The trek from Varigotti to Noli is a classic Ligurian walking, and is much appreciated by those who love wandering among seaside hills. It is a walk which, with a reasonable commitment, takes you to admire panoramas dominated by the blue Ligurian sea and by the ocher limestone of the coast between Finale Ligure and Noli, in the province of Savona. Really exciting images.
Trekking: from Varigotti to Noli (Liguria). Flying between land and sea
In this article, I won't dwell much on the technical description of the itinerary. On the net, there is already ample documentation, if you want to further investigate; even if, to tell the truth, it is an easy path to identify, and quite well signposted.
Rather, I will tell you about how I experienced this journey, that is, about the sensations I experienced during the excursion.
Varigotti is a small village part of Finale Ligure, located at the eastern end of the Municipality. It is a small and suggestive Saracen village, which overlooks a beautiful and long pebble beach. The sea immediately becomes deep and has a turquoise color reminiscent of certain areas of the French Riviera (e.g. Nice). Behind, the calcareous reliefs rise up to the Manie Plateau (crossed by a dense network of paths for trekkers and MTBs), and are dotted with maritime pines and Mediterranean vegetation, in which further small hamlets are immersed with other buildings from the Saracen era.
I have good memories related to Varigotti, but I think I'm not the only one fond of this place. To fully enjoy its charm and quiet, it is best to visit it out of season, and avoid August, and weekends in the heart of summer.
The path that leads from Varigotti to Noli is called "Sentiero del Pellegrino", and is marked by trail number 1. To take it, you have to go to via Strada Vecchia, which you soon leave, to turn onto the "Sentiero Balcone sul Mare" (see our map in the article, and our complete itinerary slidegallery).
From here, you start to face heavy slope and sweat. In short, you arrive at the turn for the Romanesque church of San Lorenzo, which deserves a small detour of a few minutes. Returning to the main path, we continue to walk through the maquis, often on outcropping rocks, which will make our "goat" side come out .... You come across the original and colorful Cerisola Mausoleum (a wall covered with terracotta decorations, in memory of some rescues at sea, by Giuseppe Cerisola, a local character).
In the meantime, you gain altitude and you begin to enjoy more and more the wide blue surface of the sea, and the clear and intense light of the Ligurian sun, which always enchants those who, like myself, arrive from the Po Valley.... Below, you can admire the Varigotti beach, its promontory with the Saracenis Tower, and the Saracenis beach, to the east of the promontory, better and better.
We made the excursion on January 8, 2022. Liguria gave us a beautiful and bright sunny day, characterized by a crisp and almost chilly air, at least initially, compared to Ligurian standards. In reality, as the hours went by, the temperature became more and more pleasant and warm, and, thanks to the ascent, sometimes steep, we would have gladly wanted to wear a pair of shorts and a T-shirt!
In this part of the excursion, the goal is to conquer the panoramic point (see our map), at about 265 meters above sea level, from which you can enjoy exciting views, in particular of the clear cliffs and the emerald green sea of the stretch of coast below Capo Noli. This coast always strikes me, because it makes me plunge, every time, suddenly, into a scenario worthy of certain parts of Corsica or the South of France; it does not seem to be in Liguria.
The ideal is to stop here for a packed lunch and enjoy the magic of the place. On weekends, this spot can get a bit crowded. Maybe, even if you're not retired...., it's worth taking a day off, and making the excursion during the week, to enjoy this wonderful panoramic balcony, with only the background sound of the wind rising from the sea. .. By the way, avoid coming up here on days when strong Tramontana is expected, which could make the excursion unpleasant, also because it can be quite cold, coming down from the mountains inland.
We then resume walking, and the next destination is the Semaforo (lighthouse) of Capo Noli (296 meters above sea level, the highest point of the route), which, unfortunately, is a military installation, without the charm of the more evocative promontories of the Mediterranean, or of the more spectacular oceanic ones ....
To reach it, walk slightly uphill, first on an open track (watch out for some passing bikers, coming from the plateau); then, you enter the bush (mostly of arbutus and laurel), and then you come out on the dirt service road that reaches the lighthouse. Then, you turn left decisively (signs for Noli), you start to go down, and you enter another world...
In fact, if the sunlight has dominated the scene unchallenged, so far, from here you'll walk mainly on the shaded slope that looks towards Noli, which begins to appear among the vegetation. Only if you pass here early in the morning (or even in the central part of the day in summer) will you benefit from the light and warmth of the sun. In winter, plan to have a good fleece/jacket, so you don't get cold.
But the surprises aren't over, and this last part of the journey isn't boring at all. Indeed, a series of switchbacks on a comfortable mule track leads you to the turning point for the Grotta dei Falsari (Cave), which is, in my opinion, the most exciting point of the whole excursion. The path, after the bend, becomes gradually steeper, up to some sections, in the wood, equipped with ropes, so as not to slip.
And then, suddenly, from the semi-darkness of the wood, the sunlight appears, filtering through one of the two openings that lead to the cave. The upper one, from which you can see the blue sea below, framed by the ocher outline of the rocks of the cave, is to be immortalized in one or more photos. The one below, from which a fresh current of air comes, is the magical gateway to the wonderland. Crossing this threshold, on the other side there is something of unexpected beauty.
The cave is open to the sea, and flooded (if you arrive here in the afternoon) by the warm light of the sun which enhances the warm colors of the rock. It seemed to me that I was in a book by Collodi (Pinocchio's writer), and in an ancient scene. People who enter here slow down their vital rhythm and enjoy this wonder of nature. A hole in the top of the cave is used by rock climbers, to rappel down after the ascent (the cliffs of Finale Ligure are famous as an exceptional - also climatically - sport climbing training cliff).
It's hard to get away from here.... Contemplating the beauty of the place, I make myself a promise: I was born by the sea, and I will end my existence by the sea, after a long parenthesis in the Po Valley....
To resume the journey towards Noli (at this point, my GPS must have temporarily gone crazy), we have to go back up to the turning point. Ignore the paths that descend on the Aurelia, unless you want to give yourself to a last nightmare walking stretch along the National road....
Back on the main track of the Sentiero del Pellegrino, the last part of the itinerary gives you ever cleaner and wider glimpses of Noli, and the remains of a hermitage and the church of Santa Margherita, linked to the history and life of Captain Enrico d'Albertis, a local nobleman.
You then pass by a former Lazzaretto, and then, walking and descending in the middle of terraces planted with olive trees, you finally reach Noli, right next to the bus stop that takes you back to Varigotti, after 7.6 about km, and almost two hours of actual walking.
Once this route has been completed, you will only want to take other Ligurian paths suspended between land and sea.
Have a good walk.