The Ligurian villages of Western Riviera all have a constant element: the peace and tranquility that one breathes. Don’t run between one village and another. Observe the stones that pave the narrow streets of these villages, the ivy that climbs the facades of the houses and the colors of the flowers and the sunset that sneak into the darkest corners.
In addition to the characteristic historical center, in Pompeiana we can admire: the Parish Church, of ancient foundation, that preserves inside numerous works by local artists; the naturalistic beauties, that it’s possible to admire thanks to pleasant walks in the uncontaminated nature, exists in fact a natural area belonging to the European ecological network “Natura 2000”, which hosts two very rare animal species in Italy: the ocellated lizard (the largest European lizard) and dotted pelodite, the rarest amphibian in Italy. In spring it’s also possible to observe the flowering of numerous species of Mediterranean orchids.
Bussana Vecchia is a magical place, whose timeless atmosphere helps to find a certain inner peace. Take your time to visit this town destroyed by an earthquake in 1887, abandoned by its residents and returned to live only in the 50’s thanks to a community of artists from all over the world.
A city that is a small paradise with a double soul, Taggia, home of the famous Taggiasca olives (in the surroundings of the Romanesque Church of Santa Maria del Canneto dating back to the 12th century, it is possible to visit a historic olive grove built by the Benedictine monks), with its village full of history and art, with the added value of Arma di Taggia, which with its sea and its sun is a seaside resort with a substantial tourist ‘traffic’. Taggia is also the city of slate, the stone with a smooth and subtle texture that adorns and practically decorates the ancient portals and festoons with bas-reliefs, which admirably adorn many buildings, as can be seen above all in the San Dalmazzo area.
Pietrabruna is a pretty hilltop village surrounded by olive trees, on the slopes of Mount Follia (m. 1031), which divides the valley of S. Lorenzo from the Argentina valley. The parish church of S. Matteo stands out, in the center of the village, dating back to 1844 and on whose churchyard are the remains of columns and capitals that belonged to the fifteenth-century church that once stood here. Also of great value is the church of S. Gregorio, probably from the 11th century, located near the cemetery, with beautiful decorations and a 15th century fresco. Noteworthy is the village of Torre Paponi, a small and rustic village born in the fifteenth century as a trading base between Porto Maurizio and Pietrabruna; the hamlet, a small monument, still preserves the small radiating nucleus with cobbled streets.
That strip of coast to the extreme West, which is called Riviera dei Fiori in autumn offers more than you might think. Beyond the mild climate, like the hot day I’m writing this post, you can appreciate the typical autumn colors of the hinterland . Many valleys with beautiful hilltop villages, spectacular views and excellent local products to taste. However, one of them is the master in November and it is the new oil! This is, in fact, the season in which the olive trees bear fruit: that is, olives from the Taggiasca cultivar. Cultivar that is born here and is very appreciated for its delicacy and its properties.
A bit like for the harvest, the beauty of the collection is to see all these olive groves – called bands – full of people who beat olives and so many colored nets on the ground ready to hold them, so as not to lose even one. These often abandoned lands, therefore, come alive with the noises and colors of the collection.
And then? And then you go to the oil mill. In the hinterland of Imperia there are many, some still stone, many adopt the most modern technologies. And here here is what happens the miracle, the liquid gold, sees from the steel tubes, green-yellow gold, with its intense aroma. Have you ever tasted new oil? Pinch and has a strong taste for those who are not used to it, but it is an experience to try! Just freshly made, extra virgin olive oil contains the maximum of its nutritional properties and produces the best of its beneficial effects: antioxidant, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory. The most beautiful olives are set aside for brine and the rest is carried as soon as possible to the mill, so as not to lose the fragrance of freshly picked olives. And he waits anxiously – even hours – for the new oil to be ready, and then in the evening taste it with boiled bread or beans …
THE VALLEYS OF THE HINTERLAND OF THE RIVIERA DEI FIORI
starting from the coast of Ventimiglia, on the border with the French Côte d’Azur, we have the Val Nervia, separated from Val Roia by Monte Toraggio. Coming from the coast, you will find Dolceacqua to welcome you as the first, but not the only, splendid village.
RIVIERA DEI FIORI IN AUTUNNO
Sanremo is home to the Armea Valley with the traditions and typical features of villages such as Ceriana, and then over Arma di Taggia the rich Valle of history, traditions and legends, like that of Triora, the village of witches. Above Imperia Porto Maurizio we have the Val Prino, while above Imperia Oneglia there are the Valle Impero and the Val Maro and continuing the Valle Arroscia.
All offer so many beauties and things to do, but not being able to tell you about each of them in this post, I want to choose one as an example.
A PLEASANT AUTUMN WEEKEND IN ARROSCIA VALLEY
From Imperia Oneglia go up along state road 28 towards Pieve di Teco, at the roundabout before arriving in Pieve di Teco you could deviate to Rezzo. From here follow the dirt road for about 2.5 km to the Sanctuary of Maria Bambina. Placed in the middle of a forest, it is an enchanting place, with a splendid view over the valley and the village, not to mention the interior fresco cycles of the early 1500s and the statue of Mary the little girl by Filippo Parodi. Children can have fun among old trees and chestnut trees, while you might decide to buy some local cheese in the nearby farm.
VESSALICO AND ITS GARLIC
After this first stop I suggest you take the car and go on to Gavenola, it will take about half an hour. Return back to the large first roundabout, but this time take for Vessalico-Gavenola. If you are a garlic user in the kitchen, I recommend you go to Vessalico and – if you still find it – buy a head of the prized Vessalico garlic (Slow Food presidium). It is very delicate and renowned, its production never covers the whole season because it literally sells like hot cakes!
Following the signs for Gavenola you will face some bends that will take you to the top of the village. You might decide to stop here right away or come back after visiting the small village. The rich parish church of San Colombano in the town square is a must see. If you feel like it, with about another twenty minutes by car, you will reach an almost unlikely place: the Sanctuary of the Saints Cosmas and Damian. It rises 1069 meters above sea level, at the top of the hill of San Cosimo. Here it seems to be in the mountains, the sanctuary is surrounded by pasture meadows, you will often find sheep or goats, it is surrounded by the forest. On fine days it is an ideal location for a picnic or a game break.
MENDATICA AND THE ADVENTURAL PARK
If time remains, adrenaline lovers can head to Mendatica, still half an hour away from Rezzo. Here you will find yourself in Alta Valle Arroscia and there is an adventure park that is very popular with families with children (from 3 years upwards). On the site you will find all the info! If you want to break the itinerary in two days you can enjoy the slow rhythm of this beautiful inland valley. I recommend, then, after Gavenola, to continue to the nearby Pieve di Teco. The main town of the Arroscia Valley that offers some accommodation options both in the center of the village, and just outside, and many solutions for dinner or for a shopping based on typical products, from focaccia and green pie to meat.
A 24 KM CYCLING TRAIL ALONG THE COST
For sports lovers, but also for the outdoors, an experience not to be missed is the bike path that connects most of the coastal centers of the Riviera dei Fiori. Currently from Ospedaletti, to Ponente, we arrive at San Lorenzo al mare in Levante. The project, however, provides for its extension from San Lorenzo al Mare to Imperia and beyond. It is the former flat coastal railway line, now accessible by bike, on foot, with rollers, etc. If you don’t have a car, the RT bus service connects Imperia to San Lorenzo about every half hour, in about ten minutes. Don’t worry if you don’t have bikes, in San Lorenzo there are rental points for bikes, tandems and rickshaws!