The Sentiero del Pellegrino (Pilgrim’s Path) is a very scenic trek that joins the village of Noli with the village of Varigotti in Liguria, on the western Riviera.
It is an easy hike, full of interesting spots and with an exceptional view of the coast so if possible it would be best to go during the week to enjoy it without too many people around.
We went on a Sunday in March and were in a group of at least 30 hikers. In any case, it is a truly splendid excursion and below you will find all the practical information for walking the Pilgrim’s Path with children.
Pilgrim’s Path with children: useful information and tips
The Sentiero del Pellegrino (Pilgrim’s Path) is about 6 km long and is not a loop trail but joins the villages of Noli and Varigotti. The trail is very easy, has no exposed sections and has little elevation gain (300 m) so it is a beautiful hike that can be done with children.
However, it is not a stroller-friendly trail so if your child is not yet walking, you will need a baby backpack.
The trail is also traveled by MTBs so you have to be a tiny bit careful.
Hiking shoes are necessary; if it has just rained it can get very slippery.
There are no drinking fountains or rest stops along the trail.
➠ Falsari Cave with children: the last part of the trail leading to the cave, is equipped with ropes because it is very steep (it is not exposed, however).
We ventured there with our 3 1/2 year old daughter and the other younger one in the backpack and we must say that we were a bit reckless, although our “big” child was great because she did the whole path by herself, holding on to the rope.
We would not recommend it for a three-year-old who may get scared, maybe from age 5 on.
This is the only part of the hike that is a bit more difficult for a toddler, the rest is easily done.
Pilgrim’s Path with children: how to get there and where to park
The nearest highway exits to the Pilgrim’s Path are Spotorno or Finale Ligure. One must then continue on the Via Aurelia to Noli and Varigotti.
In Noli we parked (for a fee) in Via IV Novembre.
In Varigotti the parking lots are near Via Strada Vecchia or along the roads near the Aurelia.
☛ Ascent: 350 m approx.
☛ Descent: 350 m approx.
☛Length: 6.3 km approx.
☛ Maximum elevation: 262 m
☛ Stroller: no
☛ Dogs allowed: on leash
How to get back to the car
As we said, this hike is not a loop so to get back to the car you either have to retrace the same path back or take a bus to Varigotti (if you want, you can also walk along Via Aurelia, the coastal road, but we do not recommend it because it is very busy and there is no room for pedestrians).
The bus that connects Noli and Varigotti, is number 40 and runs every twenty minutes. The ticket can be made on board, with a small surcharge. The stop is located on the waterfront near the trailhead.
Pilgrim’s Path with children: route
The trail is marked with a red dot in the section from Noli and with a red X from Varigotti.
From Noli the trail begins at Via XXV Aprile, a one-minute walk from where we parked the car. The trail is indicated by the Passeggiata Dantesca information sign.
The trail climbs gradually, is not steep and has no exposed sections.
Along the way there is a beautiful trunk where children will approach in curiosity: it is a fallen olive tree named “abyssal creature” on which faces have been carved, very peculiar.
After about twenty minutes, we arrive at the church of Santa Margherita, now a ruin with a beautiful view of Noli.
After another twenty minutes or so, you come to the sign indicating the detour to the Grotta dei Briganti or Falsari cave: take the path to the left toward the sea, which descends slightly.
Grotta dei Falsari o dei Briganti – Cave of the Forgers or Brigands
A few minutes after taking the path to the cave, there is a nice scenic area where you can stop for something to eat.
Turning your gaze to the right, you can see a promontory on the horizon: it is Punta Crena, with the Saracen tower built to spot pirates off the coast, and below it the beautiful Saracen Bay.
To reach the cave, you continue down a very steep section of path for a child, equipped with ropes to avoid slipping.
Once this section is finished, the Grotta dei Falsari appears: this is a natural cavity in the rock, originating from the slow and continuous erosion of water, with fabulous views of the sea.
The slant of the sun’s rays entering the cave give it a characteristic golden light.
If you wish, you can descend inside via a tunnel, but we with the girls did not venture in.
The name Grotta dei Falsari or Briganti probably comes from the fact that smugglers once hid their goods here, a perfect place not to be spotted.
Pilgrim’s Path with children: part two
After visiting the Grotto, we walked up to the viewpoint and then onto the main path, which is very wide and climbs slightly.
After about half an hour, having passed the Semaforo di Capo Noli locality, we reach the Torre delle Streghe, a ruined tower built by Noli in 1586 to protect itself from Varigotti’s invasion attempts since in the past the two towns were rivals: Noli was an ally of Genoa and Varigotti of Finale.
The path continues slowly downhill amidst vegetation consisting of rosemary, strawberry trees and maritime pines (it will take another half hour to reach the bottom).
Along the way, just before arriving in Varigotti, there is the mausoleum of Giuseppe Cerisola: it is a small wall in which life preservers and starfish are carved, built precisely by Giuseppe Cerisola who dedicated his life to the sea and who, on his return from Australia, decided to build a small monument among these heights where his vegetable garden was located.
Finally, one last stop before arriving in Varigotti and it is the church of San Lorenzo: a 13th-century Benedictine abbey overlooking the sea.
Pilgrim’s Path: when to go and conclusions
The best time to trek along the Pilgrim’s Trail is spring or fall but it could be a viable hike year-round starting perhaps very early in the morning in the summertime because most of the trail is exposed to the sun.
You will need large supplies of water and a hat for the little ones.
The Pilgrim’s Path in conclusion is a beautiful hike to do with children, immersed in nature and very scenic and, apart from the final section leading to the cave, easily passable with children.