The Cycle Path of West Liguria
- March 24, 2019
- Residence Oliveto
Another day in paradise…
It’s not the usual article about the Cycle Path of Western Liguria, but it’s the Cycle Path told by Madeleine, a road cyclist, using it on daily basis. Being swedish it also natural that she is riding it watching and exploring it from a different ‘eye’ and therefore appreciating it for what the locals might be taken for granted.
–“Another day in paradise” …… is without doubt what pops up in my mind each time I find myself on the cycle path as being close to where I live, often used as a starter and end of my rides.
This cycle path is constructed on what once was the ex-railway trail, between Genoa – Ventimiglia (confining to France), uniting the villages along the coast of ‘Riviera Ligure’ from San Lorenzo al Mare (east) to Ospedaletti (west).
Consequently, all the ex-railway stations along the path are converted into various bike rentals, bars a/o charming inns for a pit stop of any kind. These 24 km, in each direction, divided clearly painted in 3 parts; 2 cycling directions and a separate line for pedestrians are to me, very much a car free paradise.
The cycling is always along the famous “Riviera dei Fiori”- Coastal Park, totally car free as well as from any kind of motorized vehicle with the Mediterrean Sea always on one side. Above all, it’s an open paradise that can be used all year around and for everybody….and, useless to say, an excellent choise for families with children and an outdoor activity.
Completely asphalt paved, with plenty stops where to take a break of any kind; a snack, a photo shooting, a ‘rest or stretch’-session, lunch or just some sunbathing enjoying a coffe at the dehors of any of the plenty restoring services offered ‘along the road’.
Let’s go together to experience this path starting at San Lorenzo al Mare.
San Lorenzo al Mare is a typical ligurian village and arriving by car, you’ll find a large parking lot at the old ex-railway station, now remade into one of the many rental services offered to public. Here is also the exact spot where the cycle path starts and I’ll wait for you here …. No worries if you didn’t bring your own bike …at the rental shop you’ll find a vast choise; race / mountain / assisted-rickshaw for up to 6 persons / tandem / rollers / skateboards…. There are also equipment to bring along small children not using their own vehicule. In one way or the other ….we’ll be rolling.
In 2015 the GdI (Giro d’Italia) started with the 1st Stage of ca. 18km. A Team Chrono Race on the very Cycle Path. For the occasion a huge and pink GdI-bike was built and placed exactly where the cycle path starts. It is still there and some illumination has been added so it can be admired also by night.
I went down to watch them pass by an placed myself in one of the many ‘parking pockets’ along the path where one can take a pause. Standing there at less than 1 mt distance when each team passed is something I will never forget…the ‘whirlpool feeling’ was simply hilarious ….after the first team had passed I kept my distance. Consider they kept a speed of avg. 53km/hr.
Like the Pro’s that day in May ’15, we will now start our ride and we will not be pedaling for long until we’ll front the first long tunnel. It’s an excellent alternative during winter season or on a day when it’s ‘raining cats and dogs’ for many of us regular cyclists meet in the tunnel for a good workout on bike without using indoor rollers back home.
It’s interesting and curious to remember that in this tunnel the trains once were passing, exactly on this same path, a piece of the railway where you can still spot some ‘left overs’ in regards, a stoplight for instance….. Ending after ca.1700mt the blu sky will great us again together with the seaside which will remain on our side all long the excursion.
Costarainera & Cipressa
I’ve lived here in Liguria for more then 20 years and I can assure you the difficulty to get annoyed by its’ beauty and fascinating views ….changing only with the 4 seasons, each one with its’ charming colors and aspects.
If you like to visit typical ligurian villages, seen from the path up mountain, there are plenty of possibilites to exit and to reach them, but pedaling a piece of the car trafficed road, Aurelia.
Of course you will have to do a little climbing as well, situated often only a few km up road, but the reward is absolutely priceless in form of panorama, and the three often compulsery componets; water fountain, main square with bar and the church.
If one wants to visit Cipressa, being the second last climb in the Milano-Sanremo Race, it consists of a 5,7 km climbing with a medium gradient of 5% ….passing shortly before arriving Costa Rainera. If you are a road cyclist I’m sure you wish to climb it ….reading all the writings sprayed on the asphalt by the fans to cheer their favorite Pro Cyclist the Pro’s while climbing. Once at the summit then permit yourself to regain breath, refill the water bottle and inhale the most stunning view that you just gained …and allow that feeling of satisfaction embrace you.
