From Finale Ligure to Noli through the Manie plateau, a panoramic area really near the sea
From the highway or the railway station of Finale Ligure go to Finalpia, a hamlet dominated by the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria di Pia. Of the former ancient church there still are some ogive arches and the bell tower with seven lines of double lancet windows, it is one of the most important examples of XIII century bell towers of Liguria. At the beginning of 1700 the church was reconstructed following Baroque rules. In the 30’s a friar started the production of honey, then its production increased and made it possible to sell it. Nowadays the nice little shop sells the products of a cooperative of Liguria and Piedmont. At the back of the abbey there is the apiary, with a workshop for the production of honey and wax. Just at the exit go left towards the Manie plateau (7.5 km).
The slope up is steep but, once on the plateau, you will find wide areas that you can cover by bike or by feet; the maquis perfumes the air and in the green you can see ancient agricultural hamlets surrounded by vineyards and olive groves; among woods and rocks there are caves that are evidence of life in Liguria during the Prehistory. Most vineyards are without wires, following an ancient tradition, falling into disuse, that uses only chestnut wood stakes. Here they produce wines, not in large quantities, but with good quality, in fact they have obtained the DOC Riviera Ligure di Ponente quality seal and they are particularly good with the products of local cooking. Lots of paths lead off the top of the plateau. One of them, on the left, take you down to the narrow Val Ponci, where there are ruins of five roman bridges (the valley can also be reached by car from Calvisio and Verzi).
Rocca di Corno, well-known by climbers, is near the Fairy bridge, the first of these bridges along the path of via Julia Augusta. Take the narrow sloping down road instead, just after an ancient little church transformed into tavern, go further a chapel (here there are some paths that go towards the sea, for example to Varigotti, a sea hamlet with Saracen origins); so you can reach the Arma delle Manie, a cave that was inhabited in the prehistoric age, with a wide vault that can be seen even from the main road. Once again on the car you can go down to Noli (7.5 km) or to the rises of Spotorno, near the highway exit, without going back to the sea. Noli is a wonderful sea hamlet with Byzantine origins and an ancient maritime republic, it belongs to “The Most Beautiful Italian Hamlets” for its old town centre full of buildings, towers, the well preserved town walls moving up to Castel Ursino and the Romanesque church of San Paragorio. It has kept its fishing tradition; the fishermen of the local Cooperative sell their products directly on the promenade and they let you visit the workshop for the production of pickled anchovies in arbanelle (glass containers). From Noli you can easily reach Finale Ligure with a panoramic tract of via Aurelia among great cliffs.