If you are out and about in Western Liguria between Bordighera and Ventimiglia (North West Italy), don’t miss a visit to one of the most beautiful medieval villages that Italy has to offer to its visitors: Apricale.
This delightful little hamlet set in the interland of Ponente is a rare example of perfect harmony between civilisation and nature.
The special character of this village derives from its unique location, perfectly integrated into the surrounding mountains, the stone houses converging into a piazza that creates a natural amphitheatre sculpted from the rocks that inspires the visitor through its natural beauty. This architectural treasure, in perfect harmony with its surroundings, in summer becomes an open air theatre hosting plays concerts and other important cultural events.
Some historical notes:
The hamlet of Apricale originated around 1200 and many of its buildings date from this time, including the church and the Duke’s castle. Unlike many of the surrounding villages, Apricale has retained its historical atmosphere of its earliest days perfectly intact.
Not yet assaulted by mass tourism, this relatively unknown historical treasure is a rare example of how the politics of conservation can coexist with modern tourism without jeopardising the authenticity and identity of the village and its inhabitants.
Here one does not find the usual boutiques, souvenir shops and restaurants targeted to upscale tourists. Rather, one feels an atmosphere in which the tourist is encouraged to blend in with the character of the village.
Climbing up the steep slopes to reach the piazza, the tourist takes and occasionally strenuous path punctuated by sudden spectacular views over the mountains and narrow streets forgotten by time in which one could imagine meeting medieval knights from an earlier age. The houses, with their window sills and balconies overflowing with flowers that seem to invite you in are charming and unpretentious, genuine homes rather than attractions catering to tourists. An extremely romantic spot for a memorable Saint Valentine’s day given the grand festival held on that day in the town and surrounding area.
While climbing up the path, there are many places to pause and lose oneself in the small craft shops and artists’s ateliers where you can find beautiful masterpieces of jewellery and works of art. Not surprisingly, Apricale is home to a renowned school of ceramics and including some of the most important names from nearby France and members of the Colomb D’ Or, a famous atelier in Saint Paul De Vence on the Costa Azzurra.
Arriving in Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele II which offers breathtaking views of surrounding landscape one can admire the Castle known as Castello della Lucertola.
Of uncertain origin, the building retains traces clearly dating from 1500( although it is believed that the castle originated well before that date). Here exhibitions and cultural events are organised throughout the year. The piazza is surrounded by the parish church and the town hall. It is here that all principal public activities are performed. The view from the church terrace dominating the square from above is truly spectacular.
During the day the sunlight playing on the white and red stones of the houses seems to illuminate the surrounding mountains. The harmony that dominates the landscape in this play of light and the architectural perspectives of the houses seem to have been designed by a creative hand of rare talent.
This enchanting spiral of colourful houses gently climbing up the mountains embraced by the open square of the piazza cannot fail to exert a particular fascination on artists, authors and poets. Today Apricale is one of the most celebrated medieval towns in Italy and it has only been possible to maintain its authenticity intact due to the efforts of the citizens and council of the town who were able to preserve it without adding or subtracting anything to detract from its historical integrity
Therefore don’t miss the opportunity to admire on of the most beautiful and original places in the hinterland of western Liguria.