A New Ligurian Adventure in Laigueglia and Colla Micheri

July 7, 2020

It seems as though everywhere I look I see beach umbrellas spaced for social distancing, and the deep blue Mediterranean Sea.

After my first long train ride since the lockdown in Italy, I arrived in Western Liguria, the west side of Genoa, a place for new exploration. Those chairs are calling my name. But this adventure is so much more than visiting the sea. I want to explore what Liguria has to offer for you and for me. Come along with me. You will be surprised at all there is to experience. 

First, the trains have social distancing and directions to assist travelers in keeping spaces between them.

You enter your train car from one door and exit from the other.

Every other seat is left vacant, even on the least expensive trains.

There are fewer travelers and we are required to wear masks. Nearly everyone complies. It was a long   2 ½ hour train ride. In Loano, I was met by my new friend Gabriele, my Tour Leader—leading my private tour of 1 person. Gabriele is an Italian who is also fluent in English. For the next several days, he would become a friend to laugh with, an interpreter when my Italian faltered and an assistant to me as I searched for new adventures. 

I arrived in time for Pranzo, Lunch. We chose a local restaurant,

Across from the beach. We both enjoyed trofie pasta with pesto sauce, potatoes and green beans. We sat outdoors at well-spaced tables and got to know one another. It was in the back, on a lovely piazza.

We would explore the town of Loano later. Now we were off to explore Laigueglia (pronounced lay-gway-gli-aaa.) I kept repeating that name, working to get it right!

Laigueglia began as a town of fishermen as did most towns along the Ligurian Coast. As we walked through this medieval archway, I found a fine sand beach, a pier and breaker, and many happy Italians swimming. We saw sailing lessons occurring on what looked like toy sailboats.

Visible also is Isola Gallinara, the small island of the hens, where all hens and chickens have lived for quite a while without humans interfering. It is NOT a tourist spot. Occasionally, people are allowed to visit or dive near it. There is a proprietor who makes certain that the island remains a nature preserve. For me, it was a point of orientation as I traveled along this coastline and above it. 

Also, on the beach, we found the remains of a tower used to fight off the Saracens who attacked along the coastline in the 1500s.

Below is the back side with ancient stairs.

It as stood watch for the people a very long time.

Laigueglia is so much more than the beach. It is one of I Borghi piu belli d’italia, One of the most beautiful towns in Italy. These towns are not only beautiful but also maintain their heritage, their history, for future generations. Here, you find the well maintained, beautifully colored structures,

Along narrow, winding streets.

Even along the shoreline all the structures are preserved. 

The church in the center of the above photo is the Church of San Matteo. It’s baroque style is complemented by twin towers that have a definite Arabic/Saracen feel to them. This is a place I will re-visit. Maybe I will spend a vacation on the beach here. Wouldn’t you?

Alas, my Tour leader was a harsh master—no beach time for me. We had made plans to explore what is sometimes called the hinterlands, the less populated towns away from the sea.

Ciao, ciao, Laigueglia. We are on our way to a medieval, hilltop hideaway.

We have arrived at Colla Micheri, a village with a long history and a fable.

There is a tale of the Saracen invasion along the Ligurian Coast. It is said that when they reached this medieval hideaway high above the sea, they fell in love with it and decided to stay. 

For centuries the village was occupied but eventually it was abandoned by most residents. Then came Thor Heyerdal, The Norwegian navigator of Kon Tiki. Like the Saracens before him, he fell in love with the town, its climate and location and chose to spend his last years in Colla Micheri. He assisted in renovations all across the village.

People began to move back to live in this time warp town.

Here’s Gabriele enjoying the walk and the shade inside the stone tunnel.

Thor Heyerdal is buried beneath a Saracen tower from the 1500s. And thanks to him, Colla Micheri is a hidden gem once again, a place to experience a taste of what life was like in medieval times. 

If you are a hiker, you can hike up to this village from Laigueglia. I am not fit enough to do that. Thank God for Gabriele and his automobile.

Farewell to the Church of San Sabastiano, once visited by the POPE.

We drove down to the seaside and I finally checked into my hotel in Alassio, Hotel Mediterrenee. The lungomare is across the street. I can walk a bit there before sleeping. 

Would you enjoy the towns I have visited? Did you feel as though you were with Gabriele and me? Write to me and let me know. Marilyn@TakeMeHomeItaly.com

There is so much more to tell. Next week will be even more exciting! 

A dopo!

Ciao for now!

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