2 Days in Alassio with my Girls Band

It’s been 9 years since I have left China, and with that, it often feels like I have also left behind me the good times with people who were both amazing friends and enthusiastic travelling buddies. I don’t deny the fact that returning from expatriation has been tough for me, especially in regards to making new friends to hang out with, let alone to travel with.

Alassio Ligure Italy - by cookingtrips.wordpress.com

And so, with a workaholic husband who hardly travels twice a year, with local friends who live their life at a pace that is so different from mine, and with vivid cravings for travels, I recently have taken the habit to travel by myself, without waiting for other possible travel companions to have more free time, more money, more appetite for discovery, more interest in experiencing different cultures, more whatnot.

Alassio Coastline by cookingtrips.wordpress.com

Until this first weekend of June. Some recent acquaintances of mine – who have slowly turned into friends – have been showing interest in the freedom I am treating myself with, and have asked me a few weeks ago if I’d be interested in organizing a Girls band weekend away. Living in Nice, it is pretty much easy to travel anywhere, but I thought that for this “first time” with them I’d pick a safe place with just a touch of change of scene.

We went to Alassio, in the province of Liguria in Italy. A bit further than just across the border with France. I had been there with my hubby four years ago by train (only a 2 hour-ride), but because the weather was not great back then, we had had to shorten our trip. This time, we drove by car, and from my place in Nice (France), driving on the highway, we only needed an hour and twenty minutes to reach Alassio. It is so close, and yet so different. And a very nice place to hang out for a quick weekend, or even for a day trip. Italy really has something special that makes it… Italy!

Alassio Pizzeria in Italy by the Mediterranean Sea - by cookingtrips.wordpress.com

Alassio is a very small city by the Mediterranean sea. To be very honest, there are only 6 interesting activities to do there. It’s actually kind of fun to list them out here, so that you understand that going to Alassio really is rather suited for a small vacation only. Nevertheless, we have – though – managed not to do them all (hahaha!):

  • go and see Il Muretto di Alassio
  • visit the Giardini di Villa della Pergola
  • shop at the Via XX Settembre
  • eat and drink at some of the many restaurants and cafés along the coastline
  • visit Frantoio Armato
  • and enjoy a day at a private beach for just a few bucks

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Il Muretto di Alassio (literally the Wall of Alassio), is a wall composed of individual tiles of all shapes, sizes and colors, sealed with the signature or message left by artists and other famous people. One wouldn’t go to Alassio with the sole purpose of seeing this Wall the same way as one would go to Los Angeles to see the Hollywood Boulevard’s stars sealed on the ground, but it is nice to see it while strolling about in the city. It is located just across the train station and the City Hall, along the Cafè Roma – that serves a nice breakfast buffet every morning by the way.

Il Muretto di Alassio - cookingtrips.wordpress.comIl Muretto di Alassio by cookingtrips.wordpress.com

The Giardini di Villa della Pergola is the visit we didn’t do as it was a guided tour that we had not considered to arrange before our arrival, and we didn’t feel like imposing to ourselves a fixed schedule anyway. The Gardens are to be visited with a guide on Saturdays or Sundays only, the visit lasts an hour and a half, and only costs 12 euros. I could only recommend to visit the website for more information as it seems to be worth it. Weekdays visits are reserved to special groups and scholars. I think I’ll try to arrange a tour next time I go to Alassio.

Private Garden in Alassio by cookingtrips.wordpress.com
Private Garden in Alassio

 

For those who fancy shopping, and even for those who don’t really, you can’t escape from walking through Via XX Settembre, the main pedestrian street in Alassio, along which there’s a succession of small squares with typical Italian cafés and terraces. It’s a typical Italian narrow street, though not as narrow as streets in French old towns, which makes it really nice to stroll up and down despite the crowds.

I Veri Baci di Alassio terrace - cookingtrips.wordpress.com

My friends shopped for shoes and artisan jewelry, and we all shopped for cooking-ware (Italian quality is excellent) as well as for Baci di Alassio (kisses from Alassio), the famous local biscuits that are composed of two hazelnut and almond sweets cakes paired with a chocolate ganache. All shops in town have different opening hours, but most of them have the same very long lunch break between 1pm and 4pm, that is something one absolutely needs to know when travelling to Italy.

Perpendicular Street to Via XX Settembre -by cookingtrips.wordpress.com

For us, no problem. Such a long break allowed us to go and enjoy a very nice lunch at one of the many restaurants by the beach. Based on the recommendation of my friend Nina’s brother, we went to Clapsy restaurant. Apparently it is a chain in Italy, but we did not know that before going. They serve fabulous dishes in generous quantity for a fair price. The service was very nice and friendly, and all products were of the freshest quality.

