A few weeks ago, I finally managed to venture out of my own little village.
Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted at the beginning of May but we’ve waited until the end of the month to do our first day trip. We didn’t want to go very far so we chose one of our favorite destinations: inland Liguria.
If you have been reading this blog for a while now, you may remember day trips in Apricale and Perinaldo, Verezzi, Triora, and Bussana, some of the charming little villages that make inland Liguria a very interesting place to visit. As much as I love the seaside, I strongly believe that it’s the inland that really makes my region unique.
Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena and its castle
Actually, it’s the combination of the seaside and the perched villages right above that is really special. One minute you are by the sea and twenty minutes – and several hairpin bends – later, you can get to a place that definitely reminds you of the mountains. I love this thing about Liguria and I probably will always be amazed by it.
So, when we finally had the chance to take a trip somewhere, I wanted to visit some inland villages I had never seen before. In fact, I have lived here all my life and I still have to visit quite a few places in inland Liguria. This probably gives you an idea of how many nice and interesting little villages are scattered on the hills right behind the Italian Riviera.
the stone houses of Castelvecchio
The weather wasn’t that good and we didn’t want to go very far, so we chose two villages that are just one hour from where I live: Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena and Zuccarello. Those two villages are located on the road that connects Albenga, on the seaside, to Piedmont and they are two typical inland Liguria villages: stone houses, green hills, very few people around.
Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena is a quite famous tourist location because it is part of the Borghi più belli d’Italia (most beautiful villages in Italy) selection and so it is a common spot to visit for people spending their holidays in the area. I had seen a lot of pictures of the place and I knew what to expect.
a typical view of inland Liguria
But, as it always happens, it’s Zuccarello, a place I knew nothing about (even if it is part of the Borghi più belli d’Italia selection as well), that has really conquered me. Castelvecchio, with its stone houses and its imposing castle on the top of the hill, is quite similar to many other villages in inland Liguria. Zuccarello, instead, really surprised me.
The first place we visited was Castelvecchio, a Medieval village perched on a hill, on top of which stands an impressive castle. The weather was not exactly nice when we visited, which contributed to giving a very Scottish-highlands-village vibe to the place. We stopped at the little parking place past the village and slowly descended into town by walking down narrow and steep alleys (it obviously took ages because I had to take a picture of every corner).
A view of Zuccarello
Like in many other villages of inland Liguria, there isn’t much to see. Don’t expect a museum, or something really exceptional. But I am sure you’ll love exploring the little squares that open up unexpectedly, visiting the local church, or just spending time sitting under a horse chestnut tree and enjoying the endless view of green woods around you.
We walked up to the castle – it was closed, unfortunately – and had a coffee at the local bar. There was also a restaurant that seemed really good, so it might be worth returning in the future. If the weather hadn’t been that bad, we would have walked the 1-hour long path called il sentiero di Ilaria that takes you to Zuccarello.
the arched passageways in Zuccarello
Why is that path called this way? It takes its name from Ilaria del Carretto, who was born in Zuccarello in 1379 and left the village in 1403 to marry Paolo Guinigi, lord of Lucca. She is famous because, when she died, her husband commissioned Jacopo della Quercia a funerary monument that can now be seen in the Cathedral of Lucca.
A bronze statue of Ilaria del Carretto is located right at the entrance of the village, which mainly consists of one main street lined with colorful houses and arched walkways. Under the arches, you’ll find some cozy shops, bars, and another restaurant that looked very inviting. There are also alleys that lead you up to the half-destroyed castle above the village but we preferred to just enjoy the lovely atmosphere in the main street.
the statue of Ilaria del Carretto
The place was quiet and simple, very genuine and unique and that’s exactly what I like in a place. We stayed there for a bit more than one hour but I’d really love to return in summer because every year they celebrate the marriage of Ilaria del Carretto and it is said to be one of the nicest parades in Liguria. I love how these very simple places always give you opportunities to go back and see more!
Have you ever visited inland Liguria? If so, what is your favorite village there?
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