For those who don’t know: I just finished a fabulous five-day photography workshop and creative retreat in Alassio, Italy with the endlessly talented stylist and author Annette Joseph. I launched The Modern Jetsette just over three months ago and as my passion and vision for this website grow more quickly than I ever anticipated, I needed to take a step back and mindfully hone my brand’s style elements. Joining Annette for her Italian Riviera workshop was a fantastic decision and I left not only with a firmer grasp on my blog’s identity, but a new resevoir of creative tools to bring The Western Charm to the next level.
One of those days we took a trip to one of the Liguria region’s most important basil producers and wow. Nestled between the shimmering turquoise waves of the Mediterranean sea, towering mountains of the Italian Riviera and the charming streets of downtown Alassio is a castle which doubles as a basil farm — a basil and pesto castle, as I like to think of it. If there were ever a herb to deserve royal treatment, it’s the beloved basilico.
Just like every experience I have in Italy, I learned a lesson which I’ll likely carry with me forever. Without going into a novel of detail, the owner of the basil farm — let’s call him the basil king — told his rise to basil fame in the world and like every great story of entrepreneurship he was met with a thousand rejections before he spinned the product in a way which brought it to international success. Now he is the reigning supplier of basil around the world.
From one gorgeous leaf of this basil is a rich world of Italian flavor, and from a few hundred of them comes a culinary staple which I admittedly eat by the spoonfuls: pesto. For those who aren’t fans of garlic — don’t worry, locals in this region of Italy prefer to opt out of garlic for the full flavor spectrum of the basil, plus the generous amount of olive oil, amore, parmesean and touch of salt.
And that Genovese pesto you buy in the grocery store? It probably comes from the walls of his basil empire.
After touring the grounds, fields and underworld of the basil industry, we had a stunning lunch in the shadows of the medieval stone castle, surrounded by the local Pigato vino and a superfluous presentation of Alassio’s finest local cuisine. Two of my favorite Liguria dishes: Melanzane alla Parmigiana (with a touch of the farm’s homemade pesto) and a fruit sorbeto made with the castle’s pigato wine. Oh, and a to-die-for fruit torta.
One of the most important aspects of travel is mindfully absorbing the culture in all senses possible. For Italy, food and taste is the heart of understanding the culture, history and soul of the Italian people. And just sometimes, that deeper understanding starts with one simple ingredient.