Ligurian Alps and hill towns: crossing the divide

by David on November 5, 2010

One of the nicest ways to arrive in Liguria is to take the train from Turin to Nice, or to Ventimiglia via the Colle di Tenda tunnel. Heading south through the Po river plain, the traveler is surrounded on three sides by the Alps: to the west, the sentinel Monviso range lines the horizon, while to the south, the 10,000-foot Maritime and Ligurian Alps loom ahead. After passing through the tunnel, the railway follows the rugged mountain gorges of the Roya valley into France, the route is lined with green forests and flora. As one approaches the sea the light becomes more intense and olive trees begin to replace mountain pines and larches. As the journey comes to an end near Ventimiglia, one can take in the blue Mediterranean in front of them and the snow-covered Alps behind them, not more than twenty miles away.

Last weekend we did the reverse trip, from the hill towns of the Italian Riviera up the Roya valley and through the Tende pass into Piedmont – to the same beech trees we’d hiked through a month earlier ( The pleasant Mediterranean warmth to the south of the divide gave way to snow on the northern slopes, at fairly low elevation. Winter came early to the beeches of Palanfré this year: they weren’t quite ready to say goodbye to their fall colors…

Those heading to Vernante, below Palanfré, can look up painter Elisa Macario: She is specialized in flowers, which abound on the surrounding mountain slopes once the snow has melted.

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