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.
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.