Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Ligurian Towns of Italy: Dolceacqua, Apricale, & Sanremo

For our trip to Nice we had flown into and out of Genoa airport in Italy, which is about a two hour drive from Nice. Since we had an evening flight on Sunday, we left Nice early in the morning and decided to spend the day checking out some towns that we found in our driving tours of Italy book. The book didn't go into too much detail about what was in these towns, but noted that they were quaint and beautiful to look at. What we came across were two hill towns that we fell in love with and were pleasantly surprised by.

Our first stop was the town of Dolceacqua, very close to the border of France. It is divided into two sections linked by an ancient bridge and at first sight you're not sure what to expect as you make your way towards the older part called "La Tera". What we found were very narrow, stone streets with the stone walls rising above us for about three stories, with a peak of sunlight streaming through here and there. Stone archways connected the walls together and every turn we made led us to a new direction, although all directions seemed to be leading upwards where a medieval castle sits atop. It actually felt like we were already walking through the walls of the castle. Tucked into the walls of each street are small shops selling food, artwork, and wine that is characteristic of the area.

As much as we wanted to stay longer in Dolceacqua, we wanted to get to our next destination, Apricale, which comes from Latin to mean sunny. Along with Dolceacqua, Apricale forms the La Strada dell'Olio (The Olive Route) because these villages see an exorbitant amount of sun where olive trees can flourish. Located in a steep valley, one can see Apricale for miles away.

The small streets were similar to Dolceacqua and everything in this small town was open during the dreaded 1-4pm time slot! We strolled around the car free town, losing ourselves to the small alleyways, churches, narrow tunnels, and bridges. After a number of turns we came upon the piazza, which was preparing for a small festival.

View from the piazza

The piazza

Getting ready for the festival. The huge frying pan is filled with oil!

We had plans to drive to Sanremo and then to Genoa with enough time to make it to the airport for our flight back to Naples, but Richard our GPS had other plans in store for us. What should have taken 40 minutes to get from Apricale to Sanremo took over 2 hours in which we were led through the mountains on a curvy one lane road with nowhere to go if someone came from the other way. Luckily, no one came! So as a result we got to Sanremo and had only ten minutes to walk around if we wanted to get to the airport an hour before our flight. Naturally, we walked around Sanremo much longer than that. The city sits on the Mediterranean coast and is a popular tourist destination. We walked along the water, some of the streets of the city, and searched for the casino, but had no luck finding it. With the clock ticking we really didn't have enough time to explore and take in the city like we wanted, but here are some quick shots that we took:

Leaving Sanremo when we did put us into Genoa airport 45 minutes before our flight, which normally wouldn't concern us, but we had to fill up the car with gas, return the rental car, check a bag, and go through security. We ended up hitting a lot of traffic, which made us get to the airport 25 minutes before the flight - yikes! Thankfully, Genoa's a pretty compact airport and we made it to the gate with a few minutes to spare and had a fast flight back.

We're really glad that we took the time to visit this part of Italy that seems to be rather untouched by tourists. Not only were we pleasantly surprised by the small towns that we saw, but we find it pretty incredible that these types of towns are spread throughout Italy, each having their own special character. You never know what you might find if you take the time to look!


  1. How beautiful! Will have to go there!Glad you made your flight. Our GPS throws us for loops, too. They expect you to take those mountain curves at 60 mph!

  2. WOW!! I would absolutely love to visit a medieval castle!! I know I keep on saying this, but the architecture in Europe is amazing and so beautiful! Every one of the pictures that you post on your blog are gorgeous and each one has it's own beauty and personality! I'm sure that you felt like you were transported back to another time while walking through the narrow cobblestone streets with the stone walls, tunnels and bridges! Very exciting! I also find it fascinating and very interesting how very different these cities are from what we are use to. The people who live in these very old, quaint, small towns which have so much history, obviously lead completely different lives than us. I just can't imagine seeing and visiting so many beautiful and wonderful places, but I would really love to try it someday!

  3. That first town in unreal! I'd love to get lost there... :)