The hinterland of the fascinating Riviera dei Fiori (the area of Liguria that stretches from Imperia to the heart of Ventimiglia on the border with France) offers, like the coast, unique places that really know how to surprise and leave you breathless.
Here rise unique villages that preserve their peculiarities intact through the years and transport us to a bucolic dimension of other times far from the frenzy of the city and from the liveliness of the coasts.
Discovering these authentic jewels of the West Riviera without rushing means immersing yourself in a picturesque landscape and breathing in the history of this area, savoring the slow pace on a human scale.
Today we take you to admire 2 of the most picturesque villages that stand out perched just a few kilometers from Ventimiglia: Dolceacqua and Apricale in the province of Imperia.
Close to the french border, the village of Dolceacqua welcomes us in its relaxed atmosphere, embraced by the typical hills of the Ligurian hinterland and lapped by the Nervia stream.
The oldest part of Dolceacqua is the medieval village perched at the foot of the mountain and guarded by the “Castello dei Doria”, a castle that oozes history and that gives a breathtaking view of the village and the picturesque humpback bridge, the “Ponte Vecchio“, dating back to the fifteenth century and formed by a single round arch around 32 meters long.
Inside the castle, as well as a well-kept garden, we must let ourselves be enchanted by the panoramic path, enriched by binoculars, which allows us to admire the whole valley: our eyes they range from the blue of the sea, to the green vineyards of Rossese di Dolceacqua, to the olive plantations and the Blue Mountains which, in winter, are whitened by snow.
Stroll up and down among the typical medieval alleyways to discover the picturesque portals of the houses worked in black local stone.
The portals are numerous and of various types: religious, allegorical and noble as well as the emblems of Napoleonic origin that retain all their charm.
A curiosity: let us go in search of Via Dietro la Colla, where a sinister-looking house stands where it is said that witches were gathered to do their spells.
The historic center is also rich in artists’ workshops, craft shops, wine cellars and small shops selling typical products where we can buy the best the country has to offer.
If we are passionate about art and history, let us not miss the opportunity to visit the numerous churches in the village which preserve valuable medieval frescoes, works of art, paintings and statues.
A local sweet specialty
Dolceacqua, a charming village that enchanted Monet who painted two paintings of the bridge and the castle, is still strongly linked to traditions and on 16 August celebrates the “Festa della Michetta“, a typical local dessert with a genuine taste and the soft consistency of bread.
The “michette” are sugary sandwiches that we must taste when we find ourselves in these parts, perhaps together with a sip of Rossese, a DOC red wine typical of the area.
There is no shortage of characteristic restaurants where you can make a tasty stop before diving back into so much wonder.
Close to the french border, a unique medieval village stands out, embraced on the hill and included in the circuit of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy: Apricale.
Apricale welcomes us into its soul made up of stairs, stone, the sun that filters through the medieval alleys, greenery and stillness.
The heart of the village is the small square setting with the fountain of Gothic origin and the stone seats where we can stop to listen to the sounds of a country immersed in nature.
Then, it’s time to venture into the network of old stone carruggi, paved alleys connected by steep stairways, buttresses, underpasses and vegetable gardens.
The “Castle of the Lizard“, which has been perfectly restored and now hosts exhibitions and various cultural activities, keeps watch over everything.
Inside, let us be amazed by the panoramic roof garden characterized by an iron pergola and sculptures, as well as by the rooms that tell the archaeological heritage of the area.
Apricale offers an atmosphere of times gone by.
The scenographic aspect of the town, a cascade of ancient stone houses elongated on the ridge of a steep slope, catches the eye and remains indelibly imprinted in the mind.
All around, the embrace of the countryside wisely worked with the typical Ligurian terraces supported by dry stone walls to tear the land to be cultivated from the mountain.
An ideal place to relax in the green quiet forgetting the chaos, traffic and problems of the city.
To get in touch with the typicality of the village, we can also taste the genuine local products flavored with Taggiasca extra virgin olive oil.
Apricale’s menu will surprise us with stuffed vegetable appetizers, pasta dishes such as borage ravioli, meat or beets and pesto tagliarini, second courses such as roast leg of lamb, rabbit with olives cooked in Rossese wine, wild boar with polenta.
And the typical sweet in Apricale?
The typical sweet here is the pansarole, soft sweets sprinkled with sugar and immersed in the hot zabaglione. A real goodness which, in September, a very popular festival is dedicated.
A few kilometers from the coast and from the liveliness of the West Riviera, a unique territory opens up in which to rediscover the slow pace of life in contact with nature and to breathe the most authentic and unchanging atmosphere of Liguria.
If you have the curiosity to visit these two beautiful perched villages, take a look at this trip we have designed.