Few people, even those who love Italy, seem to know where Liguria is. Some refer to it as the Italian Riviera but as this only refers to the coastal strip of resort towns and sleepy fishing villages, I prefer to use its regional name of Liguria which includes the hinterland (between the coast and the hills) and the mountainous interior which is in fact the majority of the region. Government statistics say that ten percent of the population of Liguria inhabit ninety percent of its landmass, the rest being crammed into the coastal strip which is further populated during the high season mainly, it seems to me, by Milanese and other Italian families from the north, rather than the more international crowds found along the coast of the Cote d’Azur. This narrow boomerang shaped strip of coastal land, a mere eight kilometres at its narrowest, rises steeply up to the foothills of the Italian Alps and is famously divided into two. Levante the eastern coast being the land around the ancient port of Genoa, the region’s capital, the UNESCO heritage site of Cinque Terres and touristy and overpriced Portofino down to Liguria’s most easterly point, La Spezia, bordering the north west of Tuscany.
Pontente the western Riviera leans far more towards France as its history has been entwined with what is now the French region of Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur for millennia and the local dialect seems to me as much French as Italian.
Most people arrive in Liguria along the autostrada having landed at either of the international airports of Genoa or Nice. Imperia our coastal town is really equidistant between the two, if not in kilometres, certainly in time, as the drive from Nice is along a far easier section of this famous autostrada of tunnels and bridges than the precarious, primarily two lane, lorry laden route to Genoa.
The best way to arrive in the region though is from Milan or Turin driving down through the Ligurian Apennine hills through dimly lit tunnels from the fog bound plains of the Po valley.
Driving through the last tunnel you suddenly arrive in a new land - one of light, warm air, brightly painted houses, exotic flowers and palms. Extraordinary faux gothic architecture, fantasy castles hidden behind estate walls and ancient pines.
Mar Ligure. Mare Nostrum. Middle Sea. Mediterranean.
The bridge at Dolce Aqua, Riviera Pontente, and Mendatica from the hills
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