The Beautiful Villages of Liguria Travel Guide - Part 2

The Towns that Make Italians Proud

  • Triora  
  • Lingueglietta 
  • Cervo 
  • Laigueglia

This is Part 2 of a seven part series presenting 28 fascinating and beautiful Ligurian villages of every type - hill towns and castle towns, walled towns and fishing villages. Each of these small towns has qualified for membership in one of two nifty Italian organizations: The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy  I Borghi Piu Belli d'Italia  -  and The Orange Flags  Bandiere Arancioni. Read about these initiatives  below in More Info.

You can see all 28 towns on this Google map: Beautiful Villages of Liguria Map and they are listed below as well. They are described from the French border toward La Spezia so you can easily integrate these beautiful towns with visits to San Remo, Portofino, Genoa, or the Cinque Terre.

Each town has a story to tell and some friendly people ready to tell it.  While you can't tour them all, just visiting a few will add an authentic Italian flavor to your trip to Liguria.  If you want to get off the beaten path in Italy, these villages will do it.

 New Story     Link: Great Italian Hill Towns near Cinque Terre
For information about visiting Liguria in spring, see our story Spring Weather in Liguria.

This beautiful 12th century village has an ideal location on a sunny slope of the Valle Argentina.  A wonderful smoke-darkened maze of alleys and vaulted passageways, lined with doorways of sculpted slate, leads in to the center of this evocative village.  The town is pre-Roman and history is always present. Approaching the town, you pass a series of ancient churches; the Church of San Bernardino (15th century), the Church of St. Dalmatius (before 1261), and the church of Our Lady of Grace (12th Century), as well as the oratory of St. John the Baptist (1632).  History presents also in defensive boundary walls, and five defensive forts, which helped the Triorans defeat the Army of Piedmont in 1625.

Triora                                                                      Laura Mary
All these are well worth seeing, but the draw of Triora is —witches. During the 16th century, particularly from 1587 to 1589, the Inquisition worked overtime here to unearth and punish those responsible for bad weather, crop shortages, and dying livestock.  Black magic, nocturnal revelry, and secret occult meetings were further provocations, and who could ignore the eating of babies?  Women, both humble and noble, were accused, as were girls and a few boys. The trials involved the most terrible of tortures to obtain confessions, and then the accused were typically burned at the stake.

Today, Triora remembers through the Ethnographic and Witchcraft Museum (click for info). The museum has displays on agricultural traditions, the rural life, and the origins of the town. Documents and artifacts about the witchcraft trials are displayed, along with reconstructions of the interrogations and the tortures of the accused witches.  Beyond the museum, the theme of witches and witchcraft is all about the town - there are statues, witch houses, shops selling witchy souvenirs and fascinating "magical itineraries". Tours visit the Cabotina, a poor quarter of town where many of the accused lived; the wooded Lgodegnu, alleged to be a favorite witch meeting place; and Monte delle Forche (Gallows Mountain). You can read more at Wikipedia Triora Trials (IT)

It's not all witchy here. Triora has a Visitor Center for the nearby Park of the Ligurian Alps and there’s a 5 hour round trip hike, described here: Monte Marta Hike. The website Italian Dream enthuses in English and Triora Comune has more info in Italian.

Church/Fort San Pietro. Lingueglietta, Liguria
Davide Papalini
Set a few miles inland among low coastal hills filled with old olive trees, Lingueglietta is one of the most characteristic Ligurian village along this western coast. The odd name is derived from the medieval rulers, the Lengueglia family who began the spelling disaster in 1049. The town was the center of affairs of this rural section of coast, and it maintained its independence for centuries despite the ambitions of Genoa.

The charming medieval core of the town is nearly intact, with narrow winding lanes decorated with sleepy cats. The center of the village has a 13th century parish church dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary with features spanning centuries. For the engineer, there are ancient measurement gauges for oil and corn and wine to be seen. Intact cannot be said of the nearby Lengueglia castle, of which little remains except the grand views.

However, be sure to take a short walk to the end of the borgo both to admire more views and because it leads to a
rare example of a Church / Fortress.  Named after San Pietro, and recently restored, this charming building began as a 12th century Romanesque church and was adapted with Renaissance military features to be part of a 16th century coastal defense system - the need for which is clear as the views of Saracen-filled seas are expansive. The website Comune Cipressa has more historical details in Italian.

Cervo, Liguria                                                   Lotte Gronkjaer
A beautiful classic fishing village, Cervo is filled with charm, and would make a good base for exploring Liguria Ponente. Its white and cream houses surround the huge baroque Church of San Giovanni Battista (1686) with its concave fa├žade. Also known as “dei Corallini” after the wealthy coral gatherers who sponsored its construction, it holds several well-known works including evocatively faded 16th century frescoes, which feature, of course, cervo – deer in Italian. The enormous size of the church in the tiny town is remarkable, and goes to show how prosperous and expansive the town once was.

Cervo is still, in some ways, a tiny medieval town, where artisans and artists tend their workshops in cobbled alleys that are too narrow for cars. Sixteenth century towers and ramparts still surround the village and  the heights are dominated by a medieval castle - the ancient residence of the Marquises of Clavesana, now the Ethnographic Museum of Western Liguria

The shoreline is simple and wholesome - there are only a few small organized beach clubs - the remaining beaches and cliffs are free and uncrowded. Uphill from the town, the walking and hiking is quiet and pretty, through ancient ruins, olive groves and pine woods. There's a trail brochure Cervo Paths (IT) and a schematic Path Map to get you oriented.  In July and August there's a famous International Festival of Chamber Music that takes place in the Corallini's scenic churchyard and features prominent artists. Enhanced by a starlit setting, the Festival and its renowned music Academies have earned Cervo the title “Village of Music.” The Cervo Website has useful tourist info.

