The Queen of the Ligurian Hills

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Apricale is not only picturesque but also a great base for hiking trips into the Riviera’s mountainous hinterland

Apricale may well be the most beautiful but is certainly the most visually stunning of all the towns on the Ligurian hills. Growing out of the cliffside like something perhaps not altogether benign …

"Village perched on Ligurian Hills"

… the town has preserved much of its ancient, medieval atmosphere …

"alleways in Ligurian Hills"

… and a certain sense of mystery.

"Old church belfry in a town in the Ligurian Hills"

What’s more, Apricale is surrounded by all kinds of hiking routes, from short strolls that give you a first taste of the Alps to longer walks – half-day as well as full-day trips – in the direction of remote neighbouring villages such as Baiardo and beyond.

"hiking trail in the Ligurian Hills of Apricale

Now for the bad news: Apricale is highly inconvenient to reach by public transport. There are only three buses per day from the local traffic hub of Ventimiglia and the first of those three buses leaves Ventimiglia very early in the morning, before the arrival of any train from near-by towns in either Italy or France. So, for all practical purposes, only the mid-day service is of any use for hikers.

This bus service leaves Ventimiglia at a quarter past one and arrives in Apricale at around two, so time is short and you will need to know precisely where you are going so you can be back in time for the evening bus.

Which is where Robert comes in. Robert* has been living in Apricale for several years and, in between assignments as an English teacher in schools all over the area, he organizes hiking tours for individuals, couples and larger groups.

"Hiking guide Robert in Ligurian Hills of Apricale"

Robert took us on a short tour around the edges of Apricale which featured splendid views …

"Village of Apricale in the valleys of the Ligurian Hills"

… and even a brief visit to the mountain refugium of Captain Charlie who, in between sailing Riviera yachts from one billionaire’s playground to the other, retires to the hills that overlook Apricale, like a character straight out of Joseph Conrad. (There are many members of Apricale’s growing ex-pat community who have a story to tell.)

"living on the Ligurian Hills of Apricale"

The visual highlight of our hike was the trip to the ridge that separates Apricale from its even wilder hinterland. Over there, it is hard to believe that you are only a half-hour bus ride and a one-hour walk away from the coastal resorts of the Riviera. You really do feel that you are standing on the edge of a vast, barren and cold hostile wilderness” (although ‘hostilities’ only start a dozen miles or so from there, and you can still hike for many hours past farms, villages and restaurants before nature will engage you in actual combat.)

"springtime view from the top of the Ligurian Hills in Apricale"

Over the past century or so, the close vicinity to the Riviera has been a decidedly mixed blessing for Apricale and its region.

Read also: The Grand Finale in Liguria

In contrast to the Riviera, however, the area is not so much affected by suburban sprawl but by its very opposite, rural migration and flight: traces of agriculture are still everywhere, …

"old neglected farm terraces in Ligurian Hills of Apricale"

… but the people who used to practice it all seem to have disappeared.

"shelter ruins in the Ligurian Hills of Apricale"

The village itself, however, appears to have found an alternative industry – tourism, of course. Apricale markets itself as the perfect base for people who enjoy their days by the seaside (Riviera resorts such as Ventimiglia and Bordighera are only 15 km away) but also their peace and quiet.

Read also: The Five Walks in Finale Liguria

One final advice: do not plan your hiking schedule too tightly and leave some time at the end for a brief exploration of Apricale itself.

The town has a pretty central piazza …

"town piazza of Apricale"

… and displays a wide range of modern artworks ever since its charms were discovered by painters and sculptors in the 1960s.

"paintings on the old house walls in Apricale"

The very same artist communities were also responsible for the now famous bicycle on the steeple of the village church. (See 3rd photo.)

If you want to use Apricale as a base for both coastal and mountain hikes, Robert will be pleased to assist you. He can also give you advice where to stay if you decide to spend more time in the town than a single afternoon, a week-end perhaps or an entire holiday.

Hikers in a hurry, meanwhile, can go to Robert’s website where he provides you with a choice of hikes that you can do on your own.

*You can contact Robert via email: [email protected] Skype: robert-west or call him on: 0034 7854 7979.

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