The Grand Finale in Finale Ligure

If you want to accompany us on the last stage of our Ligurian hill walk, you’d better be ready for some serious climbing

In our most recent post, (perhaps a little misguiding) headlined The Five Walks of Finale Ligure, we ultimately gave you only three: a beach promenade, a stroll through the historical centre, and a short hike to the fortress that looms over the Old Town.

Today, we are taking it further from there, cranking the “stamina levels” up to numbers four and five, and after we have already left my 89-year-old mother, our tired family retainer and the teenage version of our son way behind, the moment has finally arrived to separate the man from the wife.

"The grand finale - hiking in Finale Ligure"

Leading to the grand finale in hiking Finale Ligure

Stamina level four: Castel Gavone. A short and sweet walk, with something interesting to see at the end – perfect for Mrs. Easy Hiker.

From the Castello San Giovanni, a stone path leads you gently up the hill …

"Hiking in Finale Ligure - the grand finale"

… and, soon enough, a little deeper into the woods …

"into the woods in Finale Ligure - the grand finale

… until you arrive at a little fork in the road where you have to turn left (uphill). This is the path straight up to the Castel Gavone …

"Castel Gavone - along the hiking trails of Finale Ligure"

… which is another impressive piece of military architecture, but one that is a lot older than the San Giovanni and, in parts at least, dates back to the Middle Ages. (One of the main reasons for the construction of the lower-lying San Giovanni fortress was, in fact, the need to keep the Castel Gavone out of the range of hostile artillery fire.) Unfortunately, when the Genoese took over the area in the 17th century, they decided to raze the fortress – a symbolic act, presumably, to emphasize that the ancien regime no longer called the shots.

From the castle, return (downhill) to the main trail and continue for a few hundred meters until you reach Perti, a tiny hamlet built around the medieval church of San Eusebio.

"town of Perti - the grand finale"

There is not much to see or to do in Perti, but there is a restaurant on the small hill right opposite the church where you can have a short rest before you return to Finale. Thinking back, this is what we should have done, too. But you know what they say about hindsight.

Stamina level five: The Rocca di Perti. On balance, I probably should have done this alone.

If you want to continue beyond Perti, you will have to find the red-and-white trail markers first. This is a little like a game of “where’s Wally” (aka “Waldo” in the US) . Can you spot them?

"Roca di Perti in the grand finale in Finale Ligure"

The difficulties, at any rate, do not end here. I have to warn you: the last section of the trail goes, after a short “prologue” in the flat …

"into the forest hiking in Finale Ligure"

…pretty much all the way up.

This grand finale of our hiking up the Ligurian hills is not alpine climbing, obviously, but you will need to watch your step and constantly scan the path in search of large rocks strong enough to support your next move up the hill, in effect always planning your route a couple of steps ahead and more than once reaching out for a tree trunk or an overhanging branch to steady you and to give you halt. Fortunately, there are plenty of those around since the woods on this slope are in parts as dense as the Amazonian forests.

Mrs. Easy Hiker was not amused. “Why are you doing this to me?” she inquired, in the tone of a woman in childbirth who has retraced the chain of events which have led to her predicament and identified the culprit. The last time we had a similar falling out over my choice of hiking trail was during our ascent to Eze Village when, unable to hold me responsible for the general direction of the trail (steeply uphill, that is), she decided that I was to blame for the fact that she was not wearing the right kind of shoes. (What would have been the right kind of shoe for her on that day? One with wings on, presumably.)

In her defense, Mrs. Easy Hiker has been a brave and loyal companion many times and, over the years, developed a genuine appreciation of hiking. There are, however, two important provisos. One is that the hikes must not be too long and strenuous, which is fair enough, and second that there must be something interesting to see along the way or, at the very least, at the end.

This does not altogether sound unreasonable either, although I myself have always liked walking for its own sake – the gentle pace of the change in landscape, the rhythm of feet hitting ground, even the exhaustion at the end of a long day. But perhaps it’s me who is the eccentric here. To her, walking for walking’s sake is, essentially, an exercise in absurdity – particularly if you have to duck overhanging tree branches.

Thankfully, I have learnt over the years how to distract and amuse her. “There is a cave at the top of the trail”, I promised, having seen the Italian sign pointing to a cava. “A wonderful, miraculously beautiful cave. Look! We’re almost there – I can see it already!”

In the end, of course, there was no cave. The Italian word for cave is “cavo”, as I have since found out. A “cava” is a quarry, and that, in short, was all there was.

"the cava along the trail hiking in Finale Ligure"

Our marriage, at any rate, has survived this latest crisis, and we are already planning our next mountain hike on the Ligurian coast – for the winter of 2016. We’ll keep you posted!

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The Five Walks of Finale Ligure

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This small Riviera seaside town has something for every hiker: two legs, three legs or four This past winter, we have been exploring hiking trails on our local coast, on either side – French as well as Italian – of the Riviera, and what better place to end this series of walks, as the winter draws to a close, than in Finale Ligure: a town whose very name suggests closure.

Was it also a case of leaving the best for last? I would not go that far, but it is true that we were positively surprised of how much Finale has to offer. Something for everyone, in fact, more specifically a walk for everybody, according to their individual level of stamina.

So if you ever come across Finale yourself – the town is located roughly half way down the Riviera di Ponente,

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Russian Churches on the Riviera

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Elsewhere in the world, the word may be that “the Russians are coming”; in the coastal region between Nice and Sanremo, they have arrived long ago and been part of the local communities for well over 150 years Once upon a time, before the advent of satellite TV dishes and the world-wide web, immigrants, even the very richest ones, felt the need to huddle together in the cold environment of an alien culture. What they wanted above all was to worship together – and to do that, they had to build their own churches first.

The Riviera was no exception to this rule, and although church-building no longer sits on top of the local ex-pats’ agenda, the buildings are still there, and if you have been hiking anywhere on the Riviera, you will have seen some of them.

Most of these churches, reflecting the nationalities of

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The Queen of the Ligurian Hills

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Apricale is not only picturesque but also a great base for hiking trips into the Riviera’s mountainous hinterland Apricale may well be the most beautiful but is certainly the most visually stunning of all the towns on the Ligurian hills. Growing out of the cliffside like something perhaps not altogether benign …

… the town has preserved much of its ancient, medieval atmosphere …

… and a certain sense of mystery.

What’s more, Apricale is surrounded by all kinds of hiking routes, from short strolls that give you a first taste of the Alps to longer walks – half-day as well as full-day trips – in the direction of remote neighbouring villages such as Baiardo and beyond.

Now for the bad news: Apricale is highly inconvenient

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Springtime for Napoleon

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200 years after the event, we followed the Emperor and his army on the first stage of their walk back to Paris and to Waterloo On 1 March 1815, the recently deposed Emperor Napoleon landed with a small band of 1000 loyal soldiers in Golfe Juan near Cannes, arriving from his exile in Elba to reclaim the French throne. Exactly two hundred years later, the municipal administration of what is now a small but lively resort town staged a re-enactment of this springtime for Napoleon, one of the most momentous events in 19th century history …

… while we made the walk that led the petit caporal and his men to Cannes, the first stage on their way to Paris, on to the battlefields of Waterloo and, eventually, to the petit empereur’s renewed exile and his death in Saint Helena.

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