The year 2017 is the year of hamlets. This was decided by the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, who organized several initiatives aimed at enhancing what is considered to be one of our country’s most important cultural, human and economical assets. Therefore, if you have a free weekend, you should take advantage of these initiatives to visit one of these villages steeped in history and surrounded by nature.
Also in Liguria there are fascinating hamlets to see. Some of them are well-known, but they always deserve a visit, others are yet to be discovered. Here are our suggestions.
The most beautiful hamlets on the Riviera di Levante (“The coast of the rising sun”)
This is a small marine hamlet within the city limits of Lerici, in the province of La Spezia. Like the “Cinque Terre”, it appears to have been carved out of the rock since it looks out over, or really dives into the sea. In front of all the houses is the church of Saint George, chosen, not by chance, by the football player Andrea Barzagli for his wedding. If you go there during the summer, do not miss the Sagra of the Octopus” (the feast of the octopus).
This small village is the pearl of the Cinque Terre, also known as “the Portofino of the East” because of its lovely harbor. It resembles Tellaro entrenched as it is on the rocky outcropping in the sea, with the ancient church of Saint Margaret of Antiochia situated right on the beach. Also to visit is the Doria Castle; it is worth walking down the steps to get a breath-taking view from the overlook. The views from the paths are fantastic; they start just a bit above the village. If you don’t want to work very hard, why not stop at one of the many establishments along the way, sit down, have a drink and enjoy the beautiful panorama?
This is a small village in the Vara Valley, the valley that was created by the river of the same name, in the hinterland of La Spezia. It was built around a Benedictine abbey that has now disappeared. The plan of the village has an elliptical shape and its only two “gates”, that is the only two access points, are the ancient Upper Gate and Lower Gate. Once you have seen the churches, have a peek at the modern part of the village, the outlet Shopinn Brugnato 5 Terre, the only one in Liguria. Something that is an absolute must in Brugnato is the “Infiorata del Corpus Domini” (the Flower Decorations of Corpus Domini), during which the whole village becomes a festival of flowers, with beds of flowers everywhere.
This is another village in the Vara Valley, located in the higher part. It is also known as “the round hamlet” due to the perfectly round shape of its old town center. Besides being a lovely settlement, it is also well-known for having become the first Italian town for organic products, so you have to stop and buy some of its products. Moreover, during the summer there are open-air opera concerts in Varese Ligure.
The hamlets that are not to be missed in the Western part of Liguria
Actually, it would be more appropriate to say “The Ancient Principality of Seborga”. That’s right, because this hamlet in the province of Imperia, with only a few more than three hundred inhabitants, in 2014, decided to go back to its origins, announcing the rebirth of the ancient principality and it now hopes to obtain independence. For this reason, when you get to the “border”, you will see a sign with the official banner, just as if you were entering a foreign country. Apart from this, Seborga is a pleasant little medieval village, with ancient buildings, mosaic floors, vaults and churches to see.
This small village, too, is in the province of Imperia. It is another example of a typical medieval Ligurian village. However, Apricale deserves a visit because it has been named one of the most beautiful hamlets in Italy, an ecological destination awarded with a “Bandiera arancione” (an “Orange Flag” which is a recognition of quality awarded by the Italian Touring Club to small villages in Italy for excellency in tourism, hospitality and the environment). It is nestled in the tranquility of the hillside, but just a short distance from the sea. You can stay in the village’s scattered hotel (Albergo Diffuso) in the historical center. Moreover, Apricale is located within the area where Taggiasca olives are grown and in fact, it is a member of the national association “Città dell’Olio” (Cities of Olive Oil).
Colletta di Castelbianco
Up until a few years ago, this hamlet did not exist, while now it is itself a scattered hotel (Albergo Diffuso), immersed in the green of the Pennavaire Valley in the territory of Savona. After the earthquake of 1887, the village was gradually abandoned. In 1980, however, its restoration and conversion began. Now, Colletta is a beautiful pleasant hamlet to stay in, with apartments of all kinds and suitable for every need, with an inn as well. Most of all, it is the first completely telematic hamlet.
The name immediately recalls the medieval origins of its historical center; in fact, the walls surrounding and protecting it are still well preserved. You can experience the real atmosphere of ancient times, due to the fact that the ancient buildings are still in good conditions. The alleys in Finalborgo are set out perpendicularly to each other and at each intersection there is a square. The main characteristic is the use of slate in the architecture. Moreover, there are the 5th-century and Renaissance buildings to see.
Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena
The hamlet was built, from the bottom up, on the hillside with the same name. From the top of the Barbena hill, the castle dominates everything. The village still today has an ancient look, so much so that the old washtubs and the picturesque ovens that form bulges coming out of the external walls of the houses are still in sight. If you go during the winter, you will probably find snow there.
If you venture into the hinterland of Savona, you will come across this village, which many people will already have heard about in reference to its renowned truffles; in fact, the hamlet hosts the national Feast of Truffles. However, Millesimo is not just that. There is the old bridge or the “bridge of the Gaietta”, one of the oldest fortified bridges in Italy. There is also the Castle of Carretto, and at its feet, Villa Scarzella, surrounded by a magnificent garden. Millesimo is also a medieval village to wander around and discover.