Feet in France, head in Italy
The region of the Italian-French border on the Mediterranean Coast is well-known for its sapphire water. But hiking enthusiasts won’t come short when it comes to Liguria either. And we don’t only mean the famous paths of Cinque Terre. We had some fantastic time in the South-Western part of Liguria, where Italy meets France.
We chose the trek to the Southernmost two-thousander of the Alps, Monte Pietravecchia. The path follows the historic mountain route Sentiero degli Alpini built by Italian soldiers in WW2.
Monte Pietravecchia hike
After delicious breakfast in one of the B&Bs on the coast, head North to Pigna and Colle della Melosa. After about an hour and a half, you will reach a mountain guesthouse called Rifugio Allavena, where you can park your car for the day.
From there continue on foot following a white-red sign. Hike for about 15 minutes through a larch forest until you reach a part of the spectacular trail Sentiero degli Alpini.
After that, follow the path for the canyon Gola dell’Incisa and Passo della Valletta until you reach Monte Pietravecchia after a few curves. The trail is very well marked, just be sure to follow the signs.
From the top, you’ll have a fantastic view over French and Italian Maritime Alps.
The small roads and mountain passes once played an important role in the trade between Southern and Northern Alpine territories.
On your way down, head again for Colle Melosa. Be sure to take the longer route down on Sentiero degli Alpini over Passo di Fonte Dragurina to Rifugio Allavena.
Sentiero degli Alpini was built at the beginning of WW2 by soldiers to protect the Western Italian border. On the way to Monte Pietravecchia, you’ll find bunker ruins from both, WW1 and WW2.
Despite the fact, that this all had been built to keep the border safe, today you can freely hike between Italy and France.
Only a border stone now and then reminds you of the fact, that your head is in Italy while your feet are still on French soil.
The hike takes about four hours. Count in some time for the photo- and bunker-stops.
A word of advice: Take some snacks and enough water with you. Besides Rifugio Allavena, there is no mountain hut or guesthouse on the way.
Town of witches
If you are up to a little road-trip after the hike, head for the medieval town of witches – Triora – located about 30 km from Rifugio Allavena. The beautiful citadel was the site of the last witch trial held in Italy.
If a there were an Italian School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Triora would be the place for it. Witches are omnipresent. There is a witch monument; you can try a glass of witch liquor and buy countless witch souvenirs.
Located conveniently above the Valle Argentina on the road connecting the Mediterranean coast with the Alps, it once used to be a prosperous merchant town full of palazzi.
Now it counts around 450 inhabitants, only an eighth of the late 1800s population. During a walk through the narrow medieval streets, you’ll find ruins of the old palazzi and merchant houses. A black cat will cross your way once in a while, that’ll make your experience even spookier.
How to get there
We drove down from Munich through Switzerland. The closest airports are Nice in France and Genova in Italy.
Renting a car is the best way to explore the region. Keep in mind that you’ll have to pay a toll on Italian and French highways. Credit cards are generally accepted. If you want to drive from Switzerland, you’ll need a highway vignette beforehand. Also, check the gas prices in advance. Italy is typically more expensive than France.
Where to stay
If you want to stay close to the coast, you’ll find some excellent B&Bs in the towns of San Remo, Bordighera and Ventimiglia close to the French border. We chose a lovely B&B Villa dei Pini in Vallecrosia. Freshly picked figs from the villa’s garden were on our breakfast table every morning.
If you look for the perfect combination of mountains, sea and history, Western Liguria is the place to be.
More posts about Italy, our favourite European destination are coming.