Villages of Liguria
March 22, 2023
The principality of Seborga is nestled in the heights of western Liguria, between Bordighera and Sanremo. An ancient town that has maintained its status as an independent principality, although not recognised internationally, and still retains a strong cultural and historical identity.
Let's discover what to see in the Principality of Seborga.
The history of the Principality of Seborga has its roots in the Middle Ages.
In 954, the Count of Ventimiglia ceded the territory of Seborga to the Benedictine monks of Lerins Abbey, located opposite Cannes on the Côte d'Azur. The monks held the role of Princes of Seborga until 1700, when the territory was sold to the King of Sardinia Victor Amadeus II as a personal possession, not to be annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia.
Over the years, the annexation of Seborga to the Kingdom of Italy and then to the Italian Republic was questioned by Giorgio Carbone, a history enthusiast, who from the 1960s advanced the cause of the independence of the Principality of Seborga, becoming the first Prince of Seborga with the name Giorgio I. He denied the legitimacy of the annexation, supporting the theory that the Principality was an independent entity.
Still today, Princess Nina is engaged in the battle for the recognition of the Principality, continuing the work of Giorgio Carbone. Her story has interested and intrigued people from all over the world, attracting the attention of the international press. Despite the challenges and controversies, the Principality of Seborga remains a place of great fascination and curiosity, a symbol of the determination and pride of its people.
The Luigino is a very special coin, used exclusively in the Principality of Seborga. Its history dates back to the origins of the borough, when this territory was governed by the monks of Lerins Abbey. In 1666, the monks issued Seborga's first coin, called the 'luigino', in honour of Prince Louis I of Monaco.
The Seborga coin had a short life and fell into disuse when the territory was sold to the King of Sardinia in 1729. In 1995, however, Prince George I decided to reintroduce the luigino as the official currency of the Principality of Seborga, with the aim of promoting the culture and history of this territory.
Today, although not officially recognised, the luigino has acquired great value especially as a collectible currency and can be found for sale online at high prices. The official exchange rate of the luigino is 1 for 6 US dollars (USD) and there is even a website that allows the luigino to be converted against major currencies.
The luigino is a testimony to the desire for independence and freedom that continues to characterise the Principality of Seborga and its thousand-year history.
Seborga is located about 58 km from our agriturismo (discover our holiday flats in Diano Marina!). To reach the village, you must take the A10 motorway in the direction of Ventimiglia and then exit at Bordighera. From the motorway exit, you will need to drive uphill for about 7 km until you reach your destination in Seborga.
You can park your car in Piazza Martiri Patrioti, or in the larger car park in Via Casette.
Once you reach the boundary of the municipality, you will notice a blue sign with white writing marking the entrance into the territory of the ancient principality. At the entrance to the village, you can admire the sentinel posts, a symbol of a bygone era.
What to see when visiting Seborga? Here are some of the most suggestive places not to be missed.
From the picturesque alleyways of via Casette, you can climb up to the suggestive Belvedere Vittoria Delfanti. Here, one finds oneself immersed in a large square decorated with the flags of Seborga and enriched by the typical post of the village sentinel and a small cannon.
From the belvedere, you can also reach the Twinning Gardens, dedicated to the union between Seborga and L'Escarène, a pretty village located in the Alpes-Maritimes department.
After admiring the breathtaking panorama from Belvedere Vittoria Delfanti, just 100 metres away is the picturesque Church of San Bernardo. On the way, a statue dedicated to King Umberto I of Savoy and a plaque commemorating the construction of the road connecting Bordighera to Seborga in 1954 can be seen. The church, although small in size, is a true architectural jewel and preserves precious frescoes and works of art inside.
The church, built in the 14th century and dedicated to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, looks like a small stone church.
The churchyard is decorated with artistic paving and flower beds. And it is here that the city's most important religious and political ceremonies are held, such as the solemn procession on 20 August, the feast day of St Bernard and the National Day of Seborga, in the presence of the city authorities and the Prince.
Princess Nina and Prince Marcellus I were also crowned in this same churchyard.
Seborga is a relatively small village and easy to visit. Not far from the car park is Piazza della Libertà, which houses a few souvenir shops and a small boutique. The latter, although now semi-abandoned, has a large map of the village that can be useful for orientation.
Past Piazza della Libertà, you can continue downhill along Via Matteotti or along the old road outside the walls. You will then arrive in front of Seborga's town hall, on the left of which you can see the ancient 'Porta del Sole' gate.
Passing through the ancient Porta San Sebastiano one arrives directly in Piazza San Martino, where the church of the same name is also located. This is the most beautiful part of Seborga and it is worth stopping to take a few photos.
The beautiful Piazza San Martino in Seborga
The Church of San Martino is the parish church of the municipality, built in the 17th century Baroque style. The three-order façade is decorated with frescoes of Christ the Redeemer and the Archangel Michael. Inside is a high altar consecrated to St Martin of Tours, a statue of the Madonna Regina with Child and two side altars dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary and the Sacred Heart.
The square is also home to the Palazzo dei Monaci (Monks' Palace), known for housing the old Seborgian mint where the Luigino was coined.
Having passed Piazza di San Martino, one continues past Porta di San Martino. Turning left, you reach the Belvedere Guido Seborga, dedicated to the journalist, poet, painter and man of letters Guido Seborga, pseudonym of Guido Hess. From here one can admire a beautiful panorama of the coast stretching from Liguria to the Côte d'Azur and the Principality of Monaco.
After passing through the San Martino gate, you enter a series of characteristic narrow alleyways, similar to those in other Ligurian villages. Among the places to visit are the ancient prisons of Seborga, unfortunately only visitable from the outside, where some 200 individuals were imprisoned over the centuries.
On the only sign available in the village, their history is recorded, according to which, in 954 A.D., Count Guido di Ventimiglia ceded his fiefdom of Seborga to the Benedictine abbey on the island of San Onorato in Lerins. At that time, the abbot, who was also an abbey prince, had the power to judge and condemn those guilty of serious crimes, including the death penalty, through the ius gladii et sanguinis. Those who were sentenced to lesser punishments or the death penalty were locked up in Seborga in a place known as 'Le Prigioni'. This continued until 1729, when the fief was sold to the Savoys.
Not far away is the Oratory of the Miraculous Madonna of Alvenia. It is entrusted to a religious association of volunteers who manage the oratory and keep it open to the public. Our Lady of Alvenia is venerated as a patroness by fishermen and sailors, and has been the subject of numerous legends and stories related to her alleged ability to produce miracles.
As stated in the speech given during its inauguration, "This Oratory, dedicated to the Miraculous Madonna of Alvenia allows the Ascent of the Dead Souls to a brighter Paradise and to work miracles on all those who open their hearts to her".
The Chapel of the Knights Templar is an interesting testimony to the time when the Knights Templar were present in Liguria. It is a small stone chapel, located along the path leading to the castle, and can only be visited from the outside.
The history of the Templars in Seborga is very fascinating: the knights are said to have built their headquarters here, using the ancient castle as a base for their activities. It is also said that the Templars were aware of a great secret concerning the town of Seborga, which would have driven them to protect the area with great determination. Even today, the Templars' Chapel is a symbol of this ancient and mysterious history.
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