If you fancy going somewhere really exotic and different for a minibreak, try Liguria.
The Italian province that borders the Alpes-Maritimes is a world away from Côte d’Azur, especially if you venture a little way inland.
Although the coast boasts a jewel in Bordighera and a shopping heaven in San Remo, many casual visitors are put off by what seems to be a jumbly coastal sprawl. Turn up the valleys and an unspoilt world of beautiful villages and stunning landscapes opens up before you. Here you will eat delicious fresh food at half the price you’re used to paying in France and be treated as an honoured guest.
Helping hand: Lorenzo Gariano guiding on Monte MongoieThe contadini – proud to be “peasants” – work the land and seem still to be able to carry vast paniers up the steep terraces well into their eighties.
Probably the best way to really get to know this hidden gem is on foot, and there is no better guide to the region than Lorenzo Gariano.
Lorenzo spent his childhood in Liguria, then moved to the UK to find work. He used his training as a horticulturalist to build a successful interior garden business. Now back in his beloved homeland, he has turned a lifelong passion for hiking into Walking Liguria, which takes it’s clients mostly from the UK, although he has a loyal following amongst English speakers from the 06 and 83.
Lorenzo makes a most absorbing walking companion as has seen the world from places that most mortals can never tread. He was the third Italian to have completed the awesome Seven Summits, climbing the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.
He has a host of accommodation options available in the village of Poggi near Imperia, from a well-equipped studio he owns to an agriturismo where you can sip the owner’s excellent Vermentino wine while gazing out to see from a hilltop terrace. With his perfect knowledge of English and Italian, and understanding of the local cultures and traditions, you are assured of a very professional, caring and attentive guide.
Lorenzo is happy to accompany the less energetic on motorised tours of the region, with visits to historic harbours, magical villas, and hillside restaurants. What is amazing is how much ground you can cover even on a day trip over the border.
Another bonus of a trip to Liguria is the chance to buy plants, from a pot of basil to lemon tree, at very reasonable prices (the main commercial activity at this end of Liguria is growing plants and flowers). Booze and fags are both considerably cheaper than in France, but you are warned: fuel is more expensive.