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G + 1 : Liguria - Transit Land

Over night, the weather changed. A strong wind from the South stirred-up a strong swell. We had to take shelter behind the island of Gallinara, once the home of San Martino Abbey. It is deserted now. Many leisure boat owners had the same idea. Today, we wanted to walk from Albenga to Alassio on the Via Julia Augusta, the Roman road built under Emperor Augustus. It linked Genoa to Arles following the Ligurian coast.

Nobody lives on the Island of Gallinara anymore


The Romans arrived here during the Punic Wars and were around for almost 900 years. Liguria with its steep mountains and little arable land was not a place Rome desired to conquer. Today's Liguria is very different. Where hills drop straight into the sea, holiday homes were built - rows of hotels and apartment blocks line up the beaches. For centuries, this coast and the small islands were sparsely inhabited though. There were a few small towns like Noli but they were isolated dots in a big, wide space.

On the Way to Albenga - we were in for a wet beach landing


When the Roman Legions came to Liguria, they were on their way to Spain. The Roman Senate had to protect its allies in Spain from Carthage to neutralise Hannibal’s attack on Italy. Rome was interested in controlling the coast – not more. It took over several ancient Ligurian or Greek settlements. Rarely did Roman Legionnaires venture inland. There was nothing in the mountains that warranted a permanent occupation. Timber, fur and copper could be procured by trade.

The Julia Augusta is well marked and easy to find


Only under Emperor Augustus, once the crossings between Italy and Gaul (today’s France) gained strategic value, did Roman Legions venture inland. The fighting to subdue the indigenous population was fierce. Roman terror tactics and numerical superiority prevailed. The large marble monument in La Turbie testifies of their victory. Rome established a few garrisoned towns. Their location is given away by Roman amphitheaters.

The first 100 m of the Julia Augusta is easy to identify as Roman


Albenga we passed through today, Cemenelum (Nice), Frejus (main Roman port) and Aix-en-Provence were their main settlement. All tied together by the Via Julia Augusta on which we walked today. One of the impressive Roman roads that tied the Empire together.

At about half the Distance a small section of the Roman

Road is still intact and well preserved

Posters along the Road explain how it was built


Rome’s large economy had an integrating effect though. High quality hard timber (oak and chestnut) was in high demand for construction and ship building. The Roman Treasury was eager to get its hand on Ligurian copper for low denomination coins. From Greek colonists which arrived around 600 BC, Ligurian people learned to cultivate olives and wines. Both products were in high demand in the Roman capital.

Several Funeral Buildings line the Road outside Albenga


The Catacombs are empty but remarkable intact


As Ligurian goods flowed from the region, so Roman culture seeped into Liguria. Latin, the language of governance and commerce, replaced the native Ligurian tongue. Ligurian nobles adopted Roman culture, dressed Roman style and built Roman villas. But the basic truth remained. Rome was here to secure its line of communication – not for Liguria.

After a good 60 minutes, our Destination, the Port of Alassio, came into view


The Gallinara Island from above Alassio


It was time to call our captain to get us back. Despite the clouds, it was now 37 C hot and very humid. Everybody longed for a dip in the Med. I guess that the Roman Legionnaires who built the road were not allowed such pleasures.

Many other leisure boats had now joined us on our anchor place - people had lunch on the boats and came for a swim

Proud Achievement of six modern Legionnaires - we

did not have to carry Armour though







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