Clapsy Alassio
photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

Later on, we went to the Graf café and restaurant to have apéritif and drink a Spritz, the Italian trendy beverage that we all go crazy for in Nice too at the moment. All tables were booked for dinner time, so we went back to the hotel, changed clothes and went to eat somewhere else. This place was so nice that we went back there for lunch the next day. Again, plates were generously filled with delicious fresh ingredients.

Drinking Spritz at Graf café - cookingtrips.wordpress.com

To me, the most interesting activity of the weekend was the visit of the Frantoio Armato, short name for Al Frantoio di Aldo Armato. It is an old olive oil press and shop in which customers can purchase olives and a wide range of natural or flavored olive oils after a short session of oil tasting. We learned about pressing oil, and the difference in bitterness in case only olives flesh is crushed, or the whole fruit including the pit. We tasted different olive oils and made our choice when time came to buy. Guess who was happy back at home when I came back with bottles of olive oil and olives jars? And from the pictures I took, you’ll be surprised to learn that bottles of olive oil grow on trees! Yes, my dears…!

And finally, the last thing that is nice to do in Alassio is to spend a sunny day at the beach. You can rent long chairs on a private sand beach with lockers and showers, and sunbathe all day long for only 10 euros!! That’s a bargain in this area of the world! The Mediterranean sea waters are clean here, and it is so nice to swim or just walk in the sea, as the water level is low over a very long distance off the shore. And what a décor when you look at the beach from the sea!

The Beach in Alassio - cookingtrips.wordpress.com

All in all, we got a nice tan, and a delightful time relaxing and chatting. I’m pretty sure I’ll go again somewhere with these nice gals! Successful trip and experience :)

Girls Band in Alassio Italy - June 2018

Here, I am going to try reproducing a dish that my friend ViVie had and that tasted marvellous. When I saw it coming to our table, I thought it really looked original. One can say that pasta is just pasta. But trust me, this dish was not just your regular pasta. Flavours and aromas went beyond excellent, and although I didn’t have a recipe, I tried to cook it as I imagined it. This dish, inspired from my trip, is Scampi and Saffron Creamy Pasta. For once, and to honor the restaurant Clapsy, I’ll post a photo of their dish and not mine because the look of it would not do them justice, and the Chef at Clapsy’s deserves no less than a perfect picture of his dish.

Scampi and Saffron Creamy Pasta in Alassio Clapsy Restaurant

INGREDIENTS

  • Pasta (the type of pasta used here is called Mezze Maniche Rigate)
  • Shelled scampis (about a handful, for two servings) – keep the heads and shells to make a scampi heads broth that will be used to make the sauce
  • 2 unshelled scampis for decorating
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 50 cl of hot water
  • 1 small carrot, finely diced
  • 1 shallot or 1/2 onion, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 20 cl of light cream
  • a few threads of pure saffron
  • salt and pepper
  • basil leaves for decorating

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Start boiling water for the pasta in a large saucepan.
  2. Mince the shallot or onion, and dice the carrot.
  3. Heat olive oil in another saucepan and start cooking the shallot and carrot.
  4. Shell the scampis. Reserve the flesh, and put the heads, tails and shells into the saucepan with the veggies.
  5. Pour the white wine.
  6. Stir well, while seriously crushing with a fork the heads and shells, so that all the juices are well extracted.
  7. Add about 50 cl of hot water and let simmer for at least 15 minutes.
  8. In the meantime, cook the pasta and drain them well when they’re al dente.
  9. Back to the broth. Sieve the mixture while you finish crushing the shells for their last juices.
  10. Put the broth back into the saucepan, salt and pepper, and let simmer some more until the sauce starts to reduce.
  11. When ready, heat a large pan with high edges. Pour some of the scampi heads sauce in it, and add the reserved shelled scampis to the pan.
  12. Pour the light cream and add the saffron. Stir till fragrant. Progressively adjust saffron if needed to increase the coloring and dish fragrance.
  13. Salt.
  14. Briefly put the 2 whole scampis in the pan to heat them up a bit. Take them out after thirty seconds.
  15. Put the pasta into the pan and stir well to coat the pasta over with the delicious creamy sauce.
  16. Serve in individual plates. Top with a fresh whole scampi in each plate and two leaves of basil for decorating. Buon appetito a tutti!

Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi. © 2018 All Rights Reserved. 

2 comments

  1. Well…what a fabulous little holiday and I am so glad that you have some friends to travel with. Travelling alone is fine but it is so nice to share the experience with others. I love how travelling to another country is only about an hour and half drive away – so lucky. I would really love to go to Italy and definitely will; maybe next year when I come to UK and France. Loving the colours of the buildings too and your photo of the buildings and the beach.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Sue! Yes I’m sure you’d love living next to another country, I’m even more sure you’d spend all your free time there to satiate your cravings for discoveries and diversity! If you do have some time when you visit Europe next time, it might be a good idea to plan a few days in Italy indeed ;) I’d be happy to take you if time allows :)

    Like

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