* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Rock Villages of the Riviera dei Fiori II

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We started out the second day of our little Italian tour on this little sliver of road out in the middle of nowhere, with a number of olive groves all around. 

While the site itself wasn't very exciting, our views were really nice, the weather was great, and nothing was pushing us to be doing something else, whatever that might be, rather than just relax and enjoy life.

What more could one want?

Near where we were camping was a little stone building in an olive grove.  I assumed it was a seasonal shelter and shed used during the olive season.  While the local olives take on a different name than our local olives, I believe they are actually the same variety.  The whole region isn't as hot as the big olive areas such as Spain, Greece, and even lower Italy, so the small olives are more successful.  Picked early, they make better oil, but they must be allowed to ripen as table olives.

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Backed up against hillside
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Front view on a lower level
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Side view on a middle level

The first town on our itinerary is the oldest of all the hilltop villages in the area, dating back to the 13th century. Not only does Apricale ( app ri cal ay ) have a pretty sounding name meaning "exposed to the sun," it was one of the prettiest villages we visited.  Even the Italians rate it highly in beauty on their official Beautiful Villages list. 

It could be seen from yesterday's Perinaldo, at 575 meters/1900 feet, as it was nestled in lower hills, ranging from 200-290 meters/650-950 feet. 

In this first picture, you can see how the town slides down a hillside, with Perinaldo sitting on that skyline hump in the middle.  In the second photo, you can see the heart of the old historic town, which we will visit later. 

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Apricale in situ
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Apricale close-up

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Bike path to Heaven

I wanted to show you the typical bell tower so familiar in all European old towns, although different regions and countries will have different styles. 

What most do not have, however, are bicycles heading to eternity.  I have no idea what this one represents!

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Up up up or down down down

I love the picturesque entrances to various homes found in many hillside villages.  The owners don't get a lot of space to work with, but they manage to make their properties look very inviting with all their potted plants.

The town center is rather like my own property, as it's split into several levels.  While you can't see the church parvis from where I'm standing down below taking this picture, you can see it but not where I'm standing in the overall view above!  Unfortunately, the church was locked, so we didn't get to see the inside.  Next to it are the ancient remaining walls of the old 11th century castle of the Dorian family called the Lizard Castle.

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Parish Church of the Nativita di Maria next to the Castello della Lucertola  XI century

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Living over the barn
I thought I would show you some other interesting aspects of life in a hillside town.  Years ago, a friend explained to me the housing set-up of ancient villagers, but I can't find any documentation now to verify what I remember.  I think this picture shows what I recall.

Here you can see an upper entrance obviously to living quarters, while underneath you can see some very rustic doors.  The ground floor was used as a barn, as the animals would provide warmth for the humans above. 

I thought there was something about the fodder being stored on the top floor as insulation, but that doesn't seem to be very practical.  Whatever, this photo does show the general idea of ancient life.

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Let's bake our bread together
We came across a couple of other interesting aspects of village life.  I can't find a starting date for this communal oven, maybe they don't even know, but it ceased activity in 1940.  It was behind a closed door in a very dark unlighted room, so I can't believe I actually managed to get this image. 

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Oddly shaped doorway
While many doors and windows in these old villages have been modernized, that's not always the case.  This particular door is quite interesting.  A whole door and a half door.  I wonder what it looks like on the other side.

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Unusual art
Many artistic people seem to live in these villages today, and you can see their work all over the town.  This place must represent some kind of artwork, as there usually isn't fake trees growing on the old stone walls!  Somebody has also supplied many inhabitants with some really fun looking mailboxes.

One of the most interesting things we came across was this old motorized bike.  I have no idea how old it is, what kind of history it's seen, or even how long it's been just sitting there collecting dust. 

That didn't seem to bother the kitty having a snooze, nor did my efforts to photograph both of them!  I also love these typical door knockers of a different feline variety.  I see them all over, including in French towns; I think they are wonderful.

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If only it could talk about where it's been
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Italians have nice knockers

Here are a couple of views from the other side as we were leaving.  You can really see how the town is situated on the hillside crest, as well as just how steep these mountain sides are, even though they aren't very high.  After all, they are all dropping down rather rapidly into the Sea.

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Apricale snaking down the hillside
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What a rapid drop

There are a number of little roadside chapels dotted all over; I'm not sure what their purpose has been as they usually aren't near habitations.  We stopped to look at this particular one.  It's totally open to the elements, only enclosed by this pretty grillwork.  While I only had natural light to photograph the inside, so it was fairly dark, I was really pleased with how well my picture came out.  The interior is as pretty as the exterior in its simplicity and has obviously been more recently painted.

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Chapel of Sant'Antonio XIII century
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Simplistic interior

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Roman bridge down in the crevice

I'll leave you with this lovely old Roman bridge we saw when driving around.  We just happened to see it again from a terrace in Apricale, and I got this really loooong shot of it.

We went looking for it; it will take some serious hiking another time to actually reach it.  (It's down below the above chapel.)

Stay tuned for the afternoon's visit of the rest of our trip as we continued winding our way back down to sea level.

Remember to click on any picture to enlarge it, as I deliberately kept them small on this page to avoid too much scrolling.  But a lot of details get lost being so small.


  1. What a beautiful village on top of that hill! As usual, your photos are amazing!

    1. Come visit me and I'll take you to one or two of them in person!


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