Road Trip: Albenga to Imperia

May 4, 2006

(May, 2006) A new guide book we bought from the Touring Club of Italy (in English) has eighty suggested driving itineraries, with maps, towns of interest en route and hotels and restaurants. To try it out, and to take what we hoped would be a pretty drive, we drove #2, called The Ligurian Alps. The suggested loop is the 147 kilometer going from Albenga to Imperia. We chose to do it in reverse, starting in Imperia and ending outside of Albenga in Garlenda where we spent the night.

We left Nice in the morning and turned off the A10 at Imperia, along route SS28 up to Pieve di Teco. At Colle di Nava (altitude: 941 meters), we stopped for a stretch and some coffee at a local B&B/café. Across the street was a little grocery store selling all sorts of handmade lavender products. Shortly thereafter, we turned on a local road in the direction of Monesi, a winter/summer resort for Ligurians where there was still a bit of snow on the ground.

 The road winds through mountain passes, alive with wild flowers and waterfalls.  In Ponte di Nava, we got back on SS28 and stopped in Ormea for lunch. Ormea has a medieval section, and it was into this area that we walked after parking at a fairly large area just off the road.

We wandered into the Trattoria Il Borgo (0174 391 049) where we enjoyed what seemed like a never ending number of dishes for an antipasto, including an eggplant sformato with a fava bean puree, a frittatine of zucchini, bagna cauda on polenta, and several others which I didn’t write down. All were fresh and made right there. Our next, and last course was pasta, also house-made. Gary had the tagliatelle with mushrooms and Varian, the ravioli with a vegetable stuffing (asparagus?) and a vegetable sauce. The local Ormeasco 2004 Guglierame at €14 went very well with it. Total bill €48. 

This charming trattoria has banded together with four other local restaurants and offers various gastronomic tasting menus, every Friday in May, with specially priced menus. There are several “gastronomic” events this summer and fall (, or call the tourist office at 0174 392 157).

meridiana-2.jpgAnother two hours of magnificent scenery and we arrived at La Meridiana, our hotel in Garlenda, just above Alassio. This Relais & Chateaux property is a haven for golfers, located right across from what appeared to be a lovely country club. We sat around the pool and just enjoyed the views. Dinner at their restaurant, Il Rosmarino, was very good, but the service slightly feel short of the prices and the surroundings. We chose the three course, €55 euro menu, and started with pasta.

Gary had the tagliatelle with mushrooms (sounds like lunch, doesn’t it) and Varian opted for the ravioli de gnocco with dandelion greens, fresh tomato fondue and mint and nutmeg. Then, Gary’s lamb came out, perfectly rosé but Varian’s sweetbreads turned out to be scallops. We immediately told the waiter but we then sat for about ten minutes with the plates in front of us while the Maitre d’ took an order a nearby table of seven. Finally, he apologized, took one plate and hurried off. We had to tell him to take Gary’s plate, too, and bring both back at the same time. Eventually we got the right dishes and enjoyed them.

For the cheese course, we chose a lovely aged Parmesan, and a local chevre from the Piedmont and a cow’s cheese from Colle di Nava, which was particularly good. We started the evening with prosecco, and then moved into a pleasant 2001 Rossesse from Dolceacqua.

We drove down to Alassio, along the coast road until Bordighera when we ducked up to the A10 and hurried home. The Ligurian Alps route suggested by the Touring Club was so beautiful that we are looking forward to trying many of their other routes.

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