Local Itineraries

Local Itineraries

We are always happy to give any help and advice you may ask for concerning excursions which can be made from here, and to lend you local road maps and guides. We also have walking maps, whether for a gentle stroll in the mountains (perhaps 1-2 hours) or for the more serious walker.

The following is a sample selection of tours that can be made from here:-

  1. Dolceacqua
  2. Apricale
  3. Rocchetta Nervina
  4. Isolabona
  5. Triora and the Argentina Valley
  6. Realdo
  7. Bordighera
  8. Seborga
  9. San Remo
  10. Ceriana and Bussana Vecchia
  11. Taggia
  12. Imperia
  13. The Arroscia Valley, Colle di Nava and the Alpi Liguri
  14. Colle Melosa
  15. Ventimiglia, Hanbury Botanical Gardens, Balzi Rossi
  16. Val Roya
  17. The Parc National du Mercantour and the Vallée des Merveilles
  18. Menton – Town
  19. Menton – the Gardens
  20. Menton to Roquebrune or Monaco coastal walk
  21. Monaco
  22. French villages
  23. The Col de Turini and the Circuit de l’Authion
  24. Villefranche and St Jean-Cap-Ferrat
  25. Nice
  26. The “Alpha” Wolf Sanctuary
  27. Antibes
  28. The Iles de Lérins

1. DolceacquaDolceaqua

Dolceacqua, one of the medieval villages of the Val Nervia, is dominated by the Castello Doria, which was originally built in the 12th century, and extended in the 14th. The River Nervia winds its way through the centre of the village; the medieval bridge that spans it just beneath the castle was famously painted twice by Claude Monet in 1884 (Monet lived in Bordighera for many months). The old part of the village consists of tall houses and narrow streets, forbidden to motor vehicles, and is one of the most picturesque villages in all of Liguria. Also visit the small “Visionarium” cinema (spectacular 3D images of the Val Nervia, plus other programmes e.g. Tibet, Peru, Greenland, Ethiopia, Hawaii, all are beautifully made). In the third week of August there is a spectacular fireworks display here. It is also the home of the celebrated Rossese di Dolceacqua red wine.


2. Apricale

Another spectacular medieval village and cultural centre. In the castle there (the Castello della Lucertola) exhibitions are held from time to time by a variety of artists. Next door to this, is a church spire with a bicycle suspended on the side!

Apricale


3. Rocchetta NervinaRocette swimming

This is the nearest village to Villatalla. The little road which branches off from the main Dolceacqua – Pigna road terminates here, so it is very quiet! In summer it is possible to walk up the little river from the village and find any number of fresh water pools which are superb for swimming. Also situated here are two excellent restaurants serving wonderful Ligurian food.

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4. IsolabonaPizza Oven

The next village up from Dolceacqua, Isolabona hosts an international harp festival every July in the restored castle. Also during the two weekends before Christmas, the festival of the “Antichi Mestieri” is held in the medieval part, where many of the houses are transformed into traditional medieval shops and inns. In the village is to be found a Pizzeria serving the best pizza in this region!


5. Triora and the Argentina Valley

Drive to Pigna, up to Colle Langan, then down to Molini di Triora, and up again to Triora (the “witches’ village”) with fabulous views. This village, perched on top of a hill, was fortified in the 13th century and survived many sieges, and in the 16th century it became famous for a group of women who were expert healers, but following a famine for which (of course) they got the blame, it is said many were put to death as witches.

Andagna autumn 2013


6. Realdo

Up in the mountains behind Triora, stunning Realdo perches on a sheer crag amidst amazing mountain scenery.


7. Bordighera

Famous for its palm trees, and founded by the British. See the Villa Regina Margherita, the Pompeo Mariani Foundation Museum (Mariani was a friend and contemporary of Claude Monet and the finest marine artist of his generation), the Villa Garnier (designed by Charles Garnier who also designed the Casino in Monte Carlo and the Paris Opera House), the Giardini Pallanca with over 3,000 species of cactus and other succulents, the old town (“Città Alta”) which has huge charm, good restaurants and lovely views, and two of the biggest trees you will have ever seen, and the Thursday morning market all along the “lungomare”.

Bordighera


8. Seborga

In a neighbouring valley, Seborga is another perched village, but with the difference that it still claims to be an independent Principality (like Monaco). It is a real curiosity, and well worth a visit.


9. San Remo

Home of Giuseppe Garibaldi and author Italo Calvino, it has a large yacht harbour, the stunning Casino, the classical Villa Ormond with its garden containing many rare and exotic plants, the beautiful Villa Nobel, the 13th century San Siro Cathedral and a Russian Orthodox church, the new Cycle Track that extends for 24 kms on either side of the town (you can hire bikes there), many cultural events throughout the summer, and, of course, shopping!

San Remo


10. Ceriana and Bussana Vecchia  

Drive through Baiardo (a perched village 900 metres up), then down to Ceriana in the Armea valley, a beautiful hill town with tall houses and narrow streets connected by stairways and vaulted passages, with pretty churches and 4 oratories (Ceriana is also famous for its choral singers who perform especially around Easter and in August), then on towards the coast to Bussana Vecchia, a medieval village almost completely destroyed by the 1887 earthquake and which now contains a number of art studios, and finally on to the sea front at Arma di Taggia for a well-deserved “gelato”.

