Along the whole Italian alpine arch tens of old paths were used in the past to cross the border illegally. Goods and people have always moved across them. Along the centuries Italians used to trade pasta, rice or sheep for French salt.
The most of these paths are quite difficult to walk on. People without any skill of mountain life would easily get lost or caught by bad weather condition at high altitudes. Many people – Jews, southern Italians or Africans died as they were trying to pass through the mountains.
In Liguria, an Italian region on the coast close to the France, the environment is not so harsh. A high hill, a few meters far from the sea, divides Italian jurisdiction from French one. It is very much easier to walk through this path than everywhere else on the Alps. It is called “il sentiero della speranza”. The path of hope.
Many Jews left Italy in the 30’s using this path it as Mussolini published his fascist racial laws. People from southern Italy followed in the 50’s trying to get into France to find better life condition. Africans did the same in the 70’s 80’s, especially the ones from the former French colonies. In the last 10 years hundreds of Syrians, Pakistanis and Iraqis coming from the most unstable political scenario in the world, saved their life thanks to this walk.
The path starts from Grimaldi, a hamlet close to Ventimiglia and in less than a couple of hours leads to Mentone, in France, passing around the last valley on the Italian ground and the highway overpass that dominates the valley like a huge 6 feet monster. Migrants find a small group of abandoned houses and usually stop there to rest and change their clothes before to walk on the French ground.
As the check points at the French border have become stricter, alternative ways to pass the confines have become more and more used