The Most Beautiful Bike Path in the World is in Liguria

2014 04 Liguria cycling Hans Moor 018

Entering Capo Nero tunnel. You'll be  in the tunnel for a few kilometers. This is the one with the 50 images, hanging off the ceiling.
Entering Capo Nero tunnel. You’ll be in the tunnel for a few kilometers. This is the one with the 50 images, hanging off the ceiling.

Mention you have been to Italy, and people usually assume you have been to Rome, Venice, Tuscany and Pisa. The odd person mentions Capri, Sicily or even the Italian Alps, but few will ever ask if you have been to Liguria.

Liguria's hinterland feels like Nepal sometimes, with terraces, cobblestone paths, rivers, trees and houses made of natural stone and stucco. - Photo: Hans Moor
Liguria’s hinterland feels like Nepal sometimes, with terraces, cobblestone paths, rivers, trees and houses made of natural stone and stucco. – Photo: Hans Moor

Liguria

Liguria is the province that stretches from the French border, past Genua towards Cinque Terre along the Mediterranean. Think Cannes, Nice, Monaco and then start from the border at Ventimiglia along that same coast eastbound. It feels like time stood still in Liguria and that is perhaps because it is mountainous (the Alpi Maritimi); perhaps that has kept mass tourism out. Thank God! I think it is one of the best places in Italy with its fairly unspoiled villages, olive groves, lemon trees and mountain paths from Roman times. You’ll find old chapels, oak trees and new vistas every time you turn a corner.

There used to be train tracks along the coast, but they are slowly pushed a bit more inland (which means building tons of tunnels again) - photo from http://www.pistaciclabile.com/
There used to be train tracks along the coast, but they are slowly pushed a bit more inland (which means building tons of tunnels again) – photo from http://www.pistaciclabile.com/

The mountains run perpendicular to the sea, so going east-west further inland is a royal pain in the neck. The easiest way to move through Liguria is directly along the coast, and that’s where you find the Via Aurelia, which goes back to Roman Times (Think Hannibal).

There used to be train tracks along the canal in Ottawa.  Little did the builders know,the canal would be declared a Word Heritage Site a century later.
There used to be train tracks along the canal in Ottawa. Little did the builders know,the canal would be declared a Word Heritage Site a century later.

When the train tracks were laid in Europe, it made sense to run them right along the coast in mountainous regions. No one foresaw a time that people would actually enjoy the coast. The coast was a place where fishermen worked, not a place you would stroll, let alone cycle for crumbs’ sake. Sounds familiar? Think Rideau canal where trains followed the canal’s path into downtown.

2014 04 Liguria cycling Hans Moor 021

Moving the tracks

To make a long story longer: eventually a highway was built higher up in the mountains, and the train is following now. Part of the tracks are now being built further inland, which means that scarce space is now becoming available along the coast again. While the Via Aurelia is still a nightmare to drive and cycle on, about 20 km part of the railway track has been converted to perhaps the most beautiful multi use pathway in the world.

2014 04 Liguria cycling Hans Moor 009

Imagine cycling along the Mediterranean, passing small towns (the train went through the heart of these towns, or rather, the houses were probably built along the tracks as there is little space). We cycled through tunnels past lemon trees, agaves, olive and orange trees. If you are early in the year, you can see the snow-capped mountains behind San Remo. One of the tunnels, the Capo Nero Tunnel, is converted to a gallery with 50 highlights of Milan – San Remo. (one of those legendary bike races).

Den Hartog, 'the Flying Tulip' (Tulipano volante)  wrote his name in the honour book in 1965.
Den Hartog, ‘the Flying Tulip’ (Tulipano volante) wrote his name in the honour book in 1965.

Eventually, the pathway is supposed to be 70 km long, currently the piste ciclabili stretches from Ospedalletti to San Lorenzo del Mare.

Cycling an upright bike was pretty rare when I was here 4-5 years ago.
Cycling an upright bike was pretty rare when I was here 4-5 years ago.

Check out the pictures below although images can never capture the beautiful job the Ligurians did here. On a Sunday it feels as busy as an Ottawa Sunday Bike Day. I come to Liguria for 25 years and never did I see casual cycling before, just the spandex clad crowd on the Via Aurelia. Now I saw hundreds of casually dressed people. There is hardly a better proof of that ‘build it and they will come‘ adagio (to use an another Italian word).

Food and drinks along the route and normal prices too.
Food and drinks along the route and normal prices too.

 

Sipping vino at the Mediterraneo. It appeared that this restaurant was built after the path was built, it definitely was popular.
Sipping vino at the Mediterraneo. It appeared that this restaurant was built after the path was built, it definitely was popular.

Along the route are a number of bike rental places, usually just temporary tents. There are café’s along the path itself or you can venture off the track for 500 meters to go to the local market, for ice cream or espresso (not expresso) , panini (that is plural for panino, which no one seems to know outside Italy).

2014 04 Liguria cycling Hans Moor 033

Everyone uses the path.
Everyone uses the path.
It appeared kids were mostly wearing helmets. Adults rarely.
It appeared kids were mostly wearing helmets. Adults rarely.
One of the rental options is this 4 person recumbent. Ideal for a family.
One of the rental options is this 4 person recumbent. Ideal for a family.
One simply passes the old train stations. There didn't seem much action going on in them.
One simply passes the old train stations. There didn’t seem much action going on inside them.

2014 04 Liguria cycling Hans Moor 017

Another former station.
Another former station at San Remo.

2014 04 Liguria cycling Hans Moor 016

2014 04 Liguria cycling Hans Moor 014

You can learn how to cycle here too without fear for eighteen wheelers.
You can learn how to cycle here too without fear for eighteen wheelers.
They seem to be a lot of work.
They seem to be a lot of work.
Narrow side streets lead to lovely hidden places.
Narrow side streets lead to lovely hidden places.
I had not seen this model bike rack.
I had not seen this model bike rack.
What do we do with the dog? Just bring it.
What do we do with the dog? Just bring it.
information poles and apparently wireless Internet, but I couldn't get it to work. Didn't try much either.
information poles and apparently wireless Internet, but I couldn’t get it to work. Didn’t try much either.

2014 04 Liguria cycling Hans Moor 002

The administration is a chaos. The woman dropped someone else's passport (who was out cycling somewhere) while trying to find our docs  backs (which we had to leave as a 'deposit'. I figured I better elave my Ontario driver's license than a passport.
The administration is a chaos. The woman dropped someone else’s passport (who was out cycling somewhere) while trying to find our docs backs (which we had to leave as a ‘deposit’. I figured I better leave my Ontario driver’s license than a passport.

 

 

It can't be that hard to find someone who can do a spell check before you take a bag in production.
It can’t be that hard to find someone who can do a spell check before you take a bag in production.
you can take the SUV or you can take the Toppolino (nickname for the Fiat 500 meaning little mouse. I learned that from an Italian in a convertible when I was hitch hiking to Rome 25 years ago)
You can take the SUV or you can take the Topolino (nickname for the Fiat 500 meaning little mouse. I learned that from an Italian in a convertible when I was hitch hiking to Rome 25 years ago). Both cars bring you there, and the Topolino is a lot more practical.

More info on Piste Ciclabile (with the emphasis on ‘cla‘)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s