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11. Taggia

This is one of the loveliest medieval villages in Liguria, with vaulted buildings, the fountains known as “braki”, the long bridge across the river and the richly artistic San Domenico Convent. It is the place from where the superb Ligurian “taggiasca” olive originates. In mid-February the delightful and truly impressive festival of San Benedetto takes place in the village, where many of the locals dress up in medieval costume and perform mini-plays in the streets and squares, whilst in another area there is an extensive farmers’ market.

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12. Imperia

The capital of the westernmost province of Liguria, Imperia is really two towns joined together, Porto Maurizio and Oneglia. The most interesting part is the citadel that overlooks Porto Maurizio, where there are many grand buildings, particularly the Convent of Santa Chiara which is in a stunning location. The Duomo is also situated here, though it is perhaps more interesting for its proportions than its architecture. There is an excellent Olive Museum here (the Museo dell’Olivo), which is well worth a visit.


13. The Arroscia Valley, Colle di Nava and the Alpi Liguri

Autostrade to Imperia Est, then head up the valley to Chiusavecchia, Pieve di Teco (a medieval town in the high Arroscia Valley – visit the 13th century Oratory of San Giovanni Battista), then the Colle di Nava at just under 1,000 metres altitude near the Piemonte border, with its shrine dedicated to the Alpini Regiment (the Italian mountain artillery), visit the Forte Centrale, then drive on to Monesi, an Alpine ski resort in winter. Return via the same route. Beautiful Alpine landscapes.


14. Colle Melosa

This is for walkers. Again up to Colle Langan, then turn left to Colle Melosa (altitude 1,550 metres), where there is a refuge which has a bar and a restaurant, walks from there include Monte Grai, the famous “Sentiero degli Alpini” which is challenging but you get the silence of the mountains and heart-stopping views, or just a shorter stroll taking in the varied nature of that area.

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15. Ventimiglia, Hanbury Botanical Gardens, Balzi Rossi

Ventimiglia covered food market, Ventimiglia Alta (the old town) especially the “Cattedrale” with traces from the 8th century, and the Chiesa di San Michele, also wonderful views down to the sea, drive along the coast to the stunning Hanbury Gardens at La Mortola, the largest botanical gardens in Europe, originally created by Sir Thomas Hanbury of London in the 1860s, and containing plants from all over the world, finally drive to Balzi Rossi right on the border with France, visit the caves and the Museum with prehistoric remains, opportunity to swim there.

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16. Val Roya

ValRoya-100_2636-RESIZED300x389The valley that extends north of Ventimiglia. Breil-sur-Roya, the stunning perched village of Saorge built on seemingly impossible terrain, with its 15th century Eglise St Sauveur and the 17th century Franciscan Monastère de Saorge, St Dalmas-de-Tende perhaps best known for its railway station building erected on the orders of Mussolini to “assert Italy’s omnipotence” at its then frontier, ancient La Brigue and the extraordinary 12th century Chapel of Notre Dame des Fontaines, the Col de Brouis, the ancient market town of Sospel on the Bevera river, the relatively young village of Castillon famous for its harmonious architecture, flowers and art galleries, then Menton and home. Gorgeous landscapes.


 

17. The Parc National du Mercantour and the Vallée des Merveilles

Drive up the Val Roya to Tende, there visit the excellent and fascinating (and free) Musée des Merveilles, also the cemetery, atop the hill overlooking the town, where Clarence Bicknell, the British naturalist and explorer, was buried, then drive back to St Dalmas-de-Tende, turn right up the Vallon de la Minière towards Casterino, the Parc du Mercantour can be accessed either from the Lac des Mesches or from Casterino. The hamlet of Casterino contains a few small hotels with restaurants and little else, but from there you can walk up into the mountains and pastures in the midst of absolutely spectacular scenery, these walks can be as short or long as desired. A longer walk (or a guided tour either on foot or in 4-by-4s) will bring you to the ancient “Merveilles” – tens of thousands of rock engravings and carvings dating back to 3,200BC originally discovered and recorded by Clarence Bicknell, in the late 19th century.

If you wish to do both tours 16 and 17, best to include Tende and its museum in tour 16, to give you maximum time in the Mercantour.Mercantour


18. Menton town

Park near the harbour, visit Vieux Menton especially the Basilique St Michel l’Archange, the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, and the fascinating Cimetière du Vieux Chateau from which there are commanding views of the whole of the bay of Menton, and where the grave of the Rev William Webb Ellis is located (he founded the game of rugby), the charming Monastère de l’Annonciade (again wonderful views), the covered food market open weekday mornings, many beautiful buildings, the yacht harbour, the long beaches, and over 100 restaurants to choose from.

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19. Menton – the gardens

These are outstanding, and they are all very different from one other – the Jardin Serre de la Madone created by American Lawrence Johnston (who had already started the garden at Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire, England), the exotic Jardin Val Rahmeh, the Jardin Fontana Rosa with its Spanish ceramics, the Jardin Maria Serena on the sea front and attributed to Charles Garnier, and the citrus fruit Jardin du Palais Carnolès.

