Very often, when I go back home to my parents near Imperia, I decide to dedicate a whole day or part of it to a path that I love very much and that I enjoy every time: the cycle path of the “Riviera dei Fiori”, in Liguria.
It is a 24 km route, born on the ancient railway sediment of the route that from Genoa led to the border and beyond, to France. It can be traveled by bicycle and on foot; during the day, in the evening, in summer and in winter thanks to the climatic conditions which are always very favorable here.
But above all, it is a journey: in the heart of western Liguria and the “Riviera dei Fiori”, through the streets that give shape to the alleys (“caruggi”) of the villages overlooking the sea, between the sound of the waves slamming on the rocks and the blinding color of the bushes of Bougainville in bloom.
To sum up, the right way to discover this far and sometimes forgotten strip of land, yet so particular and fascinating to leave anyone speechless.
The current cycle path itinerary is distributed along the coast between the municipalities of San Lorenzo al Mare and Ospedaletti, in the province of Imperia. The last stretch, which will connect San Lorenzo to Andora, towards Savona, will be completed in the next few years and at various times, extending the journey of the route which, in this way, will reach 50 km in length.
The old railway track on which the cycle path stands today was moved upstream in the early 2000s, to solve a problem that has always plagued this stretch characterized by the presence of a single track, which causes many inconveniences to rail traffic. With the shifting of the line, this corner of Liguria has rediscovered itself, giving the possibility to us who have grown up here, to experience and get to know more closely each glimpse, gulf or road that characterizes it.
A thousand times, in this way, we decided to go to the sea by bicycle, placing the towel on one of the many piers that protrude below the road, where the water is transparent and blends with the blue sky; other times we used the cycle path to spend a Sunday in the open air, even during the colder months. We also used it during the summer Saturday nights to go dancing, allowing us to have a few more glasses.
Moreover, this path gave us the opportunity to live in a new way our land of origin, getting closer to the small towns that populate the coast and, at the same time, to the inland characterized by the many valleys that descend towards the sea.
Sometimes you go inside Sanremo, to let yourself be carried away by the colors and noises of a city that never stops. Other times to stretch along the Val Prino, in the heart of the villages perched on the hill and those that rise at the bottom of the valley, on the banks of the river. You can decide to pedal a little more to reach “Bussana Vecchia” (Old Bussana), sadly unique because of the earthquake that at the end of the 19th century completely razed it and today even more particular thanks to the artists who live there, that gave it a new shape. You can walk in the “budello” (i.e. gut or intestine of a town or village) of small seaside villages such as Riva Ligure or San Lorenzo, breathing the sea air, as well as “climbing” on the heights of the “Cipressa“, one of the historic climbs that mark the path of “Milano – Sanremo“. Oh yes, from which other spot could you admire the rapid and colorful passage of the caravan that every year, in spring, marks the beginning of the cycling season?! Right here where the Giro d’Italia started in 2015. Walking a little longer, finally, you can reach France, clearly visible at all times and even more during the clear late summer mornings.
Pedaling or walking here, among the tunnels and small stations that for more than a century have marked the rhythm of trains bound for France, has a different flavor, softened by the many panoramas that, like in a puzzle, make up the “Riviera dei Fiori”.
Land of fishermen, sailors and farmers. Steep and angular land, made sweeter to the eye only by the fronds of the thousand olive trees that round off its forms. A hidden and dear place that lives within me always showing itself in the same shapes, sweet and light.
I close my eyes, the sound of cicadas accompanies my gaze beyond the branches of a maritime pine overlooking the sea just below. I see the glitter of the sun on the waves, someone hurries to get into the water, a deep voice pronounces a few words, with a strong Ligurian accent. Colors and scents are mixed in a single bright and alive spot. I eat a piece of focaccia while looking at the horizon that hides the immense depth of the sea in the background. I go and come back, it’s almost evening. I stop at the port, next to the small moored goiters that will soon return to sail these waters, giving those who are on them the opportunity to live a new and different experience every time without ever losing sight of the safe profile of our promontories.
Rugged and distant land. But beautiful.