PWk: Prod, Tlk: GS2, Datacash: Live
Holidays to Diano Marina are a perfect introduction to the Liguria area of Italy, which is also known as the Italian Riviera. This beautiful sweeping stretch of coastline, sheltered by the Maritime Alps, which curve between Tuscany and France’s Côte d’Azur, is a lovely place for couples who just want to get away from it all and spend some time together.
The area was dedicated to Diana, the Roman goddess of hunting, and a statue in her honour sits on the seafront at the western end of the city. Like many of the Riviera towns, Diano Marina, often dubbed “the city of the orange trees”, has a palm lined promenade with shops, bars, cafés and restaurants. The bustling town centre houses lovely pastel coloured Art Nouveau buildings and a range of hotels and cultural attractions which add to its old world charm.
Diano Marina’s beach is impressive, stretching out over three kilometres and offering a variety of water sports and boat trips. If you prefer dry land, there are hiking and mountain biking trails to explore.
One of the best things about a holiday in Diano Marina is the wide and varied number of things to do. You could spend the day on the beach, which starts at the harbour, where some of the sea excursions depart, and runs along to the foot of the cliffs of Capo Berta. You can swim, surf, windsurf, try your hand at stand up paddling or just relax and enjoy the sunshine.
For mountain bikers of all abilities there are a number of exhilarating trails to follow. One of the most popular is the Bike Path, the Riviera dei Fiori. It’s one of the longest in Europe and was constructed along an old railway line, now fully restored and suitable for cyclists and pedestrians. It’s a truly glorious route with lots of interesting stopping points along the way. For something a little less demanding take the seafront route from Diano Marina to nearby Imperia. There are a number of local places to hire a bike. There are also plenty of enjoyable local walks, along with some more challenging trails for the more serious walkers.
Although Diano Marino is renowned for its outstanding natural environment, local cuisine and exciting entertainment scene there are other options to investigate.
If you love history add the Palazzo del Parco to your itinerary. This 20th Century villa is the town’s cultural heart and home to the library and civic museum, where you’ll find an impressive ten exhibition halls. Other nearby sites to explore include Alpicella’s Tower on Capo Berta and the remains of the Saracens Tower, close to the church of St James in the hinterland village of Diano Calderina. For some quiet time take a pew at the neoclassical St Antonio Abate Church with its exquisite marble altars, Corinthian columns and beautiful Raffaele Resio frescos.
It’s easy to get around in Italy, allowing you to build your holiday beyond Diano Marina by taking the train to Santa Margherita, a small Ligurian town with Roman origins. Set on the sheltered Tigullio bay it’s a resort with its own distinct character, certainly less flamboyant than its neighbour Portofino. While it’s perfect for sailing, water skiing, scuba diving or just relaxing on the beach there are lots of other options to explore.
While Italy is forever associated with the ubiquitous pasta, pizza and even gelato, there is so much more to the country’s cuisine, particularly if you look at it on a regional basis. Diano Marina, as part of the Liguria region, has a number of specialities some of which you may never have come across before. Holidays are the perfect time to try something new.
Farinata, which can be dated to Roman times, is a real Ligurian favourite, a little like an unleavened pancake. It’s made from a combination of chickpea flour, olive oil, water and seasoning and there are some regional variations. You might find, for example, some with rosemary or sliced onions. Whatever the recipe simply spread it on a hot griddle and cook until crispy on the outside leaving it soft in the middle. It’s occasionally served in a sandwich, but more often on its own.
Once thought of as a ‘poor man’s dish’ served to fishermen on Christmas Day, now considered much more sophisticated, cappon magro is a layered salad of seafood which could be hake or sea bass, with additional lobster, prawns and oysters. Add boiled local vegetables and serve on hardtack with a sauce which resembles salsa verde. One leading cook called its preparation, “an architectural exercise rather than a cultural one,” which sums up this sumptuous feast.
It may be simple, that’s the beauty of it, but Prescinseua cheese on toast or as a sandwich on focaccia may well be Ligurian culinary heaven. Made from unpasteurised cow’s milk it has a consistency somewhere between yoghurt and ricotta and is also ideal for sauces or as a filling for barbagiuai, a delightful fried pastry. Because of its limited life span it’s rare to see it outside the region.