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Medieval Magic at Pigna, Liguria and the Italian Riviera:
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a medieval house? In odd moments of musing, I have, but my thoughts never encompassed something as old on the outside, but complete with all modern day luxuries on the inside, as the house we recently stayed in at a place called Pigna in Liguria in the north of Italy.
We flew into Nice and picked up our hire car from Avis, booked via BA as it meant that the second driver wasn’t charged for. (Side moan, why is it so difficult to get a straight answer about how much the total car hire will actually cost, taking into account paying the extra insurance? I requested the information from a number of companies before we flew, and got a series of vague replies. In this instance, it added 24o Euros to the hire cost.). Following the excellent instructions that Rachel had sent us, we enjoyed a beautiful drive along the coast road from Nice, passing Monte Carlo en route, before entering Italy. The drive took about an hour.
Built into the bedrock, the house occupies 3 stories of a 6 storey building and is approached through the narrow Medieval lanes typical of Pigna and many of the surrounding villages. The ground floor contains the master bedroom and the bathroom. The bedroom contains a wonderfully comfortable king size bed and is light and airy. I had wondered how dark the house would be on the inside, but this wasn’t the case at all, once the shutters are open the house is bright yet calm. This is due to the soft and pretty colours that Rachel has used in the decor, all of which works with the exposed stonework. If you look carefully at the photos, you will see clever little references to Pigna in the rooms, Pigna means pine. Our bedroom had a pretty ceramic pinecone on the chest of drawers.
The large bathroom contains a walk in shower and the most amazing spa bath. I am lusting after one of these for my own home; who can resist a changing light display and jets of water to pummel away those aches and pains from a long country walk?
There are lovely touches in the bathroom; really nice toiletries, fragrances, and candles in case you want to linger in that amazing bath.
This is not a house to stay in if you either have mobility problems or very young children; the stairs are steep and being cut into the rock are of differing heights. I avoided running and up and down these, and took my time!
The well-equipped sitting room is to be found on the first floor. It’s a rather funky modern space. There are plenty of guidebooks, DVDs and board games to while away the time on an evening in. I doubt very much that we’d have used this room if we’d been visiting in high season, but in a rather changeable March, we rather enjoyed watching a DVD with a bottle of local wine in the evening.
The second floor contains a double bedroom, a bedroom with bunk beds, and the wonderful kitchen. Original tiled floors have been carefully restored throughout the house, and the one in the kitchen is particularly attractive.
You may have spotted the welcome pack on the table; in addition to this the kitchen is equipped with tea, coffee, oils, condiments, making cooking at the house problem free. I used the black risotto rice left in the welcome pack to make a seafood dish (it tasted better than it looks!) There is a small shop about a minute’s walk from the house where you can buy local wine, cheese, meats and bread.
On our first day at the house, we decided to take it easy and explore Pigna itself. The small and winding streets revealed one amazing old building after another, one or two with unusual features such as exterior staircases that looked decidedly dodgy.
Having enjoyed a little wander around, and spotted another shop and a couple of bars, we decided that it must be time for lunch. It was sunny, so we sat outside Sul Ponte and watched the world go by, and in return, a couple sat on their balcony and watched us eat! Sul Ponte specialises in home-cooked traditional Ligurian rustic food, some of it is listed on the menu and some it changes daily with the staff telling you what’s available. I had delicious pesto lasagna with a garden salad, and Alex enjoyed wild boar with rosemary roasted roast potatoes. We had a bottle of local wine to accompany the meal. Our meal came to 40 euros including the wine.
After that, we needed a walk and headed to the other side of the village into the countryside. The spa hotel at the edge of Pigna looked closed for winter and rather unloved, I suspect that in the summer this is a lovely place for a swim and to enjoy a treatment. There are clearly laid out paths, one of which led to an abandoned and dilapidated church.
So, if you are looking to discover a very lovely and unspoilt part of Italy, this is a wonderful find. The house is lovely, the locals friendly, the food and wine excellent, and the countryside waiting to be explored! In part 2 I’ll be covering other local attractions and more Ligurian cuisine.
We stayed as guests of Liguria Holiday Homes