It is no coincidence that the Nervia Valley holds a high reputation among writers interested in food.
So have the two danes Helle Brønnum Carlsen and Pia Scharling, both with in-depth knowledge of the region, in their highly recommended book "Castelvittorio. Historier og opskrifter fra vores norditalienske spisekammer" ("Castelvittorio: Stories and Recipes from our Northern Italian Pantry") showcased why Liguria can be called "a secret gastronomic gem".
Many of the area's restaurants and osterias serve typical dishes using local ingredients such as mushrooms and wild boar. There are also restaurants with a high-quality standard that may not be strictly focused on local cuisine.
It's not a problem to be hungry when dining at a local restaurant. If you order the set menu offered by the restaurant, you can guarantee that you won't leave the table hungry. You'll be served multiple types of antipasti, pasta dishes, a meat course, and finally, dessert and perhaps coffee. It's important to have a good appetite in such situations.
The local hunters were not entirely thrilled about the prospect of the area becoming a nature park since they foresaw limitations on their hunting activities, such as the hunting of wild boars. Although their hunting rights have been somewhat restricted, they are still allowed to hunt their main prey, wild boars. This is beneficial as it allows wild boar to be included on the menu, and it also helps reduce the number of wild boars causing damage to the region's herb gardens and olive groves.
Chestnuts were an essential part of the local diet for centuries - e.g. dried, ground into flour and baked into bread - as evidenced by the chestnut festivals held in the towns of the region from September to October. During these festivals, chestnuts are roasted in large pans over an open fire in the central squares of the towns. The smoke and delicious chestnuts enhance the natural thirst, which is quenched with beer or local wine. See photos from the so-called Calderrosta in Buggio under 'Galeria fotografica' under 'Vivere Pigna' at www.comune.pigna.im.it
In addition to wild boar, the area is known for its tasty olive oil, which locals would argue has ideal growing conditions with warm but not excessively hot summers and cool yet mild winters. Cultivating olives in Liguria's mountains is challenging compared to other places in Italy. Over centuries, terraces have been built on the mountainsides where olive trees can be planted. Building and maintaining these terraces has been arduous work. The fact that the trees grow on terraces instead of even slopes or flat fields makes their care quite complicated. Furthermore, reaching the olive groves requires driving along winding and narrow serpentine roads or walking on donkey paths. Despite the difficulties and the fact that olive harvesting can only be done using traditional methods, involving manual labor, people still cultivate olives, which undoubtedly indicates their great appreciation for producing the delicious olive oil that the region's olives yield. The harvest takes place over an extended period from November to January. After knocking the ripe olives off the trees using long, flexible sticks or more modern methods with rotating heads on telescopic stands, and gathering them in nets spread out on the ground, the fallen leaves are removed, and the boxes of olives are taken to one of the local olive mills, a frantoio. A few hours later, one can collect the oil that has been pressed from their own olives. The local grocer sells their own oil, and I'm happy to provide information about others who sell their own oil or table olives..