Cycling with Hitchcock through “The Pleasure Garden”

Alassio Waterfront
Classy Alassio Waterfront on the Italian Riviera

Alassio’s passaggieta of cyclists, roller-bladers, hikers and joggers happens on the long promenade that overlooks the bronze-grey beach of the Italian Riviera. The charm of the old town center is hidden behind tall peachy buildings that stand sentry over its medieval charms. But Alassio has other attractions as well that make it surprisingly irresistible. Perched high an a hill above the old town center, like icing on a cake, is a magnificent villa that draws the attention of admirers from below.

Villa della Pergola sits regally above Alassio – check out those domes!

 As “one of the wonders of the Italian Riviera,” according to William Scott, the Villa della Pergola is inspiring and outstanding in natural beauty and elegance. Alfred Hitchcock shot scenes for his first movie, “The Pleasure Garden,” in the exotic grounds that surround the Villa. The two-acre garden with its Wisteria-covered pergolas, little fountains, climbing roses and quiet leafy areas provide the perfect backdrop for a movie.

Designed with a unique architectural style encompassing large balconies, luxurious verandas and a sweeping white-marble staircase, the Villa is a show-stopper. Dazzling orthodox Russian-type domes rise from the roof. A fountain near the central staircase and opulent marble floors add to the liberal taste of its origins from the 1870’s British winter holiday-goers. Alassio was the playground for sun-starved Brits before the action passed on to the French Riviera.

Cycling the Italian Riviera
Cycling the Italian Riviera

Cycling is big on the Riviera. Alassio lies on the “Ring of the Bay” cycling route that brings the sparkling blue Mediterranean up close. A long stretch of the route is on the promenade that skirts the waterfront. You then have a choice of circling up the hills above Alassio and beyond, (which is mountain bike domain), making a complete loop back down to the waterfront, or stay on the promenade and enjoy the ambience of the sea. Of course, there are always rewards for ‘going the extra mile,’ such as sweeping views of the Mediterranean. The entire route is 24.9 km with an elevation max of 482.2m.

Up for a hike? The famous Via Julia Augusta path along the water will transport you back to the year 12 BC. Built by Emperor Augustus as a link between Rome and southern Gaul, the path stretches from Alassio to Albenga and is just under 8 miles long. Starting in the square of Santa Croce in Alassio, the pathway takes you by an ancient stone arch. Cecil Roberts penned his novel, “The Portal to Paradise,” which is set in Alassio and inspired by this same arch. From there on out, the views of the Mediterranean and the Island of Gallinaria remain with you. Gallinaria is a term the Romans used for wild chickens, and evidently this island was full of them at one time.

Albenga greets you with medieval towers and an intriguing historical center. Worthy of a look-about, you then have the option of taking a bus back to Allasio or regrouping for a hiking rondez-vous back.

Did Alfred Hitchcock actually bicycle the promenade? Who can say for sure. But for a lover of the exotic and beautiful, it’s very likely. Besides, wasn’t he notorious for making surprise appearances when least expected?

Additional Information Links 

* Ring of the Bay Bike Path

English: Studio publicity photo of Alfred Hitc...
 Studio publicity photo of Alfred Hitchcock. 

The Battle of Albenga Heats Up on the Riviera

Live four days in the Middle Ages. Shows, games of yesteryear and wine cellars open for the highlight of the summer in Albenga. 

Historic Palio dei Rioni, 2013, the historic center of Albenga 18 to 21 July 2013.

The Italian Riviera is one of my favorite places on earth, and for good reason. Not only for the music festivals, the long and languid beaches, and zipping around on my Vespa, but I am always mesmerized by the swaying palms and salty ocean breezes that cool my weary mind from a full day of sightseeing, chatting with the locals, and keeping my writings up do date. So what’s a lady on a travel assignment to do? She turns her hot little pink Vespa toward Albenga!

Albenga, a town of pre-Roman origin up the lovely Ligurian coastline from San Remo, is a lively town full of team spirit. With eighteen towers-originally there were fifty- surrounding town walls, it features a definite medieval ambience. Dancers, jugglers, knights and ladies in costume will lure you in if you happen upon this idyllic Riviera town from July 18th to the 21st. It even gets better–between the ancient alleys you will find the most splendid food and wine taverns and inns that offer the most exquisite medieval specialties served from locals dressed in complete authentic time period dress.

Liguria, Italy

The Palio is a rivalry between the four districts within the commune of Albenga. It is interesting to note the names of the districts. They are St. Eulalia, Santa Maria, San Giovanni and San Siro. Not only are the people committed to their contrada, they are fierce in competition with good nature, of course.

More than fifty wineries open, scattered around the four districts for tastings. You will be entertained by everything under the sun; fire-eaters, jugglers, musicians, duels, falconers, and tests of skill in which the districts partake in slingshot, archery, shooting with the rope and ‘Game of the medieval family.’  And of course, a beauty pageant to elect the most beautiful lady of the Palio.

Take a look at the following video to experience the ambience of the Palio dei Rioni. I could not have taken a better video.

*Palio dei Rioni Video-(highly recommended)

List of Events for the Palio dei Rioni 2013

Saturday, July 13
Press conference for the presentation of the event.
Sunday, July 14
11.00, Piazza Trincheri, affixing plaque in memory of Mr. Vincenzo Dagnino
Every day
• Eater jesters and traveling.
• Benches “teaching” of various arts and crafts: managed by experienced staff
with practical demonstrations – Archivolto Via del Teatro, Piazza San Francesco
Duels with weapons in various wards.
• Music Performance and juggling in the streets.
• Appearing armed and civil
• The Company “Jesters of the truck” with juggling, balancing on rollers,
pitchers of daggers, comedy and minstrels, fire eaters and fire-breathing
• Live music with the “Futhark”
• Educational Laboratory Medieval – Piazza Rossi
• Donkeys around
• Show with mannequins on clothing civil and military of the thirteenth century
and audiovisual comment – Old Ass At Albenga, Via Roma
• Camp in Piazza IV Novembre
Shows in Piazza San Michele:
Tournament walk among warriors in armor
• Show with melee and a fight between warriors in armor
• Performances by falconers
• Duels with various weapons
• Performances of music and juggling
Games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Shooting a slingshot – S. Francis 19.00;
Archery – Cloister Oratory NSdella Mercy 20.30;
Shooting with the rope – S. Michele 21.30;
• Game of “the medieval family” – S. Michele 22.30;
In addition:
Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Acrobale in Piazza S. Francesco
Thursday, July 18
17.30 Ceremony of the issue dell’Albenghino – S. Michele
18.00 Holy Mass – Cathedral S. Michele
19.00 Investiture of the captains of the districts – S. Michele
19.15 Performance of the flag wavers
19.30 Historical procession through the streets of the historic center
20.00 Opening cellars
– Representation of an assassination attempt on the mayor
and the imperial legate by assassins – Piazza S. Michele
“Re-enactment of medieval wedding” and “Wedding Party”
Rione San Siro – S. Domenico
Friday, July 19
21.30 “Medieval Feast”: Rione San Siro – S. Domenico
Saturday, July 20
21.30 “Medieval Feast”: Rione San Siro – S. Domenico
Sunday, July 21
19.30 Historical procession through the streets of the historic center
23.30 Performance of the flag wavers
23:50 hours and Election pulcherrima Puella statement
the winner of the historic Palio 2013

*Map of Albenga