It’s a fall early morning, and we’re in that part of the year where we’re beginning to pay for those long, long summer days. Every day when we get out of bed we think the clock must be wrong, because it looks like the middle of the night outside. Yes, daylight savings will come. I’ll probably miss it. This kind of happens when it’s not on the same day as US daylight savings time and we don’t follow a lot of Dutch media.
We’ve had the kind of weather that sees public trashbins overflowing with busted umbrellas, shoved in and discarded. And I’m sitting here trying to recall the hot summer days of July in Liguria, in what should be the much-overdue counterpart to last month’s Apricale post.
Italy’s Liguria region has its up-and-down landscape for hiking and exploring those hilltop villages, but after a good hike on a sweaty-hot afternoon (or morning), my second thought (after: what can I eat?) was always: now can I go swimming?
While we were staying in Apricale we drove the 9km twice to the town Rochetta Nervina, following the description on the Apricale Info hiking page. We thought that maybe the directions on finding the pools of the Barbaira River seemed scant, but as often turned out in this area, scant directions sufficed. The town had a signed public parking lot, and its location at the intersection of two forceful streams made for some nice bridges and views. We took a quick walk through Rochetta Nervina, finding that the east side of the bridges (the far side, from the public parking lot) was cute but residential (not a lot going on), and the other side had one little stretch of restaurants and cafes.
Following some people who looked water-ready (and a kid with a pizza) we quickly found an identifiable trail running along the west side of the river, just at the top of the town. From here you could hike (real shoes recommended, though we saw people doing it in sandals) as far as you wanted, with pools of various size appearing through the rocks on your right. We even saw some canyoners making their way down the river. There was a similar trail on the opposite bank, but we never accessed it.
I think we’ve got some old aqueducts in these photos as well—the Romans were here, and Ventimiglia (coming up) was one of their main cities. As you might expect, the water in these pools (coming from the mountains) was cold. Really cold. I loved the scenery but was content with a quick dip, and then resting on a rock until I got overwarm again. The pool below is also the site where we said farewell to my $10, probably seven-year-old sunglasses. Brown plastic sunglasses: Brought on numerous trips. Considered lost many times over the years. Once left on the subway in Athens, returned for, and found, still sitting on the seat. Lost forever when they tumbled off the rock I was sitting on and into the water at Rochetta Nervina.
In between our two several-day stints in Apricale, we spent two nights on the coast, the Riviera dei Fiori (Riviera of Flowers). When we were doing our research the coastal town of San Remo came up a lot, for accommodations and activities—but we weren’t grabbed by it (as it seemed the most touristy) and our host in Apricale also steered us away. We settled on Ventimiglia, Italy’s last stand before the French border, and I loved this town. It offers the best of multiple worlds by having a beautiful, charming old town; and a newer area of town with shops, restaurants, nightlife, and supermarkets. The two sections are linked by a bridge at an easy distance to go back and forth by foot (assuming a reasonable level of fitness, as some of the streets in the old town are steep).
The beach in the new town was rocky, and most of the beaches in this area are. Luckily, our host directed us to one of the few (it might actually have been the only?) sand beaches. It was a short walk from our B&B in the old town—if not the easiest walk.
The marker in the top corner (“A”) is the fringe of the old town. Above where it says “Corso Verdi” (in the center) was public parking—often crowded, but we always had a spot and left our car there overnight as well without problem. Then, across the road toward the water, between the dark-roofed building and the terra cotta ones, is a path. You can see it winding through the green toward the water, where it switchbacks a few times as you go down. It’s not unsafe–there are steps, and even railings–but the uphill later on is a beast.
The beach the path leads to isn’t a ton of real estate. There are some people on the rocks in the foreground and then camped out on the narrow sand area. But it was beautiful, and the water was clear and warm, without too many waves (just my style).
There were other tourists here, but the main frequenters were Italian, and I have to say: the gene pool in this area appears to be a good one. At one point my husband said being at the beach was making him feel bad about himself, and I knew what he meant. I’d been sitting there formulating questions about hair removal I was too embarrassed to ask.
There’s not much shade, and the July sun was powerful. We wound up buying a cheap beach umbrella on our second day (and making it a gift to our rental car). To my surprise, there was actually a basic snackbar, and a toilet and outdoor shower as well. This beach was one of my favorite spots on our trip.
The buildings of Ventimiglia’s old town were traditionally painted in a trompe l’oeil style, creating the illusion of shutters and adornment around the windows. Our host at the B&B explained to us that, unfortunately, these paintings are costly to refurbish, and so current owners wanting to upkeep their properties will simply paint over them.
Ventimiglia’s old town was quiet at night. In the squares kids were running off the day’s steam, much like in Apricale. The new town had a lovely covered market and a plethora of gelato options—which made the hike back up from the beach all the more worthwhile.