The down hill has got some charming switch backs and in one of those there is a ‘must-stop4photo’ with the newly painted murales: ‘Cipressa’. Cipressa is to be taken directly before the tunnel We will then make only a 100mt on Aurelia before re entering the cycle path at Aregai Marina, a.k.a. the Marina Port of Aregai with all kind of facilities for tourists.
Santo Stefano al mare & Riva Ligure
Instead of remaining on the path….let’s deviate again and enter in the center of the absolutely most wonderful coast village, Santo Stefano al Mare, separating you from the seaside. When passing, often I can’t resist to pass through the village as it wraps me somehow with beauty & charm.
At a certain point on the facade of a little cozy house you can read on a sign above the entrance; “Local Police Office” …I can’t resist smiling…if a were a cop, I’d like it to be my base. Family homes, often with a fisherman as husband, painted in all the typical ligurian colors, such as soft pink, light green, light blu sky and smooth yellow ….
Never itching your eyes but more like the colors of the various tastes of icecream …well for sure it cannot be avoided …sooner or later….here or in the next village, Riva Ligure, I believe without exagerating that we’ll pass at least 10-12 ice cream stands …ouch ..such a tentation! Time Out ….for a ‘Gelato Pit Stop’.
Another peculiarity is the medioval tower in Santo Stefano being one of its’ kind in whole Italy. There are plenty of defence towers along the coast (also in villages up mountain) built for the defence and to view from ashore, the arrival by sea, the Saracenic pirats, trying to invade Liguria. Back to this particular tower, built in 1566 it is the only one that is enneagonal; -“Yes, it’s got nine sides. Since more then 150years it is today the Municipal Office.
Arma di Taggia
Always with the sound of the seawaves in company we’ll return ‘back on track’ from Riva Ligure, and make another few km until arriving to Arma di Taggia. Down by the Marina, living here, is where I and other locals come to buy the fish caugth the same morning by the local fishermen. Slightly inland the actually same village, but now called Taggia only.
This village (Arma di Taggia/Taggia) is where the Argentina Valley and its’ river flows out into the mediterrean sea. In the main roundabout (on Aurelia) you’ll see two huge rusty olives and there is a reason for that. From this valley comes the most famous and most esteemed olives of them all, the ‘Olive Taggiasche’ …even Prince Charles orders from an olive oil producer in the valley and gets it sent to UK. Exiting Arma di Taggia we will also sight ‘Grotta dell’Annunziata’ with a defence fortress, built during the same period as the the ‘Torre Ennagonale’ in Santo Stefano, mid-1600th century.
Bussana Vecchia a / or the mythical climb of Poggio?
Between Arma di Taggia and Sanremo we will pass new temptations and we will have to make a choise if we do not intend to do both ….For a tipical roadbike cyclist it will be hard to explain why not attacking the most famous and last climb of the Milano-Sanremo Spring Classic Race…..so much history, so many emotions, dreams realized and dreams crushed…..so yes, it’s a must. Who does not remember Nibali on this downhill as this years’ (‘19) downhill from Cipressa by Bonifazio ?
But before that, one might want to get up to Bussana Vecchia. The ‘new’ village, Bussana, is only 2km up deviating just after having left Arma. But to reach the ‘Old Bussana’ that were totally destroyed by the earthquake in 1891 we’ll have to climb another 3km …..medium gradient (5%). No doubt …if you have time and curiosity …it is absolutely a village that one can call ‘on e of its’ kind’ …. It was abandoned by its’ habitants due to the disaster the left all of them without home and they walked down closer to the sea and with time, passion and necessity, they built up a totally new village, today called Bussana, easliy spotted from the coast with its’ yellow churchtower.
The old one was in the 60’-ies invaded by …should I say ‘flower power’ & peace & love strangers, mostly from NL-UK-GER a.s.o. Slowly in the years it has all been regulated and ‘secured’ and today it’s a blooming, artistic, with handicraft ‘caves’, art galleries, curiousities and beautiful village. Just before entering (to leave the bikes for a moment and explore it by foot ) a restaurant with a terrass serving lunch/dinners outdoors admiring a 180° view over the sea and the Marittime Alps behind you.
