After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, Tammy and I went to the beach. The hotel has an arrangement with a private beach named Euro Nettuno where we would have access to a sandy beach (yes, real sand) and an umbrella and chairs.
It was great, very relaxing. I think I could have stayed there all day.
We had made plans for the afternoon though with Annemari, a friend of Tammy’s. Annemari lives in Villefranche, on the French Riviera, and she graciously offered to meet us at our hotel and drive us into the hills above San Remo to explore the small villages there. So we had our own personal tour guide for the day and it was fantastic.
Annemari was really friendly and so nice and likes to drive, so the three of us had a great day. We drove to a small town called Coldirodi, only to discover that the roads were so narrow we could not navigate them. But as we drove higher toward Monte Bignone, we were treated to some beautiful panorama views of San Remo.
The area was just beautiful, and so much cooler once we reached altitudes of 2000 feet above sea level.
These hill towns would just appear around a bend and you could see the whole town from a distance, which was great for a photographer like me.
We drove through the town of Bajardo, and then found the hilltop town of Apricale.
We had to park and walk into the pedestrian-only part of town where we found cobblestoned steep narrow walkways called caruggi, and eventually ended up at the main piazza and castle.
In the piazza, we watched a few local men playing a game of handball which was unique in that it required the use of a device worn on the wrist. This would be used to hit the ball as hard as possible, aiming for a wall in a narrow alley. Other players would hit it back, and somehow they kept score, but it was not clear to me how points were scored. There were a few spectators, but later when we walked back through the piazza, there were many more.
Later we learned that this was called “Balu Ball” or some similar name. (I am not sure of the spelling). We also learned that there is a tournament every June and July and this may have been part of it. The players were wearing uniforms and seemed to take the game very seriously. From what I understand this game is unique to Apricale.
We toured the castle and gardens too and now the castle is a museum of a variety of things, with a strong focus on the arts.
Apricale has a lot of art painted on the walls throughout the town, most of these paintings dated from 1966. They also have a yearly theater outdoor event every August, which seems to be a big draw for artists and performers from surrounding areas, including Nice.
Another thing noticeable in Apricale are the cats, which seem to be everywhere. They seem to be well fed and many of the homes are decorated with paintings of cats.
After we left Apricale, we came to the bigger town of Isolabona but we just drove through and went on to Dolceacqua, where Annemari said we had to stop since there was a castle there and we could see it from the road.
This town was similar to Apricale in that it too was built on a hill and had the cobblestoned streets.
We stopped at a local bar for something to drink after we took some photos of the old bridge and the ruins of the famous castle.
It is interesting that the famous artist Monet painted this bridge in 1884. http://www.monetalia.com/paintings/monet-bridge-at-dolceacqua.aspx
After we left and headed back to San Remo we decided to return to the same place for dinner since we liked it so much the previous night. Tammy and I thought that Annemari would like it too and we were right. This time I had the veal milanese and it was absolutely wonderful. We had to deal with the same guys trying to sell roses but after all we are in a tourist area. We did get to hear some live Italian serenades from an accordion player so that made up for it.
We didn’t get back to the hotel till 10:30pm and we said our goodbyes to Annemari. It was a full day, and I decided not to go to Monaco tomorrow, but to relax in San Remo instead.