Giroborgo in Diano Castello: visit and guided tour

Detail of Palace Quaglia in Diano Castello


Giroborgo in Diano Castello: visit and guided tour

June 12, 2020

We're used to studying history in books, a series of information in which we happily stumble upon dates, names of kings, popes and ancient families: what a mess! And yet, history is all around us, we step on it every day without almost noticing it. Take Diano Castello. We have already told you the story of the fortified village but, as soon as it was possible, we took the opportunity offered by the Giroborgo association to find ourselves catapulted into a unique dimension. We visited some of the most beautiful churches, admired the Lone ˗ the ancient cisterns inside private houses ˗ and appreciated the stories behind each caruggio. Every stone we encountered on our way seemed to fit perfectly into the mosaic of a story that, from the Middle Ages to the present day, is renewed without major clamor.

In this article we will take you on a historical walk, a Giroborgo to discover the wonders of Diano Castello.

 Detail of a medieval gate in Diano Castello

The association Giroborgo di Diano Castello

The cultural association Giroborgo is made up of five young people who are passionate about history and in love with their country. Their names are Flora, Sonia, Alice, Gessica and Alessandro. Like many young people, they have not resigned themselves to a certain "easy" tourism and, aware of the historical and cultural beauties of Diano Castello, they have rolled up their sleeves: they have devised an enjoyable route through the cobbled streets of their historical centre. Anecdotes, historical sources and personal suggestions embellish the walk. Defining it as a guided tour is, in fact, reductive. What the guys at Giroborgo offer is an appointment with memory: an experience in which people fall in love with a village, often unknown even to the inhabitants of the Gulf of Diano .

 Sign in front of the church of the Assunta in Diano Castello

Let's start the route with Giroborgo

After talking with Alice, we make arrangements with Sonia to book a visit to the historic centre of Diano Castello. We have been waiting for two months to do this experience but, due to the lockdown, we naturally had to wait. Finally the situation seems to have improved, and with the necessary precautions, we set the date for our Giroborgo. We leave from the farm and head to the village. The day is bright: it couldn't be better! The appointment is at 18.00 in Via Meloria, under the Lodges.

Here we meet Sonia who, with the help of the 18th century map, shows us the structure of the old village and anticipates the route. She starts immediately by telling us that, to the detriment of the name, there is no castle in the village. The Latin word castrum, in fact, generically indicates a fortified city, that is, protected by defensive walls. There were four gates through which it was possible to access Diano Castello:

  • Porta della Marina, to the south;
  • Porta del Borgo, to the north;
  • Porta del Portello di San Pietro, to the east;
  • Porta del Mercato to the west;

Right now mass is celebrated in the church of San Nicola di Bari above us, so we postpone the visit until later. There will be two other churches along the way: the church of the Assunta and the church of San Giovanni Battista. Between one historical building and the other, Sonia announces that we will visit some Lone. These ancient water tanks are located in private houses and therefore very difficult to admire, if not inside the Giroborgo.

Start of the Giroborgo route

Le Lone

Lona is a word that derives from the Ligurian dialect and indicates a pool for collecting water. It is a peculiarity of Diano Castello: buildings of medieval origin, which are not to be found elsewhere. They were dug completely by hand and horizontally.

Their function was absolutely strategic, because it allowed the population of the village to survive the sieges for a long time, thanks to the large water reserves. The rain, retained by the tuff, was conveyed through channels inside the Lone, and in this way made available to the citizens. Even today, as well as representing a resource of extreme charm, they are still used to irrigate vegetable gardens and private gardens.

The first Lona we visit with Sonia is just below the Logge, next to the convent of the Poor Clare nuns, even if not owned by them. We will see yet another one inside a private home. This last cistern, about 17 metres long, looks almost like a swimming pool, full as it is of water!

Lona inside a private home

Church of Our Lady of the Assumption

We walk along the walls around the parish church of St. Nicholas and stop to admire a well, then we cross a narrow street under the ancient palace of Clavesana to reach the square of the same name. From here we proceed towards the first medieval jewel, which Sonia points out to us as one of her favourites: the Romanesque church of the Assunta (13th century). What we see first is not the façade but the apse, while the entrance is on the side. The interior of the church has the greatest surprises in store for us:a single nave with a wooden trussed roof and a small, intimate altar, from which black and white striped decorations emerge, a symbol of the power of the Doria family. The walls are covered with frescoes on the stories of the saints, a novel of images only, through which the faithful who could not read and write could still distinguish the events of the Gospel.

Detail of the apse of the church of the Assunta of Diano Castello

Church of San Giovanni Battista

Continuing along the road towards the caruggi of Diano Castello, between historical gates and ancient palaces, we arrive at another stage of our Giroborgo: the Romanesque church of San Giovanni Battista. It is accessed through a gate that leads us to a cobblestone churchyard, interrupted by some shady holm oaks. Here too, the stone church shows the apse first, almost hidden by plants. The interior is simple but, looking up to the ceiling, we are faced with a marvel: a wooden trussed roof decorated with panels in which scenes from the lives of saints and ancient trades take place. Under the floor, instead, protected by glass, are the foundations of an ancient bell foundry.

 The exterior of the church of San Giovanni a Diano Castello

Parish church of San Nicola di Bari

Finally, we conclude our tour with a visit to the parish church of St. Nicholas. Majestic in its baroque dress, this church was built by Giobatta Marvaldi between 1699 and 1725. Inside we are enraptured by the details. Every part of it, in fact, is full of decorations that alternate between the paintings on the ceiling and the architectural elements of the chapels, marked by the sinuous movements of twisted columns. Despite its imposing appearance, it was the first to suffer major collapses following the earthquake of 1887. A wound opened the façade in half and the vault collapsed along with the bell tower. Only the perimeter walls and wooden furnishings remained standing.

 Facade of the church of San Nicola di Bari in Diano Castello

These are just some of the suggestions that we have experienced thanks to Giroborgo. There are many, in fact, news and stories that you can listen to. And still many places to admire.

If you stay in one of our holiday homes and are looking for an excursion around Diano Marina, don't miss the Giroborgo!
To book a visit you can also contact the association through their Facebook page. The price of the ticket is 7 € and covers the cost of membership to the association: in this way you will have the right to access the cultural initiatives that the guys organize periodically.

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