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20. Menton to Roquebrune or Monaco coastal walk

Park in car park on Cap Martin at the far end of Menton, walk the coastal path around Cap Martin (great views of Menton and Monaco), enter Roquebrune, picnic either on the Plage du Buse or the Golfe Bleu which are either side of the Pointe de Cabbé, then either walk back on the road to Carnolès, or take the train back there from Roquebrune, or for the more adventurous, continue along the coastal path to Monaco (tea and cakes at the Café de Paris?), and return by train from there. These trains are frequent and cheap.

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21. Monaco

Can easily be reached by train as well as by car, Monaco really is precipitous, and has gigantic skyscrapers. Visit Monaco Cathedral, the Casino, the Café de Paris, the State Apartments at the Prince’s Palace, the huge Oceanographic Museum, the steep Jardins Exotiques and caves, and the harbour containing many super-yachts of the mega-rich. You can also walk part of the route of the Monaco Grand Prix (or even attend it, if you like noise).

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22. French Villages

Saint Agnès, the highest coastal village on the Cote d’Azur, with its extensive underground Fort (the last in the Maginot Line before the Mediterranean) which can be visited in summer, a medieval castle and a couple of good restaurants, Gorbio, Roquebrune (the upper Vieux Village), La Turbie above Monaco with the Trophée des Alpes, an impressive monument built by the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Further inland towards the mountains, there are a number of very pretty small villages.

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23. The Col de Turini and the Circuit de l’Authion

Drive to Menton, then head north to Sospel, and continue on the D2566 through the Gorges du Piaon, see the Chapel of Notre Dame de la Menour near the road, through Moulinet and up to the Col de Turini at 1,600m (bars and restaurants), follow signs to “L’Authion” (approx 1,900m), where you can either drive around the “Circuit” or you can walk it (not difficult walking, about 9 kms). The scenery is absolutely breathtaking.

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24. Villefranche and St Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Monaco exit from autoroute A8, take the Moyenne Corniche (spectacular coastal views) through Eze village (perched high up overlooking the sea), at Villefranche, a delightful seaside town, visit the Citadel with its gardens and museums, the Rue Obscure and the Eglise St Michel in the old part, and the lovely harbour, then St Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, an absolutely beautiful Villa and Gardens complete with jolly musical fountains, the Villa Kerylos (built in ancient Greek style), Beaulieu-sur-Mer, then return by the coastal road through Eze-Bord-de-Mer and back up to the autoroute.

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25. Nice

Park near the harbour, walk to the Cours Saleya with its markets (flowers, fruit and veg, antiques), museums (all free) such as the Palais Massena Museum, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Musée des Beaux Arts, the Musée des Arts Asiatiques, the Musée Matisse and the Musée Chagall, also the Palais Lascaris, the fabulous Russian Orthodox Cathedral (the largest one outside Russia), the Place Massena, the Jardin Albert 1er, and the Chateau sited on a hill overlooking the whole of Nice, amongst many other monuments and sites, also the famous Promenade des Anglais extending for several kilometres along the sea front.


26. The “Alpha” Wolf Sanctuary

Autoroute to Nice, then north towards Digne, turn right into the Gorges de la Vésubie, through Lantosque, Roquebillière, and St Martin-Vésubie, continue north to Le Boréon (beautiful cascade), the sanctuary is just after. Opened in 2005, it is extremely well laid out, plenty of space for the wolves to roam – you can enjoy watching them from hides – and don’t miss feeding time! If time, from St Martin-Vésubie drive up the stupendous Vallon de la Madone de Fenestre – truly beautiful.


27. Antibes

Autoroute A8 to the fascinating ancient town of Antibes, follow “Centre Ville”, then “Port Vauban” which is a very large harbour with a vast number of yachts of all sizes, park there or in car parks nearby. Explore the small medieval streets and squares, visit the covered food market open on weekday mornings, the Picasso Museum in the Chateau Grimaldi, the ramparts, the huge 16th century Fort Carré with its museum, and enjoy the long sandy beaches. Drive on along the coastal road southwards, to the sandy Plage de la Garoupe, a truly enchanting spot where you can stop for lunch at the “Le Rocher” restaurant just where the beach starts and eat literally at the water’s edge (exceptionally reasonable prices considering where you are). There’s a lovely walk from there around the point. Then visit Cap d’Antibes, Juan les Pins, and back to the autoroute.

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28. The Iles de Lérins

A wonderful day out. Autoroute to Cannes, park at the main harbour, ferry to the Ile Ste Marguerite (15mins), spend the day there walking on level footpaths amongst umbrella pines and eucalyptus trees, swimming in the sea, enjoying the tranquillity (well away from the chaos of Cannes!) and the wildlife, and visiting the Fort Royal, the fortress prison in which the so-called Man in the Iron Mask was held prisoner in the 17th century. Alternatively take the ferry from Cannes to the smaller Ile St Honorat (30 mins), where there is a monastery, and even more tranquillity!

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