A Perfect Winter Walk in the Italian Riviera

Happy Italian families, sunshine and local delicacies combine for a perfect winter walk on the Mediterranean

Winter walks very much have their own logic: a successful outdoor experience between December and February requires more careful thinking than a journey at any time of the year, even in the relatively mild and balmy climate of the French and Italian Riviera.

"The perfect winter walk starting from Alassio"

Many of the proper trails – as opposed to asphalted footpaths and beach promenades – may be muddy or downright flooded, and the winds immediately by the coast can be very strong at this time of year.

Few things in the life of an easy hiker are as frustrating as arriving at your destination after a 2-hour journey only to find that the coastal path you had been looking forward to visiting has been closed for the day by the city administration’s health and safety department, due to high winds or a choppy sea. This happens more often than you might think (and has spoiled a couple of walks for us in the past).

Just as crucially, your walks must be much shorter than in the months with longer daylight hours –unless you want to hike in the dark.

And finally, the human longing for some gaiety and colour is particularly strong in those months when nature gives us little of either – and even on the Riviera, there are areas that can be relatively downbeat and grey, at least on a cloudy December day.

Which is why it is best to avoid those in winter and visit them some other time, focusing for now on places where a certain level of gaiety and colours is guaranteed throughout the year – which means, by and large, on the most popular resort towns by the coast that remain ready to receive and entertain visitors even in the bleakest midwinter.

"Table set for lunch before setting of on the perfect winter walk by the beach"

Better still if you can manage to find “twin” resorts, two neighbouring towns that are connected by a beach promenade which is safe to pass in all seasons. You can leave home (or your holiday base) at a civilized time, arrive in time for lunch, walk along the beach for a couple of hours and arrive at your second destination in time for coffee – perhaps to taste a local variety of Christmas cake or some such.

This, in one word, makes for a perfect winter walk – such as the one between Alassio and Laigueglia, neighbouring resorts approx. 1 hour away from the French border.

The Perfect Winter Walk from Alassio to Laigueglia

First to Alassio then, the bigger and better-known of the pair. You get an impression of how chic Alassio once must have been as soon as you step out of the train station: the town’s “Muretto” or “Wall of Fame” (located on the far side of the square to your left) …

"Alasssio's Wall of Fame"

… consists of roughly 1000 tiles with the names of famous visitors, some of them very famous indeed, with Hemingway and Louis Armstrong leading the pack.

Almost everybody, however, who was immortalized here recently, say: over the past 30 years, happens to be of Italian nationality, a fair reflection of the direction that Alassio has taken: while the international jet set may have come and gone, the resort is still very popular in Italy, and it was positively crowded on the day we arrived.

This day was, as it turned out, a public holiday in Italy (celebrating the Day of the Immaculate Conception: nothing ever comes between the Italians and an opportunity to have a good time with the family, no matter how obscure the origin of the festivity). Hundreds of happy families were lending the streets an almost summerly feeling, and all beach restaurants were full. (Crisis? What crisis?)

Have a look around the town, visit its many quaint little shops around Via XX Septembre and stroll down the long pier …

"Pier of Alassio in the Italian Riviera"

… before leaving Alassio in a westward direction (i.e. to the right when you are facing the sea) towards Laigueglia.

This will give you a good opportunity to familiarize yourself with the reason why Alassio has remained so steadily popular as a resort for families across Italy: its wide sandy beach that seems to stretch endlessly all the way to the horizon.

"perfect winter walk on Alassio's sandy beach"

This is a pleasant if slightly uneventful 5-km walk …

"Alassio's Lungo Mare leading to Laigueglia"

… and just when it threatens to become a little boring, Laigueglia comes into sight …

"Cathedral of Laigueglia"

… Alassio’s less busy but more picturesque sister town.

These days, Laigueglia may no longer be a fishing village, but you can easily imagine that it once was, and panels with historical photographs are distributed across the small centro storico, serving as a timely reminder of how different – and how much poorer – this stretch of the Ligurian coast looked in the not-too-distant past. In the 1940s and 1950s, Hemingway and Louis Armstrong may have visited the Italian Riviera, but prosperity only trickled down far enough to benefit most of the coast’s inhabitants when the package tourists arrived from the mid 1960s onward.

Laigueglia is a quiet little town that has preserved much of its original character …

"Fishing boats in Laigueglia"

… and that rewards the unhurried visitor with an eye for the fetching detail.

"a white bkie in Laigueglia"

You can start your journey home either by train from Laigueglia station (but be careful: not all the local trains between Ventimiglia and Genova stop here) or return to Alassio by bus. (Buy your tickets from the driver.)

As for the local sweet to go with your coffee, however, it may be best not to expect too much from Laigueglia and to arrive well-stocked from Alassio where many bakeries sell the local specialty called Baci di Alassio, chopped hazelnuts surrounded by a creamy chocolate pastry. There’s nothing seasonal about them: you can enjoy them anytime of the year, and even if you have no coffee at hand.

Buon appetito!

"Baci d'Alassio"

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Something to do outdoors during the “rainy season” on the French Riviera Normally, we are spoilt by the weather in our part of the world, but for the past six weeks, it has been raining and raining. And just when it felt that the worst was finally over, somebody up there decided to throw the sluice gates open once again, and we found ourselves cooped up for yet another week.

Conditions were so atrocious that for much of November and early December, the littoral, the coastal path, was closed, while parts of the “back country”, the arrière pays in the hills, are still in a state of emergency. This, obviously, narrows down for us the possible choice of walks in the area quite considerably, even now that the sun is out again.

You may find yourself in a similar situation one of these days, because no

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… was once at the cutting edge of modern architecture and a hot-bed of socialism.

Some people believe that Lenin himself visited the town, in search of a possible blueprint for Russia’s “cities of the future”, although it must be said that there is no conclusive evidence for this. Still, even if Lenin himself never made the journey, Soviet town planners certainly did – as did almost everybody else in the early 20th century with an interest in the future

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The wider ones are usually lined with cafes and shops.

Some old stairways have been reduced to pedestrian-lane size to give way to motor vehicle roads.

All in all, the stairways of Valletta definitely contribute to the charm of the island.

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Walks near London London’s extensive canal network is a haven for nature lovers – and often just a single stairway down from the city’s hustle and bustle One of the best things about London is that you don’t have to leave the city to do some serious walking. The West End is virtually surrounded by the leftovers from King Henry VIII’s deer-hunting grounds (Hyde Park, Green Park, St James’s Park, Regent’s Park), while from the East End, you can – via Mile End Park, Victoria Park, the Hackney Marshes and Lea Valley Park – walk straight out of London into the countryside without having asphalt under your feet for more than a few steps at a time, only to cross a road from one green space to the next.

I don’t think that you could say something similar about any other major city in the world. But that’s

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