A natural valley in the medieval villages
The nature conservation area around the Nervia River is ideal for nature enthusiasts
On a visit to Valle Nervia, you should spend a few days, so that you can fully enjoy its scenery and all its many sweet offers. Coming from Sanremo you will head to Camporosso where the road to Valle Nervia begins. The first village on your route is Dolceacqua which was built along the two banks of a stream.
The village was the seat of the Doria marquisate and is well-known for its fifteenth-century castle, its humpbacked bridge, and its surviving medieval part of the village. This is the area where Rossese is produced. Even Napoleon loved it. If you want to have a tasting of Rossese or buy some bottles of this famous red wine, you can go to the Rossese co-operative store, the Terre Bianche co-operative store, Mandino Cane, and Gajaudo co-operative store. But Dolceacqua can also offer you another speciality: michette. They are small double brioches covered with sugar and with a slight flavour of fennel. Michette can be eaten in several ways, even with milk or Rossese. Do not forget to have a look at craft products made of olive wood.
At lunch you could stop at Trattoria Re which can offer you rabbit with vegetables, stuffed cabbage, dried cod and potatoes salad, Fidelanza (a type of pasta - maccheroncini - with sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and olives), goat, and beans.
Leaving Dolceacqua, you will reach Isolabona where you can find the ruins of a fifteenth-century paper mill, which was famous for its flax and hemp products, and a thirteenth-century castle which was strategically built to control Valle Nervia and Merdanzo. Both buildings were once owned by the Doria family. From the bridge you reach the stone octagonal fountain which dates back to the fifteenth century. Just off the bridge you can find the Locanda degli Amici. This restaurant is more commonly known as "Da Piombo" (Via Roma 2; tel. 0184 208124; reservations are necessary; the restaurant is closed on Mondays) and is the best place for dried cod-lovers. Every year at the end of July a very interesting International Festival of Harp Music is held at Isolabona.
What about visiting Apricale? It is an old village where you can find lovely craft shops and the stately Castle of the Lizard. During summer open-air shows are held in the streets by the Tosse Theatre Company from Genoa. You can have dinner at Lucertola (Via Roma 48; the restaurant is closed on Mondays). Though simple, the restaurant can offer you the best traditional cooking of the area. Do not miss the chance to taste some rabbit, dried cod, or goat with beans. You could also go to La Favorita (Strada S. Pietro, regione Richelmo Pigna) where you can have some hors d'oeuvre, gnocchi, snails with mint, rabbit with Rossese, and pansarole with zabaglione.
Leaving Apricale you can reach Castelvittorio which can boast a marvellous view over the whole valley - and so you will see why it is called the "terrace of Valle Nervia". Its medieval origins can easily be traced in the slate portals and relief sculptures of its houses.
The Sagra del Tartun - a local speciality based on courgettes - is held on 19th March, while in September you can opt for the Festival of pancakes.
Not far from Castelvittorio you can find Pigna which was actually designed following the shape of a pine cone and its stone houses were built on overlapping rings. The village is also famous for its sulfurous hot springs. During summer a festival of poetry and dialect theater are held here.
After purifying your body at the hot springs, you could opt for something different and try the restaurant next to the Terme Hotel (at the small village of Madonna Assunta). The restaurant is well-known for its tasty typical dishes. Here are some examples of what you can find in the hinterland: delicious starters based on vegetables, such as stuffed courgette flowers, torta verde (rice and vegetables cooked in a thin sheet of pastry), frisceui (fried patties) with stockfish, pore mushrooms, maltagliati (a type of home-made pasta) and bean soup, lamb with sweet herbs, and plenty of home-made desserts.
Back on the main road you can reach Baiardo. In this medieval village you can find traces of ancient Druids and the ruins of the church of S. Nicolò which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1887. There is also a spring, known as Fontana Vecchia (i.e., Old Fountain) whose sulfurous water is used for medicinal therapies. In Baiardo you could buy olive oil, wine, olive paste, dried tomatoes, and courgettes in oil. Before getting back to Sanremo you could stop at Ceriana which is renowned for its production of delicious home-made ice-cream. Its artisan ice-cream makers are well known - and loved - all over the world.
The Nervia valley gets its name from River Nervia which flows through the valley. The villages in the Nervia valley all have their origins in the Middle Ages. The inhabitants of the villages then settled around the river, because they were able to practice their agriculture, Livestock farming and cultivation particularly well in that place.
All the villages still partially possess well- maintained defense systems, which in those days protected the inhabitants from attacks by the Saracens. Therefore, you will for instance be able to admire well maintained arches and vaults in Dolceacqua village. There is even a medieval mnemonic bridge in the Nervia valley. The inhabitants of the villages around used to use it those days for crossing the Nervia River. Due to its animal and plant diversity, Nervia valley is a protected conservation zone.
When coming from Sanremo, drive to Camporosso, where you will turn off into the Valle Nervia. The first village on that road is Dolceacqua. To reach Dolceacqua, take the highway exit to Ventimiglia, then follow the SR20 towards the coastal street and when you reach the latter, turn left and drive on until you see SP64on the left, Drive past Camporosso until you reach Dolceacqua.