Walking the Alta Via dei Monti Liguri, Italy

Italy has a number of long distance trails and although the Alta Via dei Monti Liguri was created over 30 years ago, it’s almost unknown outside the region.

The 430km Alta Via trail crosses Liguria from west to east, following the mountains above the coast, starting in Ventimiglia and ending in Ceparana.

There’s a certain amount of confusion because there are other Alta Via paths in Italy, notably in the Dolomites. This one certainly deserves more recognition as you get to see the whole length of Liguria.

You can do its 44 stages on foot and also by mountain bike, although that’s more than 100km longer. It crosses the Ligurian Alps and Apennines following the coast, but staying on the high ground at around 1000m. As a result, although you see the sea at every turn you never get close enough to swim.

This is not difficult hiking, rather more a pleasant stroll, and a network of more than 100 B&B’s along the trail ensures you always have somewhere to stay every night. Some of them are a short distance from the path but will pick you up and even transfer your luggage. If you get into trouble or need information there’s a 24 hour helpline. Food is copious and rustic but, as always in Italy, extremely satisfying.

I have a couple of days free in Genoa, so decide to do two sections to the West of the city.

DAY 1:

Prato Rotondo – Monte Beigua – Passo del Faiallo

I overnight in Albergo Monte Cucco in Alberola where a delicious dinner sets me up for the next day’s walking. The rain has cleared by the morning but there’s a strong cold wind.

The sun does make an appearance and the light is stunning. I get a lift to my start point, Prato Rotondo in the Beigua Regional National Park. Below me on the coast are the villages of Cogoleto and Arenzano and there’s a gentle climb to the Frattin summit at 1145m. There are no trees here so the views are tremendous with Genoa appearing in the distance.

Genoa in the distance

The spring flowers are out, including the rare Bertoloni violet, only found in this region. This is easy walking with glorious sea views all the way and Genoa appearing in the distance.

After around 9km, I enter beech woods and gently descend to the Passo del Faiallo, my final destination for today. This was once an important crossing for the salt roads that connected Liguria to Piedmont.

Day2:

Passo del Turchino – Colle Gandolfi – Colla di Praglia – Prato Persegin – Gorzente Lakes – Passo della Bocchetta

I overnight in B&B Le Giutte and next morning the sun is out and the wind is gentle. I start at Passo del Turchino at 532m cheating slightly as I’m missing out the three hour walk from Passo del Faiallo.

Day Two Climb

The dirt track is initially flat through woodland but then starts to climb fairly steeply up to Colle Gandolfi. I’m now on the edge of the Capanne di Marcarolo Natural Regional Park and in the distance, to the west I can see the snow covered Alps

I continue on the ridge gradually descending to an asphalt road which I follow for a short distance before veering off to climb through woods up to Passo Mezzano at 1063 m.

Below me I can see the Laghi del Gorzente, three lakes built to provide water for Genoa. Looking towards the coast, I can see the shrine of Nostra Signora della Guardia (“Our Lady of the Watch”) located on the top of Monte Figogna.

Nostra Signora della Guardia

I skirt the sides of Monte Leco, with its mass of radio masts before reaching a solitary antenna where I join a cobbled road. This leads me to down to Passo della Bocchetta at 776m.

Claudio Simonetti meets me and takes me to his B&B Casa Torre in Campomorone where he cooks me dinner. He’s one of the founders of the Association for Hospitality on Alta Via dei Monti Liguri and is the main contact for walkers and bikers along the route. Surprisingly he always answers the dedicated phone line and is fluent in French and English, useful as most B&B owners only speak Italian. He tells me that, as well as giving advice, there are times times when he rescues walkers – either they’ve got lost or have been trapped by the weather.

I spend my final night at the comfortable and quiet Agriturismo La Costa in Mignanego before catching my flight from Genoa, only around 20 km away.

Although most people might find the prospect of hiking the whole route slight daunting, it’s perfectly possible to sample sections either side of Genoa.

You could easily explore them in a long weekend and there’s the added bonus of spending a night in the city.

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