While on my European road trip, I (Tom) was holed up in my van in the Italian Alps while torrential rain put an end to my hopes of climbing on the stunning Alpine granite and gneiss crags of the Aosta Valley.
I needed to move on and in the midst of the cold and wet the warm and dry Mediterranean was calling me.
I recalled seeing a picture during the planning stages of the trip of climber scaling a pocketed pure white limestone wall and had a vague recollection of it being on the Italian coast. I hit up the UKC crag map and zoomed in and saw a collection of pins directly south of my location on the coast – Finale Ligure.
Driving through the Liguria region of north-western Italy, you could see why this was one of the most popular sport climbing destinations in the country.
Rugged, craggy peaks rise sharply from the coastline, smothered with dense green vegetation out of which pure white limestone faces protrude.
The density of crags is incredible – it could even rival Kalymnos. This is evidenced by the huge Bible of a guide, covering a relatively small area. Travelling between valleys can be time consuming but the range of cliffs accessible from most parking areas is enormous. Finale Ligure currently has around 3000 bolted lines ranging from 3a to 8c+ spread across 180 crags, and with Oltra Finale only half an hour down the coast, there is an extraordinary amount of climbing within reach.
The typical Finale style is technical vertical face climbing on pockets, but the region offers so much more. Steep tufas, stunning long cracks and corners, sea cliff climbing on conglomerate at Capo Noli and a huge range of multi-pitch routes throughout the grade range, both bolted and on trad gear. The majority set in a beautiful environment with fresh fruit and herbs growing naturally and the Mediterranean only minutes away.
While in Finale you must not pass up the opportunity to climb in the open cave of Grotta dell’Edera. The walk in takes you on fixed lines up an underground cave with beautiful tufa formations, through a small opening, emerging into a stunning cylindrical cave with a large window to the sky with some incredible lines ranging from 6a to 8a+. Definitely not to be missed and a great photo opportunity.
Getting there: Fly to Genoa – Nice and Turin would also be options – and from there either rent a car or catch the train straight to Finale Ligure station.
Where to stay: There are almost endless places to stay as Finale is a top tourist destination for Italians, but Base Camp Monte Cucco is a climber’s best bet as it is situated beneath the biggest crag in the region – Monte Cucco. I would also recommend one of the hostels or ‘agriturismo’ lodges in the Perti area due to the high density of nearby crags. If you are travelling in a van, it is easy to find car parks where climbers are tolerated.
Logistics: Finale town and Finalborgo have a few medium sized supermarkets as well as numerous small shops offering local produce, bread and fruit and vegetables. Finalborgo, the small ‘old town’ is great for a meal out or a few drinks. I would recommend Il Castello – they do great, good value pizzas. Finalborgo also has half a dozen decent climbing shops – Summit Mountaineering is the best of these and the owner is really helpful for any local knowledge and speaks perfect English.
When to visit: The peak season is September to April, but it is possible to climb all year round as there are crags facing all directions and due to its micro-climate is relatively cool in the shade.
Words and photos by Tom Dale
Feature image by Connie Lampka