Enjoy cycling tourism in Valdinievole
Laigugelia, Experience Authenticity and Adventure in Liguria
Visit this quaint seaside town that has maintained much of its local character and tradition
by Emma Ackerley
There’s no doubt that in the minds of many, Italy’s northeastern region of Liguria has become synonymous with images of the Cinque Terre, Portofino, and of the pristine coastline and azure waters of the Italian Riviera. The region has long been a popular beach destination for foreigners and Italians alike – and for good reason.
An amalgam of mountains and sea, the Ligurian coast boasts a dramatic natural beauty that, when combined with the colorfully painted buildings of its shore-hugging villages, makes it a picturesque vacation spot. Ultimately, it is Liguria’s beaches, with their accessibility and various amenities, that attract tourists every year. Pivot from these popular destinations, however, and you will discover just how much more the region has to offer. Along the western coast of Liguria is Laigueglia, a quaint seaside town that has maintained much of its local character and tradition while offering an abundance of activities and excursions.
You can, of course, relax at one of Laigueglia’s many lovely beaches. But you can also enjoy a shoreline bike ride, take a sunrise yoga class, indulge in traditional Ligurian cuisine, or explore art, architecture, and local history – and that’s just scratching the surface. Laigueglia is the perfect destination for those eager to explore, to learn, to eat, and to be active.
ItaliaSlowTour was invited by QuiLaigueglia to explore the area and go beyond the beach. Along the way we took a deep dive into the local culture, strongly rooted in the town’s history and traditions. Unlike larger, more well-known destinations in Italy, Laigueglia maintains its authenticity without pretense. Locals not only embrace their way of life but are also exceptionally welcoming and eager to share the richness and beauty of the region with visitors.
Our first taste of this Ligurian hospitality was at arrival, when we checked into the beachfront Hotel Bristol. Run by husband and wife duo Adele and Rino, their love not only for what they do but also of the town itself shined through and truly elevated our experience. Our rooms, with breathtaking ocean views, were clean and comfortable, but it was the small details and welcoming atmosphere that made our stay exceptional.
We started our tour of Laigueglia with a local, Felice, who guided us through the colorful history and folklore of the region. Originally a fishing village, the most important historical commercial activity was that of coral collectors and merchants, which promoted flourishing exchanges but also subjected the area to attacks by pirates. Today, you can still see the legacy of these attacks when you walk past the fortress in the city center or listen to the many legends told by locals.
The town itself is quaint and pedestrian friendly, featuring a historic center and colorful buildings. It is home to one of the largest churches in Liguria, the Church of San Matteo. Towing over the town, it is an exceptional example of Ligurian baroque style. Go inside to get a sense of its true grandeur and you’ll also find several works of art dating back to the 16th century, 13 alters once belonging to the town’s most powerful families, and the largest Cartelami in the world, a tradition of devotional scenography diffused in Liguria and throughout the Mediterranean.
In town you’ll also find several artisanal shops run by locals whose passion for their work truly shines through. For top-quality Ligurian products, check out Olearius, a family run shop that offers several products from olive oil to sauces to marmalades all produced by the store or local artisans. If you’re lucky, the shopkeeper Emilia may even share her pesto recipe with you (though it’ll be in the local dialect of Laigeliano!) or even a pirate legend or two. Other stores such as VAN shoes Laigueglia, selling top quality shoes and accessories, and Kaleidys Boutique, selling handmade artisanal jewelry, will make your shopping experience a memorable one.
Activites & Excursions
No matter your activity level, Laigueglia and the surrounding region has something to offer for everyone, and we highly recommend exploring this unique region. After all, this is the landscape portrayed by internationally-known Italian poet Eugenio Montale with unique vegetation and a breathtaking coastline.
Biking and E-Biking
Whether you’re looking to enjoy a slow and relaxing stroll along the coastline between Laigueglia and Alassio or take a longer ride in the hills and surrounding region, Laigueglia Bike & Wellness offers both traditional bicycles and E-bikes.
Hiking and Nordic Walking
The hills surrounding Laigueglia offer seemingly endless opportunities for exploration, including the Nordic Walking Laigueglia Park, 6 trails of varying degrees of difficulty that beckon you from the beach into the surrounding nature. Lovely trail n. 4 “Colla Micheri/Mulino” reaches a panoramic point offering unobstructed views of the Ligurian coastline.
Marcia Aquatica (Aquatic Walk)
Never heard of aquatic walking? Neither had we, until we found ourselves wearing wetsuits in waist-deep water at 7 pm, using our arms as oars to gain momentum as we walked across the seafloor. Despite the initial surprise of the cool April water, the experience was fun and reenergizing, thanks in part to the eager and passionate group leaders of Laigueglia Blue Outdoor ASD.
