The Arroscia Valley

The Arroscia valley is between Piedmont and Liguria and is one of the most famous in Liguria. The valley is formed by many countries: Pieve di Teco, main town of the Arroscia valley, is a trade center always very important. Known over the years for its paper mill and tanneries (renowned for their mountain shoes), Pieve di Teco associates these activities with an exquisite production of cheeses and wines (Dolcetto and Pigato), as well as a typical bran bread oven cooked with wood. The heart of the medieval village is in Corso Ponzoni, the street sided by large porticoes, in which the handicraft stores run in alternation with the sculptured portals of the ancient palaces. Slightly farther on, the Augustinian convent (1478) encloses an evocative cloister with octagonal columns. The grandiose collegiate of San Giovanni Battista is, instead, an art gallery with its masters paintings. In the plain from the town, along the river Arroscia, there is an interesting complex formed by an oil mill, a bridge of medieval origin and the Largo dellaForca, a placed destined in the old days to capital executions. Most remarkable local gastronomy specialties are “focacce” vegetable pies and stuffed codfish. At a short distance from Pieve, there is the rural village of Cenova, famous since the Middle Ages for is stone processing, and Rezzo with the remains of its old castle, its woods and its fresh water fish specialties. Going up the mountain, through chestnut groves and then beech woods, one reaches the panoramic pass of the Teglia, the passage towards the nearby Argentina valley.

After leaving Pieve di Teco, going up the Colle di Nava, the road ascends passing through hard rocks and beech woods, towards the upper Arroscia valley in an enchanting succession of alpine landscapes, scattered by villages rich of history and tradition. The air becomes gradually thinner and more biting. Here, at a short distance from the sea, in the bordering territory between Liguria and Piedmont, Italy and France, covered with snow in winter and cool in summer, the vacationer, tired of the lively noise of the coast, is offered an overwhelming scenery and silence. Furthermore, in summertime, the blooming lavender gives an intense light blue color to the slopes, dominated by a suggestive system of fortresses. Crossroad of the pass is Nava, famous also for its production of excellent honey. From here a panoramic road with lush vegetation runs on the divide between Tanaro and Arroscia to reach the skiing center of Monesi. Following this itinerary one meets also the town of San Bernardo di Mendatica, wherefrom a formerly military road, through the Garezzo pass, continues as far as Mount Saccarello (on the top at 2,200 m the monument to the Redeemer). All the localities of the valley, anyhow, are worth visiting: Cosiod’Arroscia is an alpine village among the most interesting ones of the upper valley, with its clear stone architecture, covered passageways and narrow shady alleys; Pornassio, with the hamlets Case Rosse, Ponti, Villa and San Luigi, situated on the old “Strada del Sale” (Salt road) supply the best sampling of the renowned Ormeasco and Schiacchetra wines.

Once here, a stop must be made at the sixteenth century castle and the parish church of San Dalmazzo, with its romanesque bell tower and its fifteenth century frontal, lunette frescoed and polyptych by Giovanni Canavesio. Not too far away, on a smooth slope, stands Mendatica, dominated by the grandiose parish church. From its center, taking a steep mule track, one can reach the small church of Santa Margherita, located on a rocky spur over a precipice. Furthermore, one must not give up making an excursion that takes a path through beech and maple woods, from Mendatica to the water falls of Arroscia, to admire in spring the suggestive and extraordinary show of the sources of the river in flood. At last, at MontegrossoPian Latte, the cusp of the bell tower of the Assunta church, with its brick arches on rustic stones, is the counterpoise to the eighteenth century church of San Biagio, designed and realized by Giacomo Filippo Marvaldi.