Ted Damianos is one of a handful of top-tier sommeliers at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, the NYC debut of the renowned Parisian wine bar of the same name. With a wine list comprising around 600 bottles from international viticultural regions, the extent of its offerings are certainly “supernatural”—and an arena in which Damianos’ 12 years of somm experience are put to the test.
We reached out to Damianos after learning about his recent trip to Liguria, a coastal mezzaluna-shaped region in Northwest Italy. His third time in the Italian Riviera—but inaugural visit with a child—revealed more than just Liguria’s universally captivating charms, but also some underrated elements of its appeal. Whether your trip to Italy is wine-soaked, fueled by food or accompanied by an 11-month-old baby, Damianos’ top five takeaways will have Liguria rising to the top of your list.
1. Geographically, it’s a unique area in Italy.
“The first time I went, my wife and I were traveling through Piemonte and the Barolo wine region, but we eventually thought, ‘Why don’t we just pop down to the beach for a couple of nights?’,” said Damianos.
The couple didn’t think much beyond that, but after showing up, their minimal expectations of Liguria were blown away.
“We realized that Liguria is the best of both worlds since you have soaring mountains that slope right into the Mediterranean. It’s like an amphitheater that faces the sea with its own special microclimate.”
2. There’s a wealth of coastal towns and mountain villages.
“Liguria is a long thin region split by Genoa in the middle, where the western half borders France. We drove over from Nice on our last trip and worked our way through,” Damianos recalls.
Along Liguria’s steep terrain are the postcard-perfect coastal towns we all know, like Cinque Terre and Portofino—and the “wall-to-wall” midsummer crowds they attract. But considering a visit to the western and inland areas can yield another side of the Riviera, including centuries-old hilltop settlements with unexpected character.
“Dolceacqua is a mountain town closer to France with a famous castle and bridge. Monet used to paint there. The roads can be a bit treacherous, so it’s good to plan out your route if you’re driving.”
Migrating towards the coast, Damianos and his wife discovered the town of Finale Ligure. “It was just fantastic there—really amazing beaches, superb restaurants, and mostly Italian visitors. There’s also a medieval section in the hills,” he added.
3. The culinary scene encompasses the best of Italy.
Thanks to its distinct topography, Liguria’s cuisine is a melting pot of lighter Mediterranean fare and more substantial northern Italian cuisine.
“What’s cool is that you can eat in either direction. When you’re close to the mountain countryside, you will get those hearty rabbit dishes and hunted game. We went to this one agroturismo (a working farm and restaurant) with no menu, where they just bring out the food they’re making that day and it was a beast!”
But because Liguria skims the Mediterranean, the region also has access to the greatest seafood with traditional components like lemon, capers and pestos. Focaccia is also native to the area.
4. And for wine lovers, Liguria is a special treat.
For Damianos, Liguria is not just a story of the wine, but how the food and wine experience comes together, around the sea and mountains.
“Liguria is probably most known for its Vermentino, which is really one of Italy’s great whites. It transports you to a place that few others can: you smell the seaspray, the herbs growing, wild fennel—it wraps up all the aromas and flavors in a glass.”
And how about reds? “The Rossese di Dolceacqua is a wonderful varietal that is definitely overlooked in the States. People tend to think of it as an easygoing red, but there are some really serious structured examples that we may not have access to back home, but what you can get in Liguria.”
Best of all, Damianos contends that you don’t need to know wine to get it there: “It’s great for entry level wine enthusiasts.”
5. But can you travel to Liguria with children?
The essential question for family travelers: can I bring my young children? Damianos says yes and no.
“Looking back, it was a little aggressive to bring our 11-month-old up to the mountains to Dolceacqua. There just isn’t much space up there, so he felt a little confined,” laments Damianos.
Pro tip: stick to the coast.
“Our son loved the beach. There are a ton of beach clubs in Finale Ligure with restaurants serving super simple, tasty food that makes it easy when you have a kid to pop in for a quick lunch before he takes a nap. We can rent a chair and umbrella for the day and he’ll his own spot to hang out in, under the shade.”
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