Albenga, Alassio, Laigueglia
Our first full day in Colletta, we decided to head to the coast, with our first port of call to be Albenga. As luck had it, we arrived at the parking area just after the weekly street cleaning, so were fortunate to find a free spot. A good start to the day! On wondering through one of the large stone gates into the historical centre we were gobsmacked! What a lovely little place – well preserved, lovely people and full of bakeries, fish shops, butchers and bars. We didn’t take long to find a bar for breakfast (and of course our macchiato) – the chocolate brioche (croissants) we spotted in the window were even nicer and fresher than we had imagined. And the owner was sooo friendly.
After a few hours spent wondering around the historical centre, marvelling at the churches, piazzas and lively local artwork along some of the side streets, we decided to head off to Alassio, the thriving (expensive) beachside town next door to Albenga. We chose to park along the beachfront promenade between Alassio and the next, quieter beachside village called Laigueglia, a smaller, less touristy version. This allowed us to walk up and down the promenade checking out the people at all the paid beaches along the way – lying on their coloured beach chairs sunning themselves in spite of the huge winds that had built up! We decided instead to head into a bar over the water but surrounded by glass to shelter ourselves from the wind and have a bite to eat for lunch. By this time we were realising that the people in Liguria do not speak much Italian and English menus were either non-existent or “creatively” translated!
San Lorenzo al mare – San Remo – Ospedaletti – San Lorenzo al Mare
We had read about a cycle track along the coast towards San Remo – built a little over 10 years ago to replace the original railway servicing the area (https://www.pistaciclabile.com/en/the-story/). Having decided this would be a cool way to see the coastline, we took a drive down to the start of the line in San Lorenzo al Mare via the autostrada, had breakfast and headed to the bike hire shop. It didn’t take long to be issued out bicycles, locks and basket (no helmets) and head off for the day – 24km each way!
There was a long tunnel (1.5km), soon after the start before the path opened up and we were eventually rewarded with vistas to Sanremo and beyond. Along the way, we stopped in a couple of quaint seaside villages – they looked nothing from the bike path, but a few steps into the narrow streets, they were transformed. All along the cycleway, they have built bars and restaurants for weary cyclists to rest and rejuvenate.
As we cycled into Sanremo, all we could say was “what a cool way to arrive in Sanremo”! So much better than dealing with crazy traffic and parking. We chose to cycle past Sanremo to Ospedaletti at the end of the line and stop in the big smoke on our way back. One of the highlights of the day turned out to be a tunnel along the last stretch, filled with banners and quotes reminiscing about famous moments of the cycling race “Milano-Sanremo”. Being Giro D’Italia and Tour de France tragics, we loved this! And Ospedaletti itself turned out to be a pleasant surprise – a well-preserved / restored seaside town filled with pretty pastel buildings. We visited the local grocery store for some prosciutto crudo, pecorino and panini and made ourselves some sandwiches as we sat on a bench along the beachfront.
Then back to Sanremo it was to do some exploring – and that we sure did. It is a city of enormous diversity – from the opulence and grandeur (glitz and kitsch) of the casino, through the wealth of the main shopping and restaurant belt, into the quaintness of the historical centre and ending in the medieval town (Pigna) which is old and somewhat startling. At the very top, we were rewarded with lovely views over the town and marina.
After our 48km cycle, we were ready to climb in the car and head home. This we did via the coastal road – and were so glad we had. The one thriving medieval trading centre of Port Maurizio set high on the hill outside Imperia was full of Baroque oratories, palazzi and loggias. The Basilica di San Maurizio in its lemon and pastel pink filled the main piazza with its elegant beauty. After passing through a few more coastal towns, we made our way to the autostrada and home.