HIGH VIA BAIA DEL SOLE
From Albenga, Doria Region, (directional arrow with trail sign), take the carriage road that climbs up to the Monti Region. Still following the signpost, after two hairpin bends, turn left onto the cobbled pedestrian path that leads to Via Julia Augusta (Roman necropolis) and immediately afterwards take the asphalted road to the right, following it uphill for about 200 meters until, still straight, you take a wide stony and steep path that runs alongside some villas.
On the right you can admire the plain of Albenga, its historic center and the basin of the river Centa.
Going up, you reach a dirt road that you go through on the left and, always following the signs, along a dirt road and path, after a few minutes you arrive at an open space with a votive pillar (h. 0.45).
(Votive pillar known as "La Madonnetta")
Leaving on the right the itinerary that runs on the flat, continue in a sparse pine forest dotted with rockrose, heather and strawberry trees.
After a hundred meters, a "variant" of the main itinerary of the Alta Via comes off on the left, called the "wave path" (description below) which runs completely over the sea to rejoin it immediately after Monte Bignone.
The path now runs just below the ridge, on the side facing inland.
Always slightly uphill, you reach the “bucchin di erxi” (holm oak collar) where you cross a path that descends to the square of the ancient church of S. Croce di Alassio.
Shortly after we are on Monte Bignone (m.520 - h. 1.30). On the top, now covered by vegetation, there are the remains of some fortifications and the ruins of a small barracks dating back to the last conflict.
The view is wonderful: it borders on the Ligurian Gulf, you can enjoy the view of Alassio and the whole Albenganese hinterland with its valleys, up to the scenery of the peaks of the Ligurian Alps still covered with snow until late spring.
Continuing along the path, you cross the ridge for a short time and then, after a somewhat delicate downhill passage, you will arrive at the Sella del Bignone, where a high voltage pylon stands out.
Here, on the left, you cross the path that climbs up from the Solva hamlet and from the variant “path of the wave”.
See the chapter "connecting paths and escape routes" - path no. 1
Now the path is very easy for continuous but modest differences in height. Always with a broad view of the Gulf of Alassio, you touch the summit of Monte Castellaro (516 m) and reach the slopes of Monte Pisciavino. In order to avoid the summit where a series of antennas and repeaters disfigure the landscape, go around the mountain to the north-west through a beautiful forest of holm oaks, downy oaks and ca-ponds which, on hot days, bring considerable refreshment.
(Box of the shepherds)
After a few minutes you will come across a “box”, a typical construction-shelter for shepherds still in a good state of conservation, and continue until you re-emerge at the sight of the sea, running parallel to the carriage road that leads from Alassio to the Madonna della Guardia.
See the chapter "connecting paths and escape routes" - path no. 2
oco beyond, you cross the path that goes down to the city passing through Vegliasco and Madonna delle Grazie.
Proceeding towards the Sanctuary, now well visible, you pass next to a repeater, continue for a few tens of meters along the asphalted road, go up into the scrub and reach a side entrance in the fence surrounding the Church.
(Sanctuary of the Madonna della Guardia)
Next to the Sanctuary there is a comfortable picnic area (m. 586 - h. 3.15).
The Sanctuary of the Madonna della Guardia was built in the 12th century, dating its semicircular apse to that period. It has undergone several restorations, enlargements and reconstructions in the 16th and 17th centuries and has no particular architectural interest, but its location, with the splendid view of the sea and the mountains, is worth by itself as an attraction for an excursion. It is the ideal place to rest and refresh.
From the churchyard of the Sanctuary you go down to the large square below where, from the mountain side, the path starts which, with some steps, continues towards the west, on a slight slope, until you reach the intersection of the asphalted roads coming from Alassio and Caso. A few meters to the left begins the pedestrian path that leads to the hamlet of Moglio.
See the chapter "connecting paths and escape routes" - path no. 3
Instead, we continue crossing the carriage road and, a few meters north and then left, we go up along the enclosure of "Villa Gerda" with a steep but short path that leads to the top of a hill where an old ruin stands. called "Torre Pisana" (old windmill dating back to the '600).
The itinerary then drops rapidly and comes out at the “La Crocetta” Restaurant-Bar (355 m - 4.00 hrs).
Now you follow the asphalted belt that leads to the locality of San Bernardo where the remains of the seventeenth-century church, destroyed by the earthquake of 1887, stand.
On the left a cobbled pedestrian walkway leads to Alassio, in Via Solferino.
See the chapter "connecting paths and escape routes" - path no. 4
On the right our path starts again which climbs slightly until it touches Poggio Brea (m.371).
This last stretch is called the "Green Path", is equipped with special equipment for gymnastic exercises and recently an "Adventure Park" has been created (4.45 hrs).
