Making the most of our close proximity to Italy, this is a favourite day out visiting a couple of lesser known places just across the border in Liguria for wine tasting and lunch.
So you’re off to Italy for the day! First on the itinerary is a visit to a small beautiful wine producer, Terre Bianche, high above the village of Dolceacqua, described by local expert wine suppliers VSF as “probably Liguria’s best producer”. We like to go for a little wine tasting so we aim to arrive late morning. It takes about an hour and a half to the vineyard. You need to take the autoroute A8 to Ventimiglia, just across the border in Italy. Although you’re on the motorway this part of the drive is pretty spectacular, passing through tunnel after tunnel on high viaducts with glorious views over the Mediterranean, looking down on Monaco and Menton on the right You leave the motorway at Ventimiglia following direction Cuneo/Limone/Colle di Tenda.
Drive through the small village of Porra, then look out for a turn on the right towards Verrrandi. Follow the one-way road uphill to Verrandi (it’s very steep), carry on for another 8-10 mins until you reach the top of the hill. Then you head downhill and turn right at the first crossroads. Following this highly alarming two-way road (it’s very narrow with a steep drop on the left and no barriers; just go slow!) you should get a beautiful view of Dolceacqua down in the valley on the left. Continue along the ridge for a couple more minutes and you arrive at Terre Bianche. Ouf (as they say here), well done you’ve arrived and can now have a drink. But remember that you have to drive back down that road so only one for the driver!
Terre Bianche‘s old farmhouse is spectacularly perched in glorious isolation on the top of the ridge with stunning views across the valley, down to Dolceacqua, over to the high peaks of the alps in one direction and the sea in the other. For wine tasting and tours around the vineyard you need to book ahead by clicking here.
Next stop is Dolceacqua for lunch. The drive down doesn’t seem quite as alarming as the way up, having already done it, it’s a piece of cake and you don’t take the really steep bit either. Just follow the signs to Dolceacqua. This lovely town straddles the Nervia river and is dominated by Doria Castle. Built in the 12th century, it was damaged in the war of Succession between France and Austria in 1744 and then again in an earthquake in 1887. It is currently undergoing restoration but can be visited and is the venue for summer events. Another landmark which you can’t miss is the elegant 15th century single arc bridge joining the old medieval town with the newer quarter, famously painted by Monet in 1884.
There are plenty of delicious restaurants to choose from though my personal favourite is Casa e Bottega on Piazza Garibaldi. The food is original, beautifully presented and delicious, and the service is great. The staff are overwhelmingly child-friendly, going the extra mile to make them happy. From the terrace you have a lovely view over the old town and bridge and if you’re inside then you get to enjoy the quirky vintage decor. I’d recommend reserving a table ahead of time as it’s very popular, which makes me think of one of their original little touches. Your reservation name is written on a paper bag full of tasty home-made bread placed on the middle of the table. Dolceacqua’s wines are lovely so look out for “Rossese” and “Vermentino” Buon appetito!
The drive back to Lou Messugo if you take the direct route, following signs to Ventimiglia and then A8 (Nice) only takes just over an hour, so you should have plenty of time to explore the narrow cobbled alleyways of this lovely town.
Thanks to VSF for the great photo of the wine.