Craggy land, stingy with space, vulnerable to rains, Liguria benefits from a climate that has pushed man to invent himself, to maintain the cornerstones of his settlement: a vertical economy from the sea to the ridges, capable of exploiting every smallest articulation the accident orography, to maximize exposure to the sun or the humidity of the breezes, to transform the environment into a territory with increasingly daring landscape solutions. The historical Liguria we know is the result of millennia of observations, attempts and experiments applied to local resources and, although it has been very certain has been lost, the most precious legacy has been preserved: the dense alternation of crops, spots and woods that it has always characterized its profile, changing more in relation to accessibility than to social expectations.
On the promontory of Portofino
Today to get to know it and appreciate it, you have to get away from the main roads, go along the coast or get lost on foot among the country paths, which furrow the coastal valleys or connect them along railways and disused paths. Here you meet the true "local capital" of the ancient Ligurians, entering the parks, visiting the historic gardens and the many botanical gardens, stopping in the shade of an old tree to enjoy the sea on the horizon. From the first tillage that grafted the crops on the Mediterranean shrubs, the Ligurian landscape has gained a peculiar skill in the slope arrangements, adapting the arboreal plants or the terraces from time to time, regulating one or the other. The preference for intensive cultivation, in many ways forced by the shortage of spaces, thus ended up selecting first, then specializing geographically, the cultivation destinations of different value based on the steepness of the land, arranging them according to the possibilities of working the soils , the needs for water regulation, those that are no less crucial for the final collection of products. Liguria has been populated with olive groves, leaving the leanest pebbly lands to the vineyards, concentrating the aromatic plants in the most slopes, reserving the best-kept slopes for the more delicate varieties of lemons, cedars and chinotti, the rare flat in the vegetable gardens. Nonetheless, how widespread the mingling with natural areas and uncultivated areas remains, in traditional cuisine, the abundance of pine nuts, walnuts and wild herbs; how residual the arable land is indicated by the chickpea flour and the focaccia which supplement the scarcity of wheat with legumes and seasonings and in their simplicity, they still delight us.
A mobile border has therefore always existed between terraced plantations and areas colonized by spontaneous vegetation, which has pushed, and pushes, renaturation processes where the management of terraces is no longer economically viable. Today, we are often saddened by the loss of dry rocks and walls and, with them, the disappearance of a peasant knowledge, full of memories of the past. Yet precisely the sentiment rooted in each of us, which unites us to the earth and its destinies, should induce us to reflect better on the scenarios that we can reasonably take on for the future: surely to worry much more about preventing the instability that entails abandonment in periods of transition towards renewed environmental balances. You could then look with other eyes at the Portofino mountains or at the promontory of Punta Chiappa - where the "fishbone" or Ampelodesma tenax, the grass that fed the local crafts of nets, ropes and laces, now grows in the gardens - in whose olive groves pines, junipers, strawberry trees, gorse, citisi, ferns and rare orchids are mixed, and exotic flowers are acclimated to the shelter of holm oaks: a luxuriant nature, rich in endemic species, colors and scents that helps us to find, in the slow path traveled by old Ligurians, new, more current forms of coexistence and respect for ecosystems. Alessandra Valentinelli