Land of seaside villages such as Camogli, Portofino, the Cinque Terre, Genoa and its carruggi; Liguria also hides a less touristy and authentic soul that reveals itself, in the Ponente area, with the intimate beauty of its hinterland, its colors and scents, the poignant and sour charm of the villages perched along the valleys.
This journey starts from the sea and goes backward following the quiet course of a river, Argentina, which bathes the homonymous valley. The mouth of the river is located in the hamlet of Arma in the municipality of Taggia a few kilometers from the most exuberant and chaotic Sanremo. Going back upstream, we arrive near the historic center of Taggia, a city of ancient origins that reaches its peak when it becomes a vassal of the Republic of Genoa.
Walking through the narrow streets of the historic center, such as via Soleri, you can still see the coats of arms of noble families resting on the doors, while all around the city you can see the remains of the perimeter walls, the defensive towers and even the castle, now restored and used in summer as a theater (walking around is free but requires comfortable shoes).
The river Argentina, which once flowed on the edge of the city, has, from the Middle Ages, a long Romanesque bridge that is still accessible on foot. The best months to enjoy Taggia and its genuine charm and folklore, are undoubtedly those of February and March, the months when the most important town events are hosted: the “furgari” and the historic parade. The night of the “furgari” relives an episode of the Middle Ages in which the taggiaschi succeeded in deceiving the Saracen pirates making them believe that the city had already been looted.
The stratagem consisted of lighting large bonfires in all the streets and going around the streets carrying the “furgari”, instruments similar to torches which, when loaded with black powder, produced harmless sparks. The historical parade takes place a few weeks after the night of the “furgari” and, in addition to people dressed in medieval clothes, it also offers the opportunity to admire shows in Ligurian dialect in every district of the city.
On the gastronomic side, however, I recommend tasting the canestrelli (Sandro Canestrelli, piazza G. Garibaldi, Taggia), also excellent as travel souvenirs and, obviously, to stock up on taggiasca olive oil, characteristic for its strong but tasty flavor.
Going along the Provincial Road 548 for about forty minutes you will reach a detour that can lead either to the village of Verdeggia or to that of Realdo. Realdo is an ancient village perched on a cliff and, during the winter, it is almost uninhabited.
The silence that welcomes the visitor, allows to enjoy more the intimate and solitary atmosphere, typical of Liguria, also mentioned by Montale in his poems. The village can be visited only on foot but there is a convenient parking at its entrance. Furthermore, it is well signposted a path that leads to a small cave used, in the Copper Age, as a burial place by the ancient inhabitants of the place.
Returning to the sea, instead, you meet another village perched on a hill: Triora.
What makes this small country special is its past linked to the alleged witchcraft attributed to the women who lived there. Triora, in fact, is known as “the country of witches” as it was the first in Europe to formalize the witch hunt through the Inquisition. The village has remained almost intact in its historic buildings and is also only accessible on foot (but has convenient parking nearby). There is a pedestrian path full of information boards that illustrate the history and local folklore, as well as several themed shops.
At the entrance to the historic center is the Triora ethnographic museum (the ticket costs a few euros) in which are kept some species of taxidermied wild animals and the finds of rural life in the village. To eat, I recommend the restaurant “L’erba gatta” (via Roma 6, Triora) which offers a menu with typical Ligurian cuisine (with specialties such as “ciapazoi” and “brandacujun”: the first are maltagliati, while the second a dish to stoccafisso base). The proposed itinerary can also be done in half a day, by car or better, by motorbike. You can also travel by bike but in longer times.