Discovering the Ligurian Riviera
March 31, 2021
Although the beach of Diano Marina is only 800 meters from our apartments, we often advise our guests to take the car or moped to visit the Ligurian hinterland. A few kilometers from us, for example, you can admire some of the most beautiful villages in Italy, such as Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena.
If you've never heard of it, take a few minutes to read the testimony of our walk in this wonderful village!
The village of Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena, as we know it today, has its origins in the late Middle Ages. Although some archaeological finds dating back to the Roman age have been found in the so-called necropolis of Erli, in fact, the village developed around the XII century thanks to the initiative of the famous and powerful Clavesana family. As we know, this family lost part of its power with the rise of the Del Carrettos and the foundation of the nearby fief of Zuccarello in the 14th century. With the marriage between Enrico Del Carretto and Caterina Clavesana, in fact, most of Castelvecchio's territories were incorporated in Zuccarello's feud.
In the following centuries, instead, the village passed under the control of the Savoys, who kept it until 1672, when it passed to the Republic of Genoa. Finally, in the 19th century, in 1861 Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena became part of the Kingdom of Sardinia and of the Kingdom of Italy.
To get to Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena take the Aurelia bis between Laigueglia and Alassio. After about 10 km we take the provincial road 582 and follow the signs for Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena. At the end of several uphill curves we reach the village of which we immediately see the imposing castle.
Once left the car in the panoramic parking we can start our walk, starting from the big Piazza della Torre. This square is so called because of the presence of the medieval tower, located next to the Oratory of Santa Maria Maddalena, with its beautiful bell gable and the lunette at the top with the effigy of the saint. This place, however, is also known as Piazza della Forca (Gallows Square), because it was here that capital punishment was carried out in ancient times, under the gaze of the entire population.
We are at the beginning of our walk, in Piazza della Torre. Castelvecchio welcomes us between its ancient walls, with the Oratory of Santa Maria Maddalena, the bell tower and the ancient fountain. From here we will start our path towards the historical center, through the historical caruggi.
Still a bit shaken for having learned this historical anecdote, we leave the square and we take a narrow street, at the end of which we meet the church of Nostra Signora Assunta, built in the 15th century, but restructured later in baroque style.
The houses in Castelvecchio are all huddled around the castle and they almost seem to touch and support each other as if in an embrace, thanks to the typical medieval buttresses. It is amazing how these architectures survive practically intact since their origins.
We are in the historical heart of the village, with its narrow alleys and stone houses accessed by steep stairs. Each house is in communication with the neighbor's one through buttresses and shared little squares, where you learn the ancient value of community.
Walking through the caruggi is, therefore, a unique experience. Beyond the monumental beauties, what strikes us are the details offered by the small things of daily life, which seem to photograph a reality that has remained unchanged over the centuries. We perceive this when we observe the collection of work tools inside the Museum of Ancient Crafts, which seem to have been left there just a few minutes ago, or when, with our noses turned upwards, we admire the typical globular "humps" that protrude from the walls. These are nothing more than small ovens made in this way to save space inside the houses. And then the ancient wash-houses where we seem to see the women of the village with their backs bent by fatigue; the old wooden doors that must have welcomed generations of children and grandchildren; or, again, the steep stairs climbed who knows how many times by the agile grandmothers of the village.
We continue our journey through the ancient alleys until we reach the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora delle Grazie, a chapel built in the seventeenth century as a votive offering to the Virgin for saving the population from the plague. But what strikes anyone in Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena is definitely its castle.
Although it cannot be visited because it is private, this grandiose military architecture with its quadrangular shape can be reached through a path. Its current appearance is due to the collapses and bombings suffered during the sieges, but its charm remains intact. From the hill, moreover, you can enjoy a respectable view on the Neva valley, demonstrating how strategic was its position and how important was its role for the control of the surrounding territory.
Less than 40 km from our farmholidays is Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena: one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, yes, but above all one of the most vivid traces of Ligurian history. In short, an ancient village that has not been compromised by mass tourism, one of the most genuine of our hinterland!
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