Charming Italian Hilltop Towns

High in the mountains of northwestern Italy lie many small and unique towns. After our trip to Nice, we spent the day checking out the unbeaten paths in Italy’s Ligurian towns.. All we knew about them was that they were quaint and beautiful. What we came away with was a deep love and appreciation for two charming hilltop towns.

First Stop: Dolceacqua

Our first Ligurian towns stop was the town of Dolceacqua, which is very close to the border of France. It is divided into two sections linked by an ancient bridge.

Impromptu Visit to Charming Hilltop Towns

At first, you probably wouldn’t know what to expect as you make your way towards the older part of “La Tera.” But, what we found were very narrow, stone streets, shadowed by three-story high stone walls. Just a peak of sunlight streamed through here and there. Stone archways connected the walls. The narrow streets led us upwards, where a medieval castle sits. It actually felt like we were already walking through the walls of the castle. Tucked into the walls of each street are small shops selling food, artwork, and wine from the area.

Moving on to Apricale

We set our sights on Apricale, which means “exposed to the sun” in Italian. Because it is located in a steep valley, you can see Apricale for miles away. Along with Dolceacqua, Apricale forms the La Strada dell’Olio (The Olive Route) because these villages see an exorbitant amount of sun where olive trees can flourish.

The small streets were similar to Dolceacqua, and surprisingly everything in this small town was open during the 1-4pm time slot! We strolled around the car-free town, losing ourselves in the small alleyways, churches, narrow tunnels, and bridges. After a number of turns, we came upon the piazza, which was preparing for a small festival.

Never in my life have I seen a frying pan as big as the one in the town center.

Ticking Clock in Sanremo

We planned to drive to Sanremo and then to Genoa with enough time to make it to the airport for our flight back to Naples, but our GPS had other plans in store for us. What should have taken 40 minutes to get from Apricale to Sanremo took over two hours!

We were led through the mountains on a curvy, one-lane road with nowhere to go if someone came from the other way. At times we were laughing at the ridiculousness of this makeshift road, but most of the time I was white knuckling the door handle. Luckily, no one came from the other side the entire time! As a result of this little detour, we got to Sanremo very late and had only ten minutes to walk around before our flight.

Naturally, we walked around Sanremo much longer than that. The city sits on the Mediterranean coast and is a popular tourist destination. We walked along the water, some streets of the city, and unsuccessfully searched for the casino. With the clock ticking we really didn’t have enough time to explore and take in the city like we wanted.

Leaving Sanremo when we did put us into Genoa airport 45 minutes before our flight. But there was a ton of traffic, which made us get to the airport 25 minutes before the flight – yikes! Thankfully, Genoa’s a pretty compact airport and we made it to the gate with a few minutes to spare and had a fast flight back.

We’re glad we took the time to visit this part of Italy that seems to be rather untouched by tourists. Not only were we pleasantly surprised by the small Ligurian towns of Italy that we saw, but we find it pretty incredible that these types of towns are spread throughout Italy, each having their own special character.

You never know what you might find if you take the time to look!