From Sanremo to Ospedaletti …
After having descended from Poggio we’re already in Sanremo, which I believe, does not require an extended presentation. Mostly famous for the “Festival della Canzone Italiana” as well as for the arrival of the opening season race; Spring Classic Milano-Sanremo. Sanremo though has also had a gloriuos period (1800th century) when it was visited by many upper class, as well as royal, russians. They travelled here to enjoy the mite climate during the winter period. Close to the Casino you’ll see the Russian Church, easily distinguished by its’ typical architecture. Another famous person who appreciated highly the beauty of Sanremo was Tjaikovskij.
Heading back to on the cycle path again we will continue towards east and separated by the second long tunnel, it will take us to Ospedaletti where we’ll pedal along the beaches, sunbathing facilitieson the seaside and on the other side bars, restaurants, bike rental for another 1km where until it ends.
The “Milano Sanremo Race Gallery Tunnel”
The tunnel is passing under ‘Capo Nero’ and is, confronted with the first one, something totally different.
Long 1,7 km and extremely well illuminated…the paving is asphalt of course, but here everything is painted in PINK. This is something you must spend some time …it is not called ‘The Milano–Sanremo Race Gallery” only because it’s painted in pink….. If you are a passionate cyclist you might get a feeling of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ …don’t feel ashamed to step down and make some segments by foot ….because if you ride through you will not be able to read all the collection of the history of one of the greatest classics on road. Each ca. 50 mt there is some citation written on the asphalt below and above your head you can read curious anecdotes in regards.
One of my favorites, even if it’s almost impossible not to like them all, is the race of 1946. No TV…only radio transmission ….and the race was won by the great, Fausto Coppi arriving alone in solitary. Waiting ….and waiting ….then the Radio speaker said (lack of better) ; -“…while attending the other concurrents, we will transmit some ball room music”. The tunnel is simply crowded with happenings and history of a Race that presented the 1st edition in 1907 and has been constant each year, apart from ’44-’45 during the 2nd WW.
Well…hopefully I’ve made you curious and interested to experience this marvellous cycle path.
It would be great to meet you in ‘my paradise’, a natural gift of health, relax, beauty, happiness, vacation …keep on smiling as I often do, I wish you lot’s of great rides and also to meet and greet you here on the Cycle Path.
Here some usefull info:
How to reach the Cycle Path
- By Train: The nearest train station is in Sanremo. This is situated still in the center and you can reach the path only a few hundred mt distant. For any other train station, as the railway has been replaced cycle path and the new railway one passes inland behind the various cities, makes it necessary to combine the arrival to any other city with the local bus connection to reach seaside. Time tables varies with high/low season and is often subject to change, so better consult the website of the choosen city of arrival…i.e. ‘Comune di Cipressa’ –‘Comune di Ospedaletti’ etc.
By Car: San Lorenzo al Mare : closest exit from the highway, Autostrada A10 Genova – Ventimiglia, is Imperia Ovest. Follow indications for Sanremo – Ventimiglia on Aurelia SS1 (turn right when reaching the sea side) and you will arrive to San Lorenzo after ca. 5km.
Ospedaletti: closest exit from the highway, Autostrada A10 Genova – Ventimiglia, is Bordighera. Getting down to SS1-Aurelia you will turn left, following indications for Sanremo – Imperia. Ospedaletti is about another 5 km away and the Cycle Path starts at beginning of the city coming from east.
Both occasions offer car parking, mostly at payment, but with luck the WHITE painted pockets are often free of charge.
Food & drinks points:
As mentioned there are many and various bars & restaurants along the Cycle Path, where you can get a proper lunch or just a quick snack ….often with relaxing facilities as sunchairs, etc. Useless to say the view is immediate to the Mediterraen Seaside and watching a sunset is always a great pleasure. There are also several spots with panoramic terrasses, where you can pic-nic bringing your own snack/meal.
On many places along the path there is often the access to the beach, cliffs and where one can go for a refreshing swim …. On avg. each km, along the path, you’ll find SOS-stations from where, in case of emergency, you can ask for assistance.
For more info. please consult the public website reg. ‘Pista Ciclabile del Ponente Ligure’
Here the map, from the official website of the Cycle Path, there more info and details…
Photo credits “Milano Sanremo race Gallery” and Map pf the Cycle Path official website ww.pistaciclabile.com
other Photo credits Madeleine Devenyi