Riviera dei Fiori, the hinterland – Apricale

Apricale - Photo © Marko
Apricale – Photo © Marko

A Ligurian paradise just waiting to be explored

A segment of the Riviera dei Fiori, between Bordighera and Ventimiglia, in the region of Liguria along the border of France, holds magnificent treasures for the eyes and the palate. In this slice of land, perfumes, aromas and colors mingle to create a wonderful haven for those in search of emotions and a taste of times past.

A journey full of history which makes its way through the Val Nervia towards the mountains behind a crystal-clear sea.

The first town we come upon, after Camporosso, which indicates the direction to be taken, is Dolceacqua.

Easily recognizable, it is divided by the Nervia River and united once again by the elegant Medieval bridge and an archway.

Apricale - Photo © ilcavaliereinglese
Apricale – Photo © ilcavaliereinglese

Men worked for centuries to build kilometers of low walls and terracing to section off the land. Thanks to them, today we can taste one of the zone’s most aromatic red wines, Rossese, and the sharpish yet intense Pigato, a white wine of strong character produced in nearby Rezzo. This is a fine complement to the local culinary specialties made with aromatic herbs, which have always flavored the simple, genuine ingredients that this modest land has to offer. Borage ravioli, mesciua chickpea soup, quiches, rabbit, strong Brusso cheese as well as vegetables fried in excellent olive oil and perfectly fresh fish, stuffed anchovies and flavorful dried cod. Delicacies that bring to mind women who are experts in the kitchen, their hair tucked back beneath kerchiefs and aprons tied around their waists as they create delicious food from nothing at all, as well as a magnificent culinary tradition that is still with us today.

Towards the mountains, with its 15th Century fountain, Isolabona is divided by two rivers that speak of children’s happy cries and freshwater eel fishing by lamplight come nightfall.

Further on, amid a sea of olive trees, what appears before our eyes is one of the most beautiful hamlets in Italy: Apricale (Apricus, under the sun, being its ancient name). Its tiny stone homes stand at the sun-kissed crest of the mountain, while a series of small lanes lead to the main square, the true heart of the town.

Apricale - Photo © Steve_Bate
Apricale – Photo © Steve_Bate

Here we find the chapel of St. Bartholomew with a superb wooden polyptych from the 1500s and the Castello Della Lucertola castle, which hosts wonderful exhibits (the current one being dedicated to Henry Matisse, this running until March 15th). The location has inspired painters, sculptors and poets, both ancient and contemporary. This can be seen in the many works created by artists who lived here in the ’60s – an outpost for the rediscovery of this land – and which turned the town into a permanent museum.

For those who wish to taste the traditional dishes of the area graciously served in a refined location, try the restaurant Apricale da Delio (www.ristoranteapricale.it). To experience the emotion of sleeping in the silence of a medieval town, the Locanda dei Carugi offers elegant rooms with furnishings in the style of that time and warm hospitality (www.locandadeicarugi.it).

Continuing on, we reach Bajardo, the land of the Druids. The air immediately becomes electrified, refined, light and incredibly clean. The olive trees make way for chestnut forests. Greenery as far as the eye can see and unusual mountaintops surround this village, which is just waiting to be explored. Not to miss is the suggestive church of San Nicolo’.

A fountain - Photo © Steve_Bate
A fountain – Photo © Steve_Bate

Abandoned and deconsecrated after the terrible earthquake of 1887, its only ceiling is now the sky itself, a grassy field replacing its previous marble flooring. All instilling powerful, mystical, mysterious emotions.

For a place to eat, the trattoria Da Jolanda has only a few, modest tables, yet the food which Massimo’s mother prepares makes for an unforgettable dining experience (+39 0184 673017). For accommodation, try a small castle, the bed & breakfast Casa del Ghirosveglio (+39 0184 674012).

Everything in this area is perfect for those looking for something special, for a vacation away from the crowds of the summer holidays or the gray skies of winter. In this little corner of Liguria, all one finds are captivating aromas and colors.

Author: Claudia Del Vecchio
Courtesy of sanpellegrino.com