Start your morning on the right foot with a sunrise yoga class offered by InhaleExhale, a great way to get rid of the morning muscle stiffness and let go of any stress while taking in the crisp sea air and wonderful ocean views.
Beach Volleyball is another popular sport on the Ligurian coast. Laigueglia is home to the International Beach Volleyball Tournament put on by Riviera Beach Volley, where throughout April, 16 outdoor volleyball fields span the beach and over 800 players participate. We were able to get a lesson in beach volleyball by the founder of Riviera Beach Volley Alessio Marri, a former war reporter who has now dedicated himself to promoting this sport in Liguria and beyond.
The Ligurian culinary tradition is one of Italy’s finest, shaped over centuries not only by local production but also by imports and trade such as that of Sardinian pecorino, one of the ingredients in pesto. Through a cooking class with chef Antonio of Ristorante Pacan, we learned how to make traditional Genovese pesto and farinata, a thin, crisp flatbread made with chickpea flour and often topped with local vegetables such as artichokes or fresh herbs.
Wine and Olive Oil Tasting
A trip wouldn’t be complete without immersing yourself in the history, aroma, and flavors of the region. Just outside of town in the hills of Laigueglia is Peq Agri, a farm that stays true to its values of sustainability, tradition, and passion. They cultivate their multitude of products which includes wine, olive oil, liquors, and more, with a quality over quantity mindset. We had an aperitivo at Terazza Praié, a beautifully constructed terrace in the hills with a breathtaking view of the vineyards and coastline. An enjoyable and relaxing time, but also an opportunity to learn about the production of wine in the region and try Ligurian red and white wines, in addition to a selection of meats, cheeses and snacks, all produced by Peq Agri.
Another wonderful experience is olive oil tasting, which can be done at Al Frantoio di Aldo Armato in nearby Alassio, an oil mill that still processes olives with stone millstones, just as their family has done for generations. Several variations of olive oil are produced here, including a delicate Taggiasco Extra Virgin, a regional staple. You can also purchase their olive oil here, as well as several other local products.
Exploring the Surrounding Areas
Just behind Laigueglia is Colla Micheri, a small medieval village described as “paradise” by Norwegian explorer and anthropologist Thor Heyerdal, who settled there after a career traveling the world through expeditions across South America and the Pacific. A visit to this charming and quiet place feels like stepping back in time. This unspoiled village boasts a small church, a bar, narrow, idyllic streets amid stone houses, and stunning coastal views. You can reach Colla Micheri from Laigueglia by car, foot, or bike.
A bit further down the road is Albenga, one of the three Roman cities of western Liguria and the town with the best preserved historic center in the region. Known as the city of a hundred towers, the center of Albegna is easily walkable. Take a stroll through the maze of small, narrow streets and admire the medieval architecture and myriad of shops, restaurants, and cafes. A standout is the Diocesan Museum and Baptistery of Albenga, an amazing museum with some fascinating paintings and architectural treasures. The baptistery, one of the most important in northern Italy, is adorned with mosaics, artifacts, and other curiosities that make the visit well worthwhile. Open through November 13, 2022, the “Onde Baroche” exhibition at the Diocesan museum features masterpieces from 1600 to 1750 and celebrates the richness of Baroque heritage in Liguria. The staff at the museum and baptistery is very friendly, and we were lucky enough to be accompanied by the curator of the exhibition, father Emanuele Caccia, whose passion for the topic made the artwork come to life.
The food in Laigueglia was an experience in and of itself. Here, you will find top quality restaurants and a myriad of local delicacies from seafood to pesto to farinata and focaccia.Il Pirata offers both an enoteca and full restaurant, so whether you’re looking for a more casual aperitivo and wine tasting or an artisanal menu of both traditional and modern cuisine, this place is worth a stop.. Pacan is a great choice to enjoy traditional Ligurian food, including an artichoke farinata that is to die for.Il Ghè, featuringa panoramic terrace with sea views and Impronta, located right in the city center, both offer a broad selection of seafood, pasta, and pizza.
Between the idyllic natural landscape and pristine coastline, strong culinary tradition, and multitude of recreational offerings, Laigueglia has it all. But it is the authenticity, generous hospitality, and opportunity to enjoy a slow tourism experience that makes Laigueglia a truly standout destination you’ll find yourself wanting to return to.
Emma Ackerly is a US student of University of Notre Dame studying Italian at BCSP Bologna and chosen as #italiaslowtour Ambassador at a press trip by Qui Laigueglia