Bitter sweet festivals of Ligurian citrus

Sweet mandarins, juicy but sour lemons, and giant cidrons are the main attractions at a fabulous citrus festival in the Ligurian coastal town Ligure Finale, just a few kilometres west of Savona, one of north-west Italy’s historic and picturesque city ports. The festival takes places in early February and is a highlight of the region’s citrus farming community.

Sticking with the citrus theme, Savona itself is synonymous with the smaller, green and very bitter chinotto, a bittersweet, herbaceous fruit that caught the attention of an intrepid sea captain who bought the first fruits from China in around 1500. Today the stubby trees, heavy with their fruits, bring hundreds of visitors to the annual festival celebrating the range of citrus fruits grown in the terraced fields reaching northwards on the steep hills that dominate towns such as Ligure Finale. The fruit is popularly made into the eponymous Chinotto soda drink.

Festival season

Other citrus festivals in the region can be enjoyed in Menton, just over the border in France (February), Monterosso (one of the Cinque Terre villages, May) and a ferry ride from Genoa to Muravera, Sardinia (April). Hopefully 2022 will see these festivals running again having been cancelled for the past couple of years due to Covid restrictions. Let’s hope that they can brighten up those later, bittersweet Winter and Spring days in 2022.

Helen Atlee’s must read book ‘The Land Where Lemons Grow’, her engaging and informing history of citrus and in particular lemons specifically mentions the festival and the family running one of the market’s most popular stall, the Parodi family. Moreover, Atlee describes the chinotto as the runt of the litter of the citrus family.
Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.