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Visita il Mugello, culla dei Medici, a due passi da Firenze e le bellezze toscane

Walking and Biking



Capo Noli and the Altipiano delle Manie

Eight walks inspired by The Divine Comedy

In the opening cantos of The Purgatorio, Dante dwells at length on the steepness of the mountain and the difficulty of the path. Obviously he describes the ascent of Purgatory as particularly difficult because it's difficult for man to overcome vice and achieve moral purification. To make his images more concrete, Dante draws on real locations that he knew, and which in those days were considered to be some of the most inaccessible: in Canto III there's the Ligurian coast between Lerici and Turbia (see the introductory quotation); in Canto IV, San Leo (city of Montefeltro positioned on a high, rocky pyramid, which in Dante's age could only be reached by a steep, narrow path cut into the rock); Noli (a Ligurian coastal village between Savona and Albenga, which backs onto towering, steep, craggy cliffs that are still today a challenge for descending walkers); and Bismantova, the famous sheer-sided "rock" that plunges towards the green hills of Reggio Emilia below.

Vassi in Sanleo e discendesi in Noli,
montasi su in Bismantova in cacume
con esso i piè, ma qui convien ch'om voli;

Men down to Noli, up to San Leo high,
E'en to Bismantua's peak, are seen to go,
Afoot; but here a man needs wings to fly

(Purgatorio, Canto IV, 25/27)

Of the places mentioned by Dante in these cantos, we chose the last two because they lend themselves best to good long walks. The route to Noli, in particular, is along ancient paths that still cut across the rocky slopes of Capo Noli and detour to take in a nearby and very interesting mountain plain, the Altipiano delle Manie.
From Varigotti, walk along the shoreline in the direction of Savona, and at the beginning of the climb towards Puta Crena, you'll see a narrow road on the left that climbs and runs behind the uppermost houses in the village. Look out for a mule-track on the left-hand side marked with FIE signs (a red X), which climbs in the direction of the Chiesa di S. Lorenzo. This mule-track was the old route across Capo Noli, and large sections of it are still quite wide, well-paved and stepped. After a few hundred metres, you come to a junction. If you go right, you come to the 11th-century Chiesa di S. Lorenzo with a panoramic view of the beaches and cliffs of Capo Noli. Going straight on, climbing quite steeply, follow the mule-track that climbs the southern slope of the promontory, crossing areas of botanical interest characterized by luxurious Mediterranean vegetation. Ignoring a blue-marked path off to the left, you soon come to a junction. If you go right (yellow-marked path), you can get to the medieval tower of Varigotti, an old watchtower overlooking the Ligurian Sea. Carry on along the main mule-track which climbs to an unpaved road linking the Manie with the coastguard station of Capo Noli. Go right along this but after 100 metres you come to a gate marking the entrance to a military zone. Turn left here along an unpaved track. After about 300 metres turn off to the left along a narrow path that descends steeply to Noli, falling approximately 200 metres in altitude in just over a kilometre.

From Noli, walk up the same path till you get to the unpaved road of the coastguard station. Go right along this and stick to it, ignoring the marked paths that go off downhill to the left towards Varigotti (which you can use if you want to get back to your starting point directly) and to the right towards Noli. The unpaved road finally joins the surfaced road of the Altipiani delle Manie. Turn right and walk along it for approximately 200 metres. Take the first unpaved road to the left and walk along to the Chiesa di S. Giacomo and from there to Arma, near which there is a famous cave once inhabited by pre-historic Man.
Having retraced your steps to S. Giacomo, go right, cross a small bridge and walk uphill along an unsurfaced road till you come to a surfaced one near a cemetery. Go left along this and walk along as far as a wide curve to the left. Here, on the right, is a beautiful, sign-posted path for Varigotti which takes you back to your starting point with no possibility of getting lost.

Time required 4 hours
Vertical height 580 m
Maps   Multigraphic 1:25.000, no. 103/104 "Alpi Marittime e Liguri"
How to get there Varigotti can be reached from Genoa and Savona along SS. 1 Aurelia in the direction of Imperia.


Text and picture: Cinzia Pezzani & Sergio Grillo
Translation: Jeremy Carden

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