The famous focaccias of Liguria

The beautiful coastal province of Liguria is famously home to the most delicious, tearable bread you’ll ever lay your eyes on. We investigate the history behind this regional delicacy, and take a look at some of the focaccias you can expect to find during a visit to the area.

Great Italian Chefs is a team of passionate food-lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest news, views and reviews from the gastronomic mecca that is Italy.

Great Italian Chefs is a team of food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest news, views and reviews from the gastronomic mecca that is Italy. From Veneto and Lombardy in the north to Calabria and Sicily in the south, we celebrate the very best of this glorious cuisine and try to bring you a little bit of la dolce vita wherever you are.

Inhabitants of the beautiful harbour city of Genoa in Liguria wake up every morning to the smell of freshly baked focaccia. The Genovese enjoy a gentle pace of life – something they have in common with their Provencal neighbours – but the city itself gets going in the very early hours of every day as ovens are lit, dough is knocked back and focaccia are baked in their thousands, ready for the morning masses. The people of Genoa eat focaccia anytime, anyplace – in the morning with a cappuccino, at lunch with a cold glass of white wine and then for dinner. Slabs of focaccia, still warm from the oven, are very much the foundation of this pleasant city.

Whilst focaccia Genovese is the go-to choice for most people here, there are plenty of other focaccias available in the city’s many bakeries. The heavy use of olive oil means that you can infuse a variety of different flavours into the dough before it is baked, from herbs to vegetables – you can even get a sweet version which is enriched with egg, butter and sugar! Read on for five of Liguria’s most popular focaccias, and try to eat at least one of each whilst you’re there.

Focaccia Genovese

The original focaccia, focaccia Genovese, was born in the harbour city of Genoa in the Middle Ages, and it remains unbelievably popular today. Bakeries all over the city bake focaccia all through the morning, and almost everyone buys a slice either to dip into their morning coffee (which sounds strange, but is a Ligurian tradition!) or to enjoy with a crisp white wine in the afternoon. A good slice of focaccia Genovese should be relatively thin (between one and two centimetres), crisp and golden on the outside, soft on the inside and still warm from the oven. It's always glistening with good olive oil, and you'll often find it topped with rosemary and sometimes garlic.

Focaccia con le cipolle

Onion focaccia became popular among Liguria’s poorest inhabitants, largely because it was a cheap form of sustenance. Not only are onions cheap, they also suppress hunger – for that reason it became popular with longshoremen and fishermen, who took focaccia con le cipolle with them to sea. More importantly, onion is a delicious topping for focaccia, lending the bread a mellow sweetness after baking.

Focaccia con le salvia

Every August, the small village of Santa Giulia di Centaura holds a festival to honour the humble sage plant, and celebrates by making tray after tray of focaccia con la salvia. You can easily make it at home by preparing focaccia in the normal way, but using oil infused with sage leaves. Lay fresh sage leaves generously over the top before baking and you'll understand why this is such a popular variety.

Focaccia di Recco

Focaccia di Recco differs from regular focaccia – it doesn’t have the light, bouncy crumb usually associated with the bread, resembling more of a traditional flatbread. The recipe harks back to the twelfth century, when the inhabitants of Recco first made a simple flatbread with a cheese filling. The bread has survived the test of time and remains an important part of Ligurian gastronomic tradition today, though it tends to be made with stracchino cheese rather than the yoghurt-like prescinsêua as it would have been originally. This variety of focaccia is now IGP-protected, which means you can only get the 'real thing' in the region.

Focaccia dolce

Sweet focaccia is rarely seen outside of Italy but it is absolutely delicious. The dough is made as normal, but eggs, butter and sugar are kneaded in after the first rise. When baked, focaccia dolce has all the wonderful, springy texture of focaccia with the rich flavour of a brioche, making it a fantastic snack for anyone with a sweet tooth!


Get in touch

Please or register to send a comment to Great British Chefs