Lemons are an ancient fruit, cultivated for millennia throughout the world. Having originated in the Far East, where they were likely used more for ornamental purposes than culinary, lemons made their way to Sicily in about the 10th century. Some centuries later they appeared on the Ligurian coast near Genoa. Today lemon cultivation has spread to several Italian coastal regions, given the ideal climate found here that allows lemons to thrive.
For centuries, lemons have formed part of local agricultural production in the coastal village of Monterosso, one of the quaint and colorful spots adorning the stretch of Ligurian coast known as the Cinque Terre (the ‘Five Lands’). Set within the Cinque Terre National Park, the area around Monterosso is home to numerous acres of lemon groves. Yet even beyond Monterosso, lemons are fundamental to this territory, its history and identity. While enjoying a Cinque Terre hike, visitors will be dazzled by the glorious patches of yellow covering the stunning panorama, the fragrant blossoms and leaves, and the occasional local vendor set up alongside the trails to offer fresh lemon juice mixed with cold water.
From this long-standing tradition, Cinque Terre has given an extraordinary product to the world, limoncello. Made by infusing the zest of highest quality organic lemons in pure alcohol (pesticides will significantly degrade the flavor) then mixing with water and sugar, limoncello is a popular after dinner liqueur. It is traditionally served ice cold in small glasses at the end of a meal, but can also be used in making refreshing cocktails or desserts such as sorbets. Another area specialty is a caked called ‘crostata di marmellata di limone’, made with local lemon marmalade.
Interested in witnessing this wonderful tradition? Join ArtViva’s guided excursion, The Best of Cinque Terre, and experience the flavors and beauty of the Five Lands up close. And don’t forget your camera, good walking shoes, and of course – your appetite!