This past Saturday, November 11, 2018 I made the 95 KM (about 57 mile) trip from Menton, France to the lovely Italian resort town of Alassio, Italy with the capable hands of Jacques at the wheel of his Mercedes stretch SUV. The trip, which winds along the Italian seaside, surprised me with views of the snow covered Alps to the north. I assume that the cold rain storms here in Menton last week deposited snow in the Alps, never the less, to look to my right side and see the palm lined Mediterranean Sea and then to my left and see the snow covered Alps was quite startling. As I think I have mentioned before, my trip to Alassio was recommended by my barber in Manhattan Beach, California, a gentleman who has traveled widely and speaks fluent Spanish and Italian and some French and fairly good English too, although from time to time we can not understand each other! We were discussing my love of Menton when the signore recommended Alassio and so I decided to make the trip for a day and see what I thought of it. The town has only about 11,000 permanent inhabitants but in the spring and summer the population may double or more. Alassio is located in the Italian Province of Savona and the region of Liguria. Liguria extends along the Italian Mediterranean Coast from the French border, around the corner at Genoa as far south as La Spezia. Many popular resort towns such as San Remo, Portofino and Rapallo to name just a few, are along this coastline. Alassio is set on a 2.5 mile long sand beach and although the town is flat and with many pedestrian only streets and narrow ancient lanes, the town sits at the base of the Italian Alps and the trip up to the Restaurant Nove, where I had lunch (more about that later!) is a series of VERY narrow, winding, twisting lanes where two vehicles can only pass within a few inches of each other and in many places are one way only. I walked for two hours along the beach, out onto the pier into the sea and along many of the lovely, old, narrow lanes of the town. This being the off season for tourists, I encountered mostly native citizens of Alassio but as this town was discovered by a Scottsman in 1805 as a resort town and became very popular with the elite of the UK in the 19th century, even in November I heard English and German spoken. There are many small but lovely parks throughout the town to complement the beach and many of the world’s best retailers are unfortunately represented here. I even encountered a Christmas store with all sorts of “Merry Christmas” etc. signs, bells, Santas, etc.
Alassio is also known for it’s churches and I visited three of them, the largest, the Collegiata Sant’Ambrogio in the center of town, was undergoing repairs but never the less it is an imposing and grand edifice. The main building was constructed between 1455 and 1507 on a place where a much smaller church had existed since the 11th century! The second church I tried to visit was closed so I only saw the exterior but the third one, the Church of San Sebastian di Moglio (Moglio is a sort of suburb of Alassio) was exquisite with paintings and sculptures from the 1600s to the late 1800s. Continuing up the hill of Alassio we reached via a long series of narrow, winding, twisting and turning streets, finally the Restaurant Nove, located in the truly magnificent Villa Della Pergola and it’s gardens. I could write a book about the architecture, the flowers, the trees and of course, the fantastic views of the City of Alassio and the Mediterranean Sea beyond from the Villa. Some photos will, I hope, give you a small sense of that lovely place. As for the restaurant, in keeping with the splendor of the ambiance, the service was excellent, the preparation and presentation of the various dishes and the lovely wines to accompany the 9 course tasting menu were equivalent to the best Michelin Three Star restaurants which I have had the pleasure of dining in, in the past. In short, a day in Alassio was for me heaven on earth!!