As I always say, seaside locations in Liguria are stunning but it’s the inland that that holds the nicest surprises.
Liguria is famous for its picturesque towns by the sea but if you are willing to explore further on the hills, you’ll find some places that perfectly represent the character of Liguria: introverted, shy, not talkative at all.
The people of Liguria are rugged as the scenery they live in and inland Ligurian villages perfectly represent this aspect of our character: they are enclosed and difficult to reach and you really have to make a conscious effort if you want to see them.
A typical Ligurian sight (in Apricale)
Ligurians do not speak nor smile much but once you get to know them, you discover how warm and friendly they are. And that’s exactly what happens with inland Ligurian villages: they are not immediately stunning and picturesque like those by the sea but if you take the time to really know them, you’ll be amazed by their uniqueness.
There are amazing villages everywhere in Liguria but some of the best ones are on the western side of the region. I do not go there very frequently because it takes two hours for me to get there but I try to visit the area at least twice a year because it is really beautiful.
The main square in Apricale
Last year I visited Triora and Bussana Vecchia, two small villages with an interesting past, and had more day trips scheduled but then COVID hit and everything stopped. Luckily, we managed to go back there this past summer and spent a wonderful day in beautiful Val Nervia, located just behind the eastern sections of Ventimiglia, very close to France.
The main reason for going there was that I wanted to treat my husband to lunch at Ristorante Delio, a great restaurant I discovered thanks to some students of mine. The restaurant is in Apricale, one of the most famous villages in the area. Actually, the most famous place is probably Dolceacqua but we didn’t stop there because we wanted to discover some new places.
A view of Castello della Lucertola
Just like many other villages in the area, Apricale is a Medieval town perched on a hill. You get there via a narrow road full of hairpin bends – a common feature of Liguria – and when the village appears, all of a sudden, it’s a really pleasant surprise.
Apricale is famous for the Castello della Lucertola (Castle of the Lizard), a castle built in the 10th century that overlooks the main square, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, where the main church, the Chiesa della Purificazione di Maria Vergine, is also located. The imposing castle was originally built as a defensive structure and fortress.
Nice art on a house in Apricale
Nowadays, the castle hosts a museum about the history of Apricale and is also home to many statues and artifacts used by the Teatro della Tosse for its open-air shows in the village. As a matter of fact, the maze of tiny alleyways, arched passageways, and ancient houses have been a perfect location for many shows by this famous theatre company over the years.
And that maze of narrow streets and staircases leading to God-knows-where are the best thing in the village – and in many other Ligurian ones. Getting lost while exploring the place and finding some picturesque corners you didn’t know existed is really what I like the most about visiting these small towns in my region.
Some houses in Perinaldo
We spent most of the morning in Apricale and had our lunch there, at the restaurant I mentioned before. We wanted to discover some other places in the area but still had no specific plans. While we were having lunch, we spotted a spectacular village on a hill way above Apricale. We didn’t know the name but quickly checked Google Maps and found out that the place was called Perinaldo. It was an easy choice: that was our next destination.
An even more narrow and curvy road lead us to Perinaldo, which was a real discovery for us. Located way above Apricale, stretched on a narrow ridge, Perinaldo overlooks the valley below. From up there, the view is magnificent: you can see Apricale and the hills around, green woods dotted with some old houses here and there.
The alley with murals about the life of Cassini
Perinaldo was founded in the year 1000 by a guy named Rinaldo – from whom it takes its name – and has always been the object of fights between the lords of the area, the Counts of Ventimiglia, and the Doria family, one of the most powerful families in Genoa, that have always exerted their power over Liguria, trying to conquer every single village in the region.
Yet Perinaldo is unique for another reason: it is the home town of Giovanni Domenico Cassini, a mathematician, astronomer, and engineer, famous for discovering four satellites of Saturn and the great red spot on Jupiter. In town, there is a museum dedicated to his work and an observatory and many are the initiatives to celebrate his work and to spread the knowledge of astronomy.
A corner in Perinaldo
If you are not interested in stars and planets, in Perinaldo you can find some churches and a sanctuary, the Santuario della Madonna della Visitazione, where at noon the light enters through a hole in the facade and perfectly lights the church – which is something that led people to believe that Cassini took part in the project of the church.
If you are a food lover, you might be interested in knowing that Perinaldo is famous for artichokes – there is even an artichoke festival there every year – and olive oil. Like many other villages in Liguria, walking up and down its quiet streets, admiring the houses and catching the glimpses of the valley around is one of the best things to do. And this is especially pleasant in Perinaldo because there is a street that celebrates Cassini with stunning murals as well.
Apricale seen from Perinaldo
The area is full of many other villages to discover but it was late and we had to go back home. If Covid allows us though, we really want to go back and explore a bit more.
By the way, what is your favorite Italian village? I’d love to know!
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