More years ago than I care to remember a friend and I were watching Maurizio Nichetti’s The Icicle Thief on TV. This Italian satire concerns the conflict between art and commercialism as a TV showing of a classic movie is constantly interrupted by ads, to the point where the two start to bleed into one another. At one point we see an ad for an “artichoke-based apéritif”. My friend and I chuckled at the surreal inventiveness of the screenwriter.

Some years later I related the incident to my Italian wife, who just looked at me and said “It’s real, you know”.

This New Year we stayed briefly in her aunt’s apartment in the mountains while our daughters and I learnt to ski. Nosing around the cupboards for drinks glasses what did I find?

The mythical liquour! Naturally I had to try it, bravely overcoming my natural aversion to all things artichoke-based. And? It’s simultaneously sickly and nose-wrinklingly bitter, and not as pleasant as that sounds. On the other hand, for some reason I’m kind of glad that things like this exist. And not just in the movies.

Back in Genoa before flying back to Brussels, I tried a locally brewed beer, Nua Bionda.

Made in the Ligurian town of Apricale, this refreshing, slightly citric brew would be perfect for a long hot summer’s day.