äď 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 ūüėČ

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 ūüėČ

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 ‚Äď 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¬†‚Ästthe first of many¬†over the next few¬†days ‚Ästwe 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

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