Do you know Val d’Aveto?
In 1945, during World War II, Ernest Hemingway, then a war journalist annexed to the American army, crossed it towards Piacenza and in the evening he wrote in his diary “Today I have crossed the most beautiful valley in the world“. A nice business card, don’t you think?
For what it’s worth, in my opinion Val d’Aveto is wonderful.
When you cross it you feel a slight stupor: you know you are near the sea but the air and the landscape are those of the high mountains.
Moreover, here, narrow gorges immersed in the thick of the woods alternate with large green meadows so that your eye and soul are surprised at every bend along the road.
It’s a silent and quiet Valley where time seems to have stopped almost everywhere. Far from mass tourism, it’s easy to discover, without showing off too much. If you are curious enough to go around without precise indications and with the attitude of the explorer, Val d’Aveto offers breathtaking views, enchanted woods, crystal clear waters, flowered meadows, ancient villages full of history and energy.
We often visit it, for two years now, ‘cause the whole family likes it.
Giorgio, who is 11 years old, loves to fish and in Val d’Aveto fishing is one of the main recreational activities thanks to the loops and the slow flow of the river Aveto (it seems that Hemingway also enjoyed fishing in it!).
Marco, my husband, goes fishing with Giorgio but above all he loves to walk with a ceiling of leaves on his head, if then between a step and the other he also finds some porcini mushrooms he is the happiest man ever.
Elena is so young, a river in which soak her feet and a lawn where to pick a bouquet of flowers for her mom are all that she wants.
As to me, I love to fill my eyes with green, breathe sparkling air, see them all happy and … go in search of good things to eat! And Val d’Aveto has many small hidden treasures.
What to do in Val d’Aveto
With today’s post I’ll tell you some of the things that we have done/ discovered in Val d’Aveto to date. They are family-friendly activities, which can be done during a day trip. Since the valley is long I will focus on its lower part, the one that from its entrance at Passo della Forcella reaches the village of Rezzoaglio.
A walk from Ventarola along the Nature Trail
A short walk, entirely flat, from the medieval village of Ventarola, located just at the entrance of the valley, to the slopes of Mount Ramaceto.
Ventarola is an ancient village formed by stone houses, once a very important crossroad between Liguria and Pedimont.
From the village, along the Ventarola river, a beautiful walk starts along a centuries-old stone paved road, leading to the slopes of Mount Ramaceto. Here there is a picnic area with tables but also its wide beech forest in whose shade you can rest.
With a bit of luck you could also see beautiful Cabannina cows grazing, they are the native breed of Genoa countryside.
If you like to walk, always from here starts the Ramaceto Ring, a trekking path of about 6 hours that climbs up to the top of the mountain with breathtaking views.
Buy cheese of Azienda Agricola Cella Angelo in Parazzuolo
Discovering the products and producers of the places I visit is my passion, indeed my mission.
During the trips in this area I discovered a very small dairy Azienda Agricola Cella Angelo that produces cheese only with the milk of their Cabannina cows.
You can find the seasoned cheese “U cabannin”, which is the most renowned among those produced with Cabannina milk. But also their fresh formaggetta “Precious”, which is in name and in fact!
Stop to browse the Cabanne grocery store
I don’t know you, but I have a reverential love for village groceries. Those stores that sell everything, like they used to, from soap to bread, from vegetables to spikes. I’d like to adopt one if I could, to preserve this endangered species, like a Panda.
Here, in Cabanne there is still a rare example of a village Emporium: wooden shelves overflowing with food and non-food items, newspapers, tools, vegetables, sponges and soaps. Wooden door, floor tiles worn out by the time, a family kitchen popping up from a small door behind the counter. Get in and buy something, everything, but get in.
A dip in the river at the beach of Farfanosa
Shortly after Farfanosa village, there is a meadow that runs along the river where once cattle fairs were held, you can notice it ‘cause there are still all the fences to tie the animals. There is also a large rock for climbing called Farfablocco.
There, the river widens and is deep. There is a small beach where you can stop for sunbathing, fishing, swimming and even diving!
The last time we were there, in the spring, we found a family of roe deer lying in the sun!
A tour of the village of Villa Cella
Villa Cella has been the hidden treasure, the jewel, of our last trip we did in Val d’Aveto.
