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Jan 8, 2014 03:19 PM

Amaro Tours?


My partner and I will be traveling to Naples, Rome, Liguria, Turin and then Milan. We are extremely interested in sampling different types of amari (beyond the usual suspects of Averna, Fernet Branca, etc that we can find here in the US) or if possible taking a tour of any of the distilleries?

I did some searches but did not come up with much, if someone could lead me to the links or in the right direction that would be great!


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  1. I live in Liguria and I can't recall ever coming across a Ligurian amaro, but you can ask around or at bars and restaurants. Most of the hyperlocal spirits I see sold in wine shops are sweet and fruity, and herbal elixirs tend to be homemade.

    If there are distilleries that you can tour then I tend to think they will be distilleries for the "usual suspects" because so many regional amari are homemade. And however ubiquitous Fernet-Branca is all over the world, I believe the recipe is still so secret only a handful people know what the whole thing is. Wouldn't surprise me if actual distilleries aren't open to the public.

    The Branca group in Milan has a museum you might find interesting (I've never been).

    Are you familiar with this website?

    13 Replies
    1. re: barberinibee

      Thank you so much for the Sapere link, I have not ever seen this website before. We will definitely try to go to the Branca museum.

      Thanks again!


      1. re: alexistristin

        I also found this for you: a Ligurian amaro, from a distillery in Genova (about a 15 minute taxi ride from Brignole station):


        I'll look out for it and if I see it around the 'hood, I'll let you know.

        1. re: barberinibee

          Ah great information, I will definitely try to check this out while in Genoa. The blog is also a great source. Thanks again!

          1. re: alexistristin

            Stopping in the bar at train station in Santa Margherita Ligure today to buy an apple, I spotted a bottle of S. Maria al Monte on the shelf alongside the usual amari suspects. It appeared to be a full and perhaps unopened bottle. So if you are traveling along the coast any time in the next year or so and haven't found it elsewhere, might be worth a shot so to speak. Interestingly, I didn't see it in a much fancier bar not all that far from there that carries many hard-to-find spirits.

            1. re: barberinibee

              Yes we will be in Genoa for a few days in April. Any other recommendations for drinking and eating? I have searched through the board a few times for Genoa but since you are so knowledgable and actually live there thought I would ask on this thread :)

              1. re: alexistristin

                David Downie's Food Wine for the Italian Riviera & Genoa is really a great investment. Not only does he have quite a few really solid recommendations for eateries in Genova and nearby on the train line, he has very accurate descriptions of what the local cuisine is and how to make the most of it and where to sample it. The cuisine is actually fairly insular -- even town by town in Liguria! -- and many dishes are almost totally unknown beyond their native habitat. So it worth reading about a bit ahead of time so you can scope out what you want to try.

                I actually live south of Genoa and like the majority of Chowhound posters living in Italy, I probably eat less in local restaurants than travelers do! Also, when I go to Genova, I often seize the chance to eat Chinese food (the city has a loooooooooong relationship with the far east and has some of the better Chinese food in Italy; I like Yuan but I am not recommending you eat Chinese food on your trip). But mainly I head straight for the historic covered food market, the Mercato Orientale. It has fantastic offerings, is lovely to circumnavigate and has one or two coffee bars inside (along the periphery) where every bottle is so dusty that surely one of them is a bottle of S.Maria al Monte.

                Jenkalb wrote a trip report for the time she spent in Genova and picked a lot of nice places. I followed one of her recommendations (Il Genovese I think was the name) and had a good time. I would only suggest staying away from Eataly and I Tre Merli, which tend to be in all the guides and you can do better elsewhere. Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler or his Recipes from Paradise will also help you appreciate the ephemeral delicacy and simplicity of great unpretentious Ligurian cuisine, which is still very close to the soil and the sea, even in Genova.


                But do get a copy of Downie's guide (which is also filled with lovely photos and great info on the coastal towns and also Ligurian wines).