Now go down on a steep and stony ground that leads to a saddle. From this moment on, the signs change from the two red circles on a white field, which accompanied us from Albenga, to a rhombus in the white field
Follow the dirt road that runs along the ridge above Laigueglia with wide panoramic views of Capo Mele, pass some scattered maritime pines near which are the remains of an old "casel-lone" and reach a thick pine forest in the locality of "Poggio" ( h. 5.15).
Go down for a few meters to meet a path that leads to the right and continues flat until you come out on the asphalt. Turn left and follow the road up to an intersection where, after climbing a few meters, you take the asphalt strip heading south that leads to the small medieval village of Colla Micheri (163 m - 5.45 m) .
It is worth now to climb for another 5 minutes (signposted a straight line with a dot)
and stop near an old windmill, in a small clearing where the famous Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl used to come to rest and where his ashes rest.
(Tomb of Thor Heyerdahl)
From this place you can enjoy an incomparable view over the whole “Baia del Sole”, from Laigueglia to Alassio, Albenga and the Gallinara island.
The descent on Laigueglia from Colla Micheri is carried out by retracing your steps for about 200 m, where you meet a "Roman road" signpost (three red points) which partly on a mule track and partly on a paved road, leads back to the town of Laigueglia, Via del Carmine and Piazza De Amicis, in about 30 '.
PATHS OF CONNECTION AND ESCAPE ROUTES
The route of the "Alta Via Baia del Sole" can be reached or abandoned in various places, where paths cross to reach Alassio or Laigueglia.
1) Alassio - Santa Croce - West Sella of Monte Bignone path
Departure: from the Via Aurelia, at the level crossing FS, at the eastern end of Alassio
Arrival: West Sella of Monte Bignone 450 m.
Route: from the level crossing follow left for 50 meters and take via Julia Augusta to the right up to the square of the Church of Santa Croce.
Signpost: an empty red square
After about 50 m heading west on an asphalted road, the panoramic path begins which goes up the ridge between the Gulf of Alassio and the basin overlooking the church of S. Anna ai Monti, reaching the locality "Sella di Armao" where it crosses the " Path of the Wave ".
Signpost: a solid red stamp
Follow the "Raccordo" Alta Via Baia del Sole "path westbound for about 20 '
Signpost: two horizontal white / red lines
You cross an uphill path which in 10 'leads to the western Sella of Monte Bignone and to the junction with the "Alta Via Baia del Sole".
Signpost: two red vertical lines
Difference in altitude 450 m - time 1.45 hours - Difficulty: E.
2) Path Alassio - Madonna delle Grazie - Vegliasco - Sella di Caso
Departure: The starting point of the route is in Piazza della Chiesa Parrocchiale S.Ambrogio di Alassio.
Arrival: Sella di Caso.
Route: take the road upstream from the square, cross the pedestrian overpass on the railway, briefly follow Via Adelasia westwards until you take the mule track that leads to the hamlet of Madonna delle Grazie. Following the trail sign, between streets and villas, take the mule track back to the hamlet of Vegliasco; cross it and reach the Sella di Caso, where you cross the "Alta Via Baia del Sole".
Difference in height m. 500 - Difficulty: E - time 1.45 hours
Signpost: two solid red diamonds
3) Alassio - Moglio - Colletto di Moglio path
Departure: The starting point of the route is on the square in front of the municipal cemetery.
Arrival: Colletto di Moglio.
Route: take the mule track which, crossing the carriageway in some points, leads to the church of the Moglio district. You cross the whole hamlet and continue on the mule track upstream of the houses up to the Colletto di Moglio, where you cross the “Alta Via Baia del Sole”.
Difference in height m. 450 - Difficulty: E - time 1.30 hours
Signpost: a red cross
4) Alassio - San Bernardo path
Departure: The starting point of the route is in via Solferino, in front of the Church of S. Giovanni in via Neghelli, west of Alassio.
Arrival: ruins of the Church of S. Bernardo.
Route: take via Solferino reaching the mule track which, at first steep and then easier, reaches the ruins of the Church of S. Bernardo, destroyed by the earthquake of the end of the 19th century, where it crosses the “Alta Via Baia del Sole”.
Difference in height m. 350 - Difficulty: E - time 1.00 hours
Signpost: two horizontal red lines
"WAVE PATH" VARIANT
Leaving the main path shortly after the votive pillar "La Madonnetta" at the height of the signpost (directional arrow with signpost), after passing a few wooden steps, the "Path of the Wave" runs along a path with short ups and downs, almost always with view of the sea and Gallinara Island, up above the Porticciolo di Alassio.
After about 45 minutes it climbs for a few meters to the locality of Sella di Armao where you can enjoy a beautiful view over the entire Gulf of Alassio and Laigueglia, up to Capo Mele.
Here several paths cross. Two go down to the square of S. Croce and Solva respectively. The other two are uphill: one leads to Monte Bignone (a red circle marked on a white field), the other is the link to rejoin the Alta Via Baia del Sole path (white and red horizontal trail markers and to follow).