Like so many Italian towns, Cervo is proud of its local food traditions. The famous Ligurian taggiasca olive is grown here to make cold pressed olive oil and cured black olives for eating and cooking (known elsewhere as Nicoise). The local wine is made from the area’s traditional grapes (pigato and vermentino).

There is good train service available to the station Cervo-S. Bartolomeo. Trenitalia Website.

Laigueglia                                         Ario Gaviore
Laigueglia has really been through a lot.  For the last thousand years, things haven’t always been easy.  After the Romans stopped tramping through, the Catalans came sailing in to harvest coral and start vineyards.  That wasn’t so bad, but as soon as things were prosperous, and the men gainfully employed fishing, the pirate Barbarossa started eyeing the area, and by 1543 trouble was brewing.  A furious cannon battle drove the townspeople to the hills, but the sailors fought so fiercely for their homes that the Saracens temporarily abandoned the attack.  But not for long.  The famous marauder Dragut landed in 1546, burning houses and fields and grabbing hostages.  This was pretty much unacceptable, and the government in Genoa sent supplies and architects to build fortifications – the maze of narrow streets in the heart of the town and the one remaining defensive tower to the east are the remnants of these efforts.

These efforts were largely successful, and in just a few centuries Laigueglia recovered its prosperity.  At the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was a major shipyard, with 10 wharves.  The ships they produced were close to perfect, the wood bent and shaped by a sophisticated heating processes, and in high demand.  Gondolas plied the bay, carrying goods from wharves to ships, and over 1,000 ships a year would come to the port to trade.

And today, it seems as if Laigueglia is enjoying a well-earned retirement.  The beach, with shallow water, fine sand, and mild temperatures is clean and lovely.  There’s a sailing school where you can take classes at any skill level, and some of the training boats are practically museum pieces.  There are foothills right behind the town have trails for biking and hiking.  For trail and park directions, see Laigueglia Parks.  There’s also a Whale Sanctuary offshore.  Every winter over 2,000 whales and dolphins gather in the Ligurian-Provencal basin to feed for the winter, and there’s now a huge protected area, 37,000 square miles (twice the size of Switzerland).  There are whale watching boat tours, of course! (Liguria Whale Watch)

In the town itself, the Oratory of Saint Mary Magdalene, near the parish church of Saint Matthew, has a wooden choir and an alter wing by the painter Domenico Piola.  The church itself is a baroque style 18th century building with twin bell towers with majolica domes, and has some well known art work.  For a bit of detail on the Oratory and other Laigueglia sites, see Visit Riviera. The Comune website has info in Italian for every question of every visitor: Laigueglia Commune.

There is good train service available to LaiguegliaTrenitalia Website.

Travel Tip_____________________________________________________________________

Renting A Car in Italy. If you drive in urban areas at home, you can drive in Italy. Car rental prices are important, but don't rent based solely on low price and stick to well known companies. We have two articles to help you:            Link: Independent Car Rental Reviews for Italy 
                             Link:Car Rental Tips for Italy - Pick It Up Right 
We advise getting your car from one of the companies with the fewest problems reported (Avis, Europcar, Hertz, Autovia, Budget) either direct or via a reputable car rental broker such as AutoEurope (NOT autoeuropa, ending in 'a'). The advantages of using AutoEurope are the added services without paying more - low price guarantee; 24/7 help before, during, and after the rental; easy changes and cancellation; as well as available less expensive zero excess (deductible) insurance.** If you find our efforts helpful, you can thank us by making your reservation through these links -using the links do not raise your price.
AutoEurope(US)    Auto Europe(UK)     Avis(English)      Avis(IT)      Budget Rent A Car (English)

More Info

Itinerary Map
 - Create your Ligurian itinerary: Beautiful Villages in Liguria Map

New Story     Link: Great Italian Hill Towns near Cinque Terre

I Borghi Piu Belli d'Italia - The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy - is an independent association of 206 Italian towns that meet criteria of architectural integrity, quality of life, as well as artistic and historical heritage. The borghi have joint promotions, joint festivals, and a guide book.  The website Borghi Piu Belli d'Italia has nice English descriptions of each of the localities making it a useful tool for planning travel to other parts of Italy. Eighteen of the villages wait for you in Liguria.

Bandiere Arancioni  - The Orange Flags - is an initiative of Touring Club Italiano to identify localities of excellence in Italy. These Italian towns must pass numerous tourist-oriented criteria related to welcome, attractions, services, structure, and environment.   The website Best Small Towns Italy provides information about each town and the process in English, and in Italian Bandiere Arancioni tells all. Thirteen towns in Liguria have been awarded the Bandiera Arancione.

Index to The Most Beautiful Villages in Liguria - Click the Part Number. Towns in the seven parts.

Part 1:  Ventimiglia / San Remo area:
                          Airole   Dolceacqua   Apricale   Pigna   Seborga

Part 2:  Imperia / Alassio area:
                           Triora    Lingueglietta    Cervo    Laigueglia

Part 3:  Albenga area:
              Colletta di Castelbianco    Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena   Zuccarello    Toirano

Part 4:  Finale Ligure area:
                           Borgio Verezzi    Finalborgo    Noli

Part 5:  Savona / Genoa area:
                           Millesimo    Sassello    Campo Ligure

Part 6:  Rapallo / Levanto area:
                           Santo Stefano d'Aveto     Moneglia    Varese Ligure     Brugnato

Part 7:  Cinque Terre / La Spezia area:
                           Pignone    Vernazza    Tellaro    Montemarcello    Castelnuovo Magra

Written by Martha