                Be sure to track down the best restaurant for pesto you can and I think it is best when its slathered on handkerchief shaped pasta, listed on menus as either mandilli or lasagne (rather than trofie noodles).

                1. re: barberinibee

                  Thanks for all of your input barberinibee. I have ordered the books you have suggested to start reading soon!


                  1. re: alexistristin

                    Spotted a bottle of S.Maria al Monte for 10.29 euros in a local chain supermarket today! Now I'm curious so when I'm not already carrying too much up these Ligurian staircases, I'll pick up a bottle for the house.

                    1. re: barberinibee

                      It's sometimes available in NYC, at about $27/bottle. Mt. Carmel Wines in the Bronx hs carried it in its extensive amaro colleciton.

                  2. re: barberinibee

                    Also, it is nice that you didn't give me a list. I feel a little overwhelmed when I look at CH and people have eating schedules for every meal time. I like traveling and discovering a little more than planning everything to the minute. Of course I have a list and have done my research but we are allotting time to cooking in the various apartments we have rented or having a picnic for lunch.

                    So thanks again, your words were very inspiring!

                    1. re: alexistristin

                      You'll find the books even more inspiring I'm sure and if you are planning to cook or picnic, the Mercato Orientale is incredibly inspiring. So much more the real deal than Eataly by a factor of a thousand. One thing you will need to plan around is the limited opening hours for the market. The optimal windows are 8.30 am to 1pm, and then 4pm to 7.30pm. Closed Sunday.

                      If you do have the opportunity to cook in Genova then one of the more amazing things you can do is to stop by Pastificio Danielli , which is just steps from the Mercato Orientale, and purchase their pansoti (which is similar to ravioli and stuffed with herbaceous greens) and get their salsa di noce (walnut sauce) to go with it. It is a substantial, rich dish so you won't need huge amounts nor will you want a lot of other food to go with it. Confirm with Danielli before leaving the store how long you should boil their pasta. The walnut sauce should not be cooked at all. Just toss in the hot pasta and maybe a tiny splash of the hot pasta water with it.

                      This is a divine dish that is unique to the region. Danielli also has a whole array of marvelous pastas.


                      Buon appetito!

                      1. re: barberinibee

                        Pansoti alla salsa di noce--absolute heaven, and I remember the first time I had it, overlooking the little Genovese frazione of Boccadasse. It's one pasta I have, frankly, never seen in the US, even in Ligurian-flavored places in California. Maybe I just missed it.

                        1. re: bob96

                          I think Abboccato in NYC sometimes has a pansoti on its menu. I can't recall seeing it on a menu anywhere in Italy outside of Liguria, although it is possible that restaurants in Milano and Torino offer it since so many of their residents use the Ligurian coast as their go-to beach and they develop a craving for the food.

      2. Almost every region produces its own amaro. You best bet for trying out weird and wonderful amari is to search out the old fashioned enoteche in each of the cities you are visiting. If you go to their amari section, you are likely to see things that are not exported beyond the city you are in.

        I've also had a great luck in small local supermarkets. They will always have the big names, but will also usually carry a local brand or two as well.

        In terms of visiting distilleries, one of my favorite 'modern' amari is made by Nonino. They are located in Friuli, so not really on your route. But if you are truly interested in distilling, then this might be worth a trip. They are, of course, much better known for their grappa, but their stills are gorgeous and they are definitely open to visits.

        1 Reply
        1. re: minchilli

          Yes I do love Nonino, I guess I have had a lot of amari since I have worked at many Italian inspired restaurants through the years. But I feel that there are many that I have not tasted. I will look into trying to visit Friuli on the trip but time is pretty limited.

          Great tip on local supermarkets, since we love to go into any type of market and look around I will be on the look out.


        2. I was at a small restaurant in Bologna. The very affable proprietor plied my friend with grappa after grappa after he heard the first one was not to my friend's liking.