The Perched “Rock Villages” of Western Liguria Part Three
From Perinaldo the paved road loops halfway down the Nervia Valley to Apricale, an octopus of stone clinging to a sunny ridge. Even more burrow-like than Perinaldo, the alleys here reveal a hidden square facing a stern 12th-century Romanesque church with a startling Baroque facade grafted onto it, all curls and motion.
According to loquacious local history buffs, Apricale has been around since the Bronze Age. Its Latin name (Apricus) means “sun-washed,” and, as you find out in warm weather, is all too apt. Some of the buildings are 9th century, probably, but documents only go back to 1016. So, to be fair, villagers humbly look forward to celebrating a 1,000th anniversary soon.
If you ask inhabitants whether there’s “anything particular to see” here there’s a fair chance they will shrug and smile simultaneously. “Everything and nothing,” said one man in answer to the question. He spoke in that difficult to decipher Calabrian-Ligurian drawl for which the area is known.
What’s left of the 900-year-old Castello della Lucertola – a tower and reconverted dungeon – is now used primarily as a municipal art exhibition space, local history museum and concert hall (it’s open to the public afternoons only). On display are local oddments, including Savoy-Sardinian King Carlo Alberto’s sword. It wasn’t exactly Excaliber. However I was glad to have seen the castle’s frescoed rooms and views.
Like Perinaldo and other nearby villages in the process of rebirth, Apricale has welcomed many arty zealots in recent years. It is the site of summertime theater performances and the occasional costumed medieval or Renaissance happening. Artists have applied contemporary murals to many a wall. As one bemused villager told me, “We hope they look better when they age.”
Eat at one of Apricale’s restaurants or trattorias hidden in its moody alleyways and you’re likely to find a fine bottle of local red wine made from grapes grown in the vineyards that surround this crow’s nest village. You might also savor a typical procession of Ligurian delicacies such as slivered local artichokes drizzled with local extra virgin olive oil, grilled eggplant slices, light artichoke fritters fried in excellent local olive oil, streaky pancetta and oozing stracchino cheese fritters, a savory tart of minced field greens, zucchini stuffed with a meatless egg, cheese and bread filling, fettuccine with wild mushrooms and tomato sauce and hearty polenta with sausages.
Come back soon and read part 4 of this 4-part article.
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Photo All Rights Reserved, courtesy Igor Vassallo