LIFE FROM THE EARTH
Tel: (+39) 335 786 3300
The medieval town of Apricale (607 inhabitants / 291 m above sea level) is inland from Bordighera and Ventimiglia, at 13 Km from the coast.
Its fortunate position is the origin of its name, which derives from apricus, open to the sun, but the main characteristic of the town, which has always enchanted its visitors, is the picturesque aspect of the nucleus, a sinuous cascade of stone houses, spread along the spine of a steep slope dominated by the rise of the castle.
This extraordinary sight, unique even in the rich examples of ‘Villages of stone’ in the Ligurian ‘intemelia’ (i.e. inhabited, prior to the ancient Romans, by the Intemelii tribes), and celebrated by poets and writers and painted by famous artists, who have contributed to make Apricale a town particularly frequented and loved by artists.
The town preserves, intact, its medieaval structures and atmosphere with its original old town, high on the hill where you also find the Castle and the village church. The houses run outwards in concentric circles and the two quartieri or neighbourhoods,
which from the harmonious central piazza reach out in opposite directions of the hill,are called respectively abrìgu e ubàgu, that is to the south and to the north.
All around, the embrace of a countryside that from the fasce, the terraces supported by dry-stone walls, which over the centuries have snatched from the mountains handkerchiefs of land to cultivate send the silver reflections of the olive groves and the dark green of the other vegetation up as far as the denser masses of chestnut and pine forests on the higher mountains.
Its origins are lost in prehistory as evidenced by the burial mounds from the Bronze Age found in the area Cian deu Re (Pian del Re). The village was founded around the tenth century by the Counts of Ventimiglia and passed to the Doria of family Dolceacqua around 1276, when it was already governed by the Statutes reformed in 1267 (the oldest in the Liguria) and its form of government was typical of a free Commune.
Then Apricale followed the fortunes of the lordship and marquisate of the Savoyard Doria, suffering the destruction of the castle in 1523 by the Grimaldi of Monaco, participating in various wars and suffering, in 1794, the French occupation.
The current appearance and size of the town is the same as at the end of the sixteenth century, with the core older by two or three hundred years. The village has a medieval urban layout of enormous interest, both for its excellent preservation and for its mixed structure. It is formed by the central part enveloping or encircling the castle, arranged in a semi-circle and surrounded by the planted circle of the old Carugio Cian (flat alley) and from the two clusters of peaks located on opposite sides of the ridge. These can be followed westward from Via Castello and Via degli Angeli, with its perfectly preserved medieval gate Cousutàn (from the bottom) and eastward from Via Cavour.
Two other medieval gates that mark the ancient circle of fortified walls, are respectively porta Cutrùn, located at the foot of the supporting wall of the castle - at the beginning of the northern stretch of Via Martiri and the other, still in Via Matiri but on the opposite side, the so-called porta deu Carugiu Cian, complete with its stone hinges. This bears the inscription on the left of the upright stones "1764 fame ubique" (hunger everywhere), reminiscent of a dramatic period of famine. The focal point of the town is the large square.
The steepness of the slopes has forced the construction of precipitous and narrow stairs, sometimes replaced by stepped ramps, to connect the alleys that wind in concentric circles. This along with, often covered, walkways that connect the facades of the houses, the frequent squares and panoramic views on the sunny valleys that surround Apricale make a visit a pleasant walk through history and countryside.
The visitor will be particularly struck by the medieval charm of the village, the stone houses overlooking the alleys with their irregular routes, from steep stairways and dark transverse glimpses of the many flowers and plants that adorn the exterior stairs of the entrances to the houses. This is a place where you can immerse yourself is a timeless world, ancient and unchanged over the centuries, which almost unbelievably is being offered to satisfy our curiosity but also demands our respect.
The main economic resources for Apricale (607 inhabitants), are agriculture and tourism. We produce an excellent extra virgin olive oil, the town is in fact part of the Associazione nazionale "Città dell'Olio" (National Association of Oil Towns) and is located along the “Strada dell’Olio” ("Road of Oil") in the land of the Taggiasca olive.
Apricale in recent decades has become an artistic center of prime importance, which maintains fruitful contacts with the neighboring Côte d'Azur and the world of art and culture.
The prestigious temporary exhibitions in the renovated Castello della Lucertola (Castle of the Lizard), which also houses a rich museum, and outdoor summer night performances of the Teatro della Tosse with sets by Lele Luzzati are just some of the reasons for the attraction, supplemented by the ancient cultural and artistic heritage, which includes frescoed churches and fine paintings.
There are numerous works of contemporary painting and sculpture that adorn the rooms of the castle and the corners of the village, along with fifty murals distributed on the facades of the houses.
Equally interesting are the many churches, among which surely Santa Maria degli Angeli at the foot of the village stands out, with interesting frescoes dating back to 1400. There are also L'Oratorio di San Bartolomeo, with an altarpiece of wood from 1544 and the cemetery church dedicated to Sant’Antonio Abate built on the ruins of a Roman temple. Of course there is the Parish Church dedicated to the Purification towering over the magnificent square, which is located in the town centre, the point of departure or arrival from or to this infinite maze of alleys.
For its beauty and for the efforts of the Town Council towards the development and recent cultural growth of the village, Apricale in addition to awards in past years has been awarded:
"Borghi più belli d'Italia", by ANCI, first Ligurian town honoured with this award.
"Bandiera Arancione" by the Regione Liguria for inland towns, in collaboration with the Touring Club Italiano.
"ISO14001 per l'Ambiente", "ISO9001 per i Servizi", certifications recognised at an international level Apricale has also achieved the certificate "OHSAS18001 di sicurezza" which bestowed on Apricale – the first town in Italy – the attainment "dell'Eccellenza" (of excellence).
Dear visitor, we hope that on this and the following pages you will find all the information you need along with many other insights and curiosities regarding all aspects of social, cultural, administrative and art history of the town, with an eye also to the many initiatives and innovations that its people offer to tourists throughout the year. Here are some useful links:
Town website - only in Italian
Apricale Info - many languages
ASD A Draira - Apricalese social organisation that organises events and activities
NB - all information and photos taken from the town website and translated by Penelope Phillips
A maze of tiny streets, the narrow alleys that surround the pinnacle and are fragmented into multiple levels, connected by steep stairways and covered passages, form a street map unchanged for a millennium and overlooked by tall stone houses often joined together by arches. It is the world of yesterday, impenetrable and reserved, today finally open to tourists where you will find lodgings, restaurants and artists workshops, brought back to life to the great joy of the visitors.