It can be reached by following a road that separates from the main one at the bottom of the valley and that winding goes into a side valley.
It’s a tiny village but with a glorious past and historical importance. Here, in fact, in 1103 was founded one of the first and most important Benedictine monasteries in Liguria, the Monastery of San Michele de Petra Martina (then of San Lorenzo). The village was a place of rest for pilgrims and a reference point for those who crossed the valley.
Today you can still admire the small church with the imposing stone bell tower, the turquoise door and the cobblestone churchyard surrounded by majestic horse chestnuts.
Behind, hidden from view, the ruins of the ancient water mill including a huge iron wheel and the stones from millstones.
A lovely place where peace reigns and actually you really feel closer to God.
Greetings to the “Whale of Massapello”
For the inhabitants of Rezzoaglio, when you see the whale of Massapello you know you are almost home.
The whale of Massapello, also of the Aveto whale is nothing but a big rock in the middle of the river Aveto, which reminds the head of a whale. Legend has it that Hemingway, sat on top to rest, took its resemblance to the cetacean.
In the sixties, then, some artists painted eyes and mouth giving it the look we see today.
You can see it approaching along the road, just after the junction for Villa Cella.
The mill of Molini
Continuing along the main road, on the left you will find the village of Molini.
Very small stone village, it is worth it for the handful of ancient houses and for its Mill dating back to 1630, a true jewel that remained miraculously intact. Inside there is also a “small museum” of vintage tools.
A walk in the meadows of Rezzoaglio
When you arrive in Rezzoaglio, the first thing that will amaze you will be the bell tower of the church of San Michele, very high, suitable to be seen even from afar in the valley.
Next to the church square a dirt road leads along the river. Here starts a beautiful walk where you meet an ancient stone bridge and beyond the vast meadows of low Rezzoaglio.
You can walk along the river or along the romantic country path bordered by wooden fences that crosses the meadows. Here and there a few benches to stop and rest in the shade of a tree.
A stop to have a snack or an aperitivo at Nuovo Liquorificio Fabbrizii
If you pass through Rezzoaglio you can not miss the flying white flags of the Nuovo Liquorificio Fabbrizii.
The Fugazzi family, owner of the Liquorificio, is in fact originally from Rezzoaglio and here decided to produce its liqueurs, among which the renowned Amaro Fabbrizii made with herbs directly harvested in the valley.
The headquarters of the Liquorificio, not only houses the shop where of course you can find all their products – from amaro to gin, from limoncello to aperitif – but it is also an elegant bar-café with a large outdoor space (furnished with romantic antique wrought iron tables … that I love).
If you travel with children this is the ideal place to stop for tea and have a snack with a selection of biscuits and desserts, including the Amaro flavored short crust pastry (amazing) and the Pinolata of Santo Stefano d’Aveto (I will post the recipe sooner or later, promised).
If you are traveling with friends, however, it is the right place to have an aperitif and taste one (or more) of the many cocktails designed to make you discover Fabbrizii liqueurs. All always accompanied by focaccia and often local cheeses (such as San Stè) and honeys produced in the Valley.
A dip or a siesta under the Alpepiana Bridge
Just beyond Rezzoaglio, still following the course of the river Aveto in direction of Piacenza, there is the ancient stone bridge of Alpepiana built by Prince Doria in 1789.
There the river opens into a couple of large and deep loops, perfect for fishing but also for a short swim in the summer. There is a cliff overlooking the river from which teen agers enjoy diving.
The beach is wide and made of small pebbles, perfect for stopping to eat and watch the river flow with wonderful changing colors.
Always near there is a flat area among the beech trees that in summer is used to make free camping.
I know what you’re wondering, what if I want to stop and eat somewhere?
I have not eaten in restaurants in the area, when I was there I always had a packed lunch, with things pruned from home or with a few slices of Torta baciocca and focaccia bought in the grocery store of Rezzoaglio.
But I saw many people there and I felt the smell coming out of the Hotel Restaurant Paretin in Cabanne, only traditional Ligurian cuisine. If I had to stop and eat, I’d try there.
This post was made in collaboration with the Nuovo Liquorificio Fabbrizii, which has an ancient and deep bond with Val d’Aveto and wish to promote and share its beauties.
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