Itinerary: Celle Ligure, Albissola, Savona, Vado Ligure, Noli
The history, the culture and the seafaring traditions of the ancient villages of the Riviera di Ponente in Liguria
The coast that stretches from Genoa to the border with France is called Riviera Ponente. It is a beautiful coastline where mountainous landscapes meet the Ligurian sea offering breathtaking views in many points, and where fine sandy and pebble beaches follow each other. Also, several medieval villages are scattered around and nestled in the green, which still preserve their old fashion charms. Let's visit some of them located in the stretch between the villages of Celle Ligure and Noli.
Celle Ligure (pic n°1): the name of the village refers to its past of fishermen and sailors. In fact, the "cellae" were huts where boats, nets and tools were stored. Today, the village is divided into the eastern, more modern side called "Piani", and the western side formed by the old fishing village, where a lovely promenade links the two souls of "Celle".
In the eastern side, there is Chiesa di Nostra Signora della Consolazione, which was built in 1468 by the Augustinians, although the current façade was built in 1725. The first documents that mention Celle Ligure date back to 1014 and show that it was possession of Hugh of Clavesanas. In the past, there used to be two castles to protect Celle from the attacks of the Saracens, one on the hill and the other one at the sea, but no trace remains of them.
Albissola (pic n°2) extends west of Sansobbia river. It has a nice, long, sandy coastline divided into two parts by St. Anthony's Pier. Nearly opposite the port, there is a rock with a small statue of the Virgin Mary, and that is why the rock is called "Scoglio della Madonnetta" (Madonnetta rock).
The oldest part of the village features narrow and picturesque streets. We suggest visiting the famous Villa Fareggiana, dating back to the eighteenth century and which is today home to the "History Center of the Ligurian Ceramics". The purely agricultural vocation that used to characterize Albissola today is almost disappeared at all and replaced by tourism. And yet, even though much of the urban construction has changed, traces of the past continue having evidence of the ancient origins of Albissola: near St. Peter's Church there are the remains of what used to be an ancient Roman settlement, called "Alba Docilia". Another trace of the past is the famous Roman road "Via Julia Augusta", which is still visible today.
Savona (pic n°3): this city is known as the town of towers. In fact, the symbol of this town of ancient seafaring tradition is a tower. People from Savona call it "Campanassa" (big bell in the local dialect) because it preserves a giant bell that used to serve as a warning signal in case of danger.
The "Campanassa", which is Torre del Brandale, is almost 50 meters high and overlooks the whole city. Not far from it there are the Torre Corsi and Torre Riario (also known as Torre degli Scolopi), originally both of them were part of the fortified walls. In a niche of the latter, you can admire the statue of Nostra Signora della Misericordia (our Lady of Mercy), the saint protector of Savona. The medieval center of the town lies next to the old port (pic n°4) and it is also the proud home to many buildings, symbols of a glorious past, such as Palazzo Lamba-Doria, Palazzo Gavotti, Palace Multedo, Palace Pozzobonello, and others.
Vado Ligure (pic n°5) was founded as a Roman military outpost in the second century B.C. and, in 89 B.C., it started to be known as "Vada Sabatia". Before the fall of the Roman Empire, the development of this town was rapid and flourishing that suggests it was an important village dedicated to maritime trade.
Vado Ligure has played an important role at an institutional level as well. It was the seat of the bishop from the seventh to the eleventh century and remained under the Del Carretto family and the Marquis of Ponzone's control. Make sure not to miss a visit to the 13th century Church of St. John the Baptist, as well as the ruins of a Roman burial ground called "Fossa do Re". In the nearby area of Capo Vado, there is the fortress of St. Stephen, built in 1614 at the request of the lords of Genoa. Under the seat of the municipality, Roman tombs and the remains of a villa dating back to the 1st-2nd century B.C. were found.
Noli (pic n°6), with its typical medieval structure, is the heir of the ancient and glorious maritime republic, which has preserved its independence for centuries.
It was already an independent town in 1193 and it reached its heyday in the fourteenth century when it boasted 72 fortified towers. According to that time's traditions, each family that had provided Genoa with a "galea" (warship) were permitted to build its own tower. Out of the 72 towers, today only five of them have survived. The highest one is called "Torre dei Quattro Canti" (Tower of the four corners), built in the thirteenth century.
Sea also: Scenic drives along Riviera dei Fiori on the Ligurian Coast
Some pictures of Riviera di Ponente:
Celle Ligure (pic n°1); Albissola (pic n°2); Savona (pic n°3); The old port of Savona (pic n°4); Vado Ligure (pic n°5); Noli (pic n°6)