On May 18th I had a sporty-gourmand day!
I know, two words difficult to combine, but that perfectly define the “Mangialonga”, a non-competitive gastronomic walk of about 15 km, taking place every year in Levanto on the third Sunday of May and following a different itinerary through the villages’s hamlets.
This year the walk developed on the west side of the valley, with stages in 7 medieval hillside hamlets. Meeting point for the 1221 greedy trekkers who subscribed was square Cavour, from 9:30 till 11:30 a.m. I left with the second-last group at 11:00, wearing the flashy orange bandana furnished by the management.
We crossed the village and left it behind us to reach the 1st stage, Fossato, built at the confluence of 2 rivers and dominated by its old mill with a beautiful turning wood. Here we joined the previous group in a crazy singing and dancing session and tasted the yummy traditional onions focaccia and a cold glass of local white wine. A great appetizer after the only flat path of the day!
To reach our 2nd stage, Lizza, we started the proper hike… natural stone step by natural stone step, guided by a delicious smell, we reached this colorful hamlet where we had the gattafin (i.e. the fineness of the cat, from the local dialect), Levanto traditional fried ravioli stuffed with local herbs. They take their name from “La Gatta” (i.e. the female cat), a marble quarry nearby where men went in search of herbs on their way back from work.
After a few minutes walking along a beautiful path we came to a stop… some inhabitants of the hamlet decided to offer us an extra delicious dish! They opened one of the fairytale 17th century water mills and cooked us farinata, a thin unleavened salty crêpe of chickpea flour. A very happy unofficial stage 🙂
From the water mill the path got quite steep and the glasses of Vermentino quite a lot, so the group kind of slowed down, but in the end we got to our 3rd stage, Lavaggiorosso, my favorite hamlet. It’s small and perched in the hills and makes me dream. Getting lost walking through its narrow ancient streets is therapeutic.
Upon our arrival here we got overwhelmed by people singing and dancing and laughing all around and it would have been impossible not to join them. Calming down, but not that much, we were offered a vegetable soup with kale and farro, typical of the Ligurian Apennines, called mes-cia. So appetizing! In Lavaggiorosso we also met Beppe, who open its cellar and offered its wine to more than one thousand people. Amazing man and great cellar!
Lavaggiorosso was really hard to leave, but I have to admit that the following stage wasn’t bad at all. I discovered Dosso is a hidden gem, where time seems not to have passed and where we could catch our breath laying on the grass in the shade while tasting the typical Genovese crocchino: I had never eat before. It’s a cedar skewer, filled with meat and vegetables and fried in boiling olive oil. Really delicious. It seems that this dish has an Arabic origin.
From this hamlet on it got easy… downhill helps 😉 We first stopped in Casella to eat fine octopus with potatoes and garlic, another typical Ligurian dish, and then in Montale, the original settlement of Levanto. Montale offers a great view on both sides of the valley and its church of San Siro is really worth a visit. Sitting on the main square we tasted organic cheese and honey of Varese Ligure, but I’ll tell you everything about this town and its organic products in my next post.
Our last stage before getting back to Levanto main square was only at a few minutes walking, in Le Ghiare, a tiny hamlet consisting of various groupings of houses located on an alluvial plain. Relaxing on the grass, under smelly lemon trees, we had a strawberry salad with red wine…, but this wasn’t the end of the Mangialonga. Once back in town, we were offered coffee and home baked cookies. A perfect end for a perfect sporty-hyper caloric day!
This edition was already the 19th, but my first and from now on I won’t miss one!
It’s a great occasion to meet people from everywhere and party together, taste traditional dishes and discover hidden gems only locals know.