Liguria: Apricale, Bordighera & Dolceacqua

A beautiful medieval stone bridge (called Ponte Vecchio/old bridge) arches over the Nervia River separating the two districts of Dolceacqua (the Terra and the Borga). The enchanting town is picturesque and interesting to wander because of the "caruggi" — which are narrow steeped and partially covered lanes (as wide as alleys) that wildly criss-cross each other (think photos and memories) through the old town. Even more unique are the mysterious dark passages that go underneath the town…..The main square is the meeting place for this small village and the Chiesa di S. Giorgio (12th Century) with it’s Romanesque façade sits proudly in the center (it was recently renovated). The roof is decorated with an unusual painted truss-beamed ceiling and in the crypt are two tombs from the Doria family (Princes of Genoa). The ruins of the Doria Castle (there’s a ghost here called Filomena) sits on the hillside overlooking the town, the caruggi and the main square (as guards once did from the square towers on either side of the castle ruins). You can climb to the top of the hill in the old town (through the caruggi) and walk the ruins and enjoy views over the entire area. The parish church, the Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate is a good example of Baroque architecture with its bell tower built in to the original town walls. The contemporary and modern museum of art is called Pinacoteca Civica G. Morscio and is worth a visit. A relatively new sight in Dolceacqua is the Visionarium where you can take a virtual tour of the Nervia Valley through the seasons of the year. The hills of town feature terraced vineyards that produce the local specialty Rossesse di Dolceacqua and you can visit wineries in the area. Market day in Dolceacqua is Thursday.

Bordighera is a lovely beach town that is relaxed and hospitable. Long ago many illustrious personalities built villas here and today these lovely villas line the streets (as hotels, private homes and shops). There are two sections of town: the new and the old. I particularly like the Citta Vecchia/Citta Alta (old town — it’s only 500 years old — a mere pup compared with the rest of the country) with its town gates, walls and twisting streets. The statue of Magiarge sits in front of the town hall and is very beautiful (this statue commemorates a slave who died when captured by the Saracens). The Romanesque church of Santa Maria Maddalena (17th century) has a campanile/bell tower that was once a Saracen watchtower. Capo Sant’Ampelio is where the hermit of Thebaid (aka Sant’Ampelio) lived. Thebaid/Sant’Ampelio arrived here (at the natural harbor) in the 4th century and became the town’s patron saint. Do make sure you stop in at the Capella di Sant’Ampelio, a small church built in his honor (his relics are here). The Chiesa di Madonna dei Fiori has an interesting nativity scene and scenes from the life of Jesus. The Marabutto is the ancient coastal battery located on a rocky spur. Villa Etalinda (once owned by the Queen of Savoy) is worth a stop if only to compare it to the paintings by Monet. There are plenty of gardens and walks to be taken — relax — enjoy. The Argentina Promenade is 2km long and passes gardens, beaches and friendly folks — a great gathering place. The grand stradas with cafes, villas and hotels are an enjoyable stroll and gander…..and here’s an interesting fact: The Vatican gets their woven palms (called palmureli) for Palm Sunday from Bordighera! They’ve been providing this service for over 100 years. Who knew? Try the cubaite — it’s a sweet treat found right here in town! The town next door is called Ospedaletti and is a smaller version of Bordighera (if you like it a bit slower, stay here).

Apricale is a beautiful hilltop medieval village (9th century) with prehistoric roots. The town is just 8 km from the sea and about 4 km from Dolceacqua…..but here, you’re totally in another world — this is a beautiful charming and interesting little town (filled with frescoes and murals). The town centers about the 11th century Castello della Lucertola (Lizard Castle) and the village circles and falls down the hill from there — terribly evocative (if you’re driving, park the car, the streets are narrow). The castle, today, is a town museum and exhibition center — there’s something going on here all the time (art shows, concerts, meetings — very neat). The museum offers history and legends as well as local artifacts of the town (note the architecture and frescoes inside). The town is characterized by stone walls and buildings, alleys, arches, flowers, frescoes and views…..totally wonderful — thoroughly beautiful. The 13th century Chiesa Cimiteriale di Sant’Antonio is characterized by a mix of Gothic and Baroque arches. The Oratorio di San Bartolomeo is a 12th century church with a 16th century wooden polyptych. The Chiesa della Madonna degli Angeli has lovely frescoes. In the lower town you’ll find a pretty fountain/Fontana. This is a lovely little village.


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