The difference is that stark and happens that fast.
By Dia Adams, August 12th 2016
At first glance Pigna is jarring, to be honest. A little disorienting- scratch that- totally disorienting. Pigna- on the western side of Lurguia just this far from Cannes and Monte Carlo- looks like a stage set. Because nobody actually lives in a Medieval town, right?
My vision of “Medival village” was Rottenburg on the Romantic Road in Germany. Now Rottenburg is lovely- but it’s basically a Middle Ages theme park. Not so Pigna. A few (very) hearty tourists have found the place but it’s otherwise untouched from its founding 1000 years ago. The 933 (as of 2004) residents go about their business of, well, survival. Time not only stands still in Pigna- it appears to move backwards.
Pigna and the surrounding villages (called “cinque valli” to separate them from Cinque Terre) will scare off a lot of people- and that’s a good thing. For one, while I suppose you could use buses to get around most people will want a car. Which means driving a stick shift up in the mountains. I will say that the Opel gave me a good five seconds on an incline before sliding downhill, which is much more than I ever got from a Fiat. Be prepared to play chicken with bikers- both motorized and pedal pushing.
Once you arrive into town, which looks like this:
You have to park your car as the entire town is only accessible on foot. Pigna is Italian for “pinecone” and you have to think of the streets as layers of a pinecone- each only accessible by stairs from the next. It’s a recipe for getting lost, which I did numerous times. In addition, Pigna is not for anyone with mobility issues- and this includes needing to use a stroller. If you can’t Baby Bjorn or your tyke isn’t ready for the hike, wait a year or two.
Thankfully there’s truffle topped pizza to be found at Sol Ponte on the bottom of town as well as terrific pastries at Desir de Roy- I recommend the almond filled with Marzipan. And thankfully modern facilities are slowly coming available.
I was invited to preview Liguria Holiday Homes‘ new (on the inside) Medieval townhouse and it’s stunning. From the DeLonghi espresso maker to the LED lighted jacuzzi bath the home is an oasis from antiquity set in a 1000 year old frame. I enjoyed picking up some fresh pasta and tomatoes from the Alimenti and tossing them up with olive oil from a local grove. Paired with wine from neighboring Dolceacqua, I was in heaven and it cost me almost nothing.
Just down the road from Pigna…
Special mention should go to neighboring DolceAcqua, about 15 minutes down the road. While it’s a bit more touristy, there’s a good reason. My first thought upon seeing it was “this looks as beautiful as an impressionist painting”. As a matter of fact Monet spent a fair amount of time in DolceAcqua during his most productive years. You can easily see the inspiration for his works that are based on the area. I could’t drive by DolceAcqua without at least stopping daily for coffee.
As you can see only a specific kind of traveler will appreciate Pigna and the region’s charms. However, if you’re tired of the well-trod trails and looking to add authenticity into your travels- have I got a place for you.
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