In Italy, you will follow the ‘Sentiero Balcone’. When leaving from Menton though, you will walk along France’s famous ‘Balcony of the Côte d’Azur’.
At first glance, there is little difference to be found between the historical County of Nice and the former Republic of Genoa. They share the same type of beautiful architecture, villages set in to the steep coastline, the area also has a shared history which is evident when weaving from one valley to the next amongst the pines.
However, once you have crossed the border to Italy, the atmosphere quickly changes. Other walkers on the path become a rarer sight, and the markers become less frequent as you follow routes through more remote areas. The villages, however, become livelier. Vineyards and olive groves are plentiful. This really feels like a whole other world, it is better preserved than its French counterpart and it is a better kept secret.
You arrive at the hotel in the afternoon, after which you can spend time as you please. There are excellent restaurants in the area.
Leaving in the early morning, a bus will take you to the small village of Castellar, which overlooks Menton bay from a height of 340m and will be the starting point of your hike. From there you can choose either the long or the short hike:
Short Hike: The route goes up the side of le Roc de l’Orméa, to reach Saint Bernard’s pass and chapel (769m) then continue climbing upwards until you reach the border, then cross the Passo della Corna (1045m). You will then head downhill on the Italian side of the border, enjoying a view over the sea. This path will lead you to the Passo dei Sette Camini (424 m). Then a track will take you down to a hamlet, Grimaldi (130m). A short transfer either by bus or taxi (on the weekend) to Ventimiglia. Visit to Ventimiglia’s Old Town (roman Cathedral and baptistery).
+ 700m, -800 m and 5 hours walk.
Long Hike: A steep climb will take you to the col du Berceau (1090m): here you will have beautiful views to the North and to the South. In a few minutes, you will reach la cime de Restaud (1190m) (the view from here is even more beautiful than the previous one!) Then go downhill through the forest on the mountains north face, before facing your final climb up to Passo de la Corna (1045m). Heading downhill from here, you will be on the Italian side of the border walking along an impressive ridge until you reach Passo dei Sette Camini, where you follow the same route as the ‘short hike’ to reach Grimaldi.
+850m, -900m and 6 hours 30 minutes’ walk. Short bus transfer to get to Ventimiglia.
Transfer in the morning by bus or taxi from Ventimiglia to Torri, in the Bévéra valley (95m). You will follow a beautiful path along the left riverbank of the Bévéra, to reach Collabassa (320m). The path leads downhill to cross la Roya and leads to the beautiful village of Airole (110m), where you can get lost in its winding narrow lanes. After a short break, you will begin to climb Sella dei Due Abelli (750m): a remote but magnificent route. On the other slope, after a few metres along the former Maginot Line, you will have a pleasant descent in to the Rochetta Nervina valley. You will pass one last olive grove and then the path leads you directly to your hotel (200m).
Shorter Alternative: If you don’t feel up to the full 6 hours it is possible to get to Airole either by bus or taxi.
You will start the day by visiting Rochetta-Nervina, nestled at the bottom of a valley at the narrow intersection of two streams. A small path goes alongside the steam, then leads you on a long climb through a remote area, following along the crest (735m). On the other side, you will head down to the village of Isolabona, and the Nervia valley (100m). After you have visited the village, you still have the hardest part of the walk ahead of you, you need to head up to the village of Apricale built on the side of the slope, and considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
After you take the time to explore Apricale, will you lead you upwards where you will find the village of Perinaldo: almost 600m high you will have an unrivaled view over the ocean! Continue downhill to Dolceacqua, along the path ‘pèlerinage à la Vierge de Douleurs’ (pilgrimage to Our Lady of Sorrows). You will walk under the old village and see the impressive castle, Dolceacqua is famous for its beautiful medieval jetty (as well as for its wine!).
Once you have taken a look around the village, you will take the bus to Pigna, in the Nervia valley. This beautiful village is home to a magnificent altarpiece as well as a chapel painted by the artist Canavesio. Canavesio was one of the region’s most important artists at the end of the 15th century
The path leaves from your hotel and leads you to the village of Castelvittorio (412m). You will pass through the village, using the staircases which connect the winding alleys, and contniue to climb until you reach San Sebastiano chapel (700m). After a short flat stretch, you will head downhill until the Bonda bridge (500m), before tackling a long climb through the forest which will take you to the highest village you will visit on the trip: Baiardo (900m).
From the village of Baiardo, you will climb up to a long wooded ridge which will lead you to the summit of Mont Bignone (1299m), where you will find the most impressive lookout point on the Ligurian Coast. (During La Belle Epoque, a cable-car brought tourists up to this spot).
From here, you'll descend through the nature park of San Romolo (760m) and are then driven by bus to San Remo.
We recommend that you spend at least half a day exploring San Remo, especially if you find yourself here on a Saturday, when there is the weekly market outside the cathedral. Take the train or trolleybus to Ventimiglia (frequent departures). When you reach Ventimiglia, you will be able to take the train to Menton or Nice.
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