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We started out in Dolceaqua in search of more medieval stone villages and came across Pigna just a few miles from Apricale. The village is beautifully restored with many apartments renovated into full time or vacations getaways occupied by dwellers in search of the past. Many people had witches (le streghe) hanging above their doors or in the apartments. This of course coming from New England was rather strange. I assumed that it must be that they are meant to keep evil away. As we walked through the narrow caruggi (paths) we met up with one of the locals who was entering his apartment and had a witch hanging above his door. He explained that the witches bring good luck to the family. An odd concept we thought as they are considered shadowy figures working their potions and strange ideas in dark rooms somewhere to us. But not here, as the village of the witches here is Triora he told us and suggested we visit this interesting stone medieval village. So off we went in search of the story.
Back to Pigna for a moment as it is too pretty to just pass by. The large spa of The Grand Hotel Pigna Terme is cradled just below two medieval villages with breathtaking views. Hidden just below the Toraggio mountains the views of the ancient villages of Pigna and Castle Victorrio, the green plateaus and centuries of history and art are surreal. The Grand Hotel Pigna Antiche Terme offers just about everything for relieving stress and beauty treatments in harmony with nature.
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From there we headed up winding roads, sometimes hairpin turns into the mountains with views covering miles of forests and olive groves out to the sea to Triora. The small village is truly fascinating, as the world’s technological advances have not reached it as yet. Some locals and a few vacation apartments have been renovated, but if you want to get a true idea of what life must have been like during the 14 century you can find it here. It is hard to call the spaces apartments – they are really caves carved out of the mountains with walls built of layered stone. A simpler construction then their neighbors, it reaches down into your physic with wonderment of what life must have been like and how lucky in many ways we are today. Hard to contemplate living in this cold yet imaginative environment. The village was very poor as we were told by one of the local woman. She went on to say that the women were the center of life with great power over the family. As in many cases the mystic overtook reality and those who didn’t understand their world considered the women witches. They were burned alive during the Inquisition; Troira was the site of the last witch trails. Today the witches are thought to bring good luck to families. Troria has a witchcraft festival in August and Halloween. It was selected as “I Borghi Piú Belli d’Italia”, (The most beautiful villages in Italy). We didn’t find any witches, but I’m sure there are some behind the old wooden doors along the caurggi.
As usual we were taken up with what we were doing and lost track of time as we began our decent to San Remo. We needed to find a restaurant before 2PM when the restaurants close for the afternoon. As we entered Moiline Di Triora we came across a very small restaurant along the side of the road. We know that they usually don’t have a menu but this has never stopped us in the past, and we always enjoy the interaction with the local people. This was no exception as we listened to the two main courses and the pasta of the day, we made our selection and enjoyed some wine as we waited for the fresh tagliiatelle with pesto Liguria, now going on at least 3-4 times we have ordered it. The homemade pasta was delicious (pesto Liguria is made without cheese) and shortly came the Cinghiale di Liguri (wild boar) and the Coniglio di Liguri (rabbit) that my husband ordered. These are typical dishes of the Alpe Liguri and we had to try them at least once.
The stews were simple and the meat just fell apart. Knowing that not many people would have access to wild boar, I asked the owner for the rabbit recipe. This is always interesting as everyone in the restaurant usually has his or her idea of how to prepare a dish. As she explained how to prepare the rabbit and left to serve another customer, our neighbors began to explain that she had not told us the most important part. The rabbit must be browned to a crisp and not to add too much olive oil or wine as it should not be steamed or it will get too dry. The conversation went on for quite some time as they ate their panna cotta with chocolate sauce and a shot of Vodka poured over the top. Seeing that I was a little surprised, they explained that this was how people in the mountains eat – they drink a lot! We had a good time talking to them except by the end of the discussion we had eaten all the boar and rabbit and I forgot to take a picture. So here is the recipe without the picture.
Cinghiale Bianco Ristorante
Molini DI Triora
Via Regina Margherita 77
Coniglio di Liguri
1 rabbit cut into pieces
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 whole cloves garlic
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup white wine
Vegetable bouillon, as needed
Mixture of herbs: thyme, sage, rosemary, chopped
Black Taggia olives
Large grain salt
Extra virgin olive oil, light
Other things needed:
Terra cotta pot
Put a small amount of olive oil in the pot and sauté the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the rabbit pieces and brown until a crust has formed. This step is very important, as the rabbit will dry out during the cooking if it is not properly browned. Add the herbs and wine and salt and pepper. About 1/2 hour into the cooking add the olives. Let the stew cook for about 40 minutes. Add the broth as needed.