Borgio Verezzi, a suggestive medieval village in Liguria - Bellarome

Borgio Verezzi, a suggestive medieval village in Liguria

Borgio Verezziis an Italian municipality of 2.147 inhabitants in the province of Savona in Liguria.

Borgio Verezzi

Like a pearl set in a jewel, as simple as it is beautiful, precious and elegant, Borgio Verezzi nestles along the Riviera delle Palme between Finale and Pietra Ligure, in a game of shapes, colors and shades that enchants the most attentive and demanding. It is no coincidence that this picturesque town between sea, rock and Mediterranean scents has been included in the circuit of the Pearls of Liguria. And it is no coincidence that it is also included in that of the most Italian villages. Whether you travel alone, with family or with friends Borgio Verezzi knows how to charm and conquer. But it is when traveling as a couple that you experience the most exciting sensations.

Borgio Verezzi is among the most romantic Ligurian villages consisting of four villages – Poggio, Piazza, Roccaro and Crosa – populated by small pink stone houses. Overlooking the sea, they climb the hill connected to each other by ancient mule tracks (le crêuze) that cross gardens, ancient doors, wash houses, votive shrines. Much loved by walkers and climbers, many arrive in the village also to see its caves.

Along each alleyway and crêuze that connect the villages, suggestive glimpses of narrow passages open, ancient doors, wash-houses, votive niches, corners rich in history and beauty that refer to past eras: all inserted in the harsh natural context and pleasant of the terraces. However, the most striking aspect in Verezzi is the view of the Ligurian coast that can be enjoyed from each of the four villages where it really seems to be suspended between sky and sea. The village, inserted in the Pollupice Mountain Community, which is based in Finale Ligure, participates in the initiative The road of wine and oil, which aims to enhance the food and wine traditions and typical products of the area.

Let’s start our tour in this wonderful gem of Liguria!

Caves of Borgio Verezzi

The Caves of Borgio Verezzi were discovered only in 1933, but the presence of cavities was well known for a long time to the inhabitants of the place, as well as some strange phenomena connected to them. For example, the waters of the Rio Battorezza seemed to be swallowed up in different parts of its course, even if this did not prevent the stream from periodically leaving the riverbed to devastate the surrounding fields. Then there was the lake, at the bottom of the almost mythical cave which can be accessed from the floor of the church of S. Pietro, and finally the Roggetto: a stream that flows from a fracture, right at the foot of the town of Borgio.

Towards the end of the 1920s, the Podestà Giacomo Staricco decided that the floods of the Battorezza had already done too much damage: he decided to dig in the stream bed, widening the fractures in which the water sometimes seemed to infiltrate, hoping to intercept a pipeline underground that served as an outlet for too ruinous floods. A well about ten meters deep was dug, but we had to stop because the money available had run out.

At the beginning of the 1930s, yet another flood completes the work. The water that has penetrated the well manages to break through a thin rock diaphragm and disappears underground.

Following the water route, in 1933, three young children from Borgio entered the first room of a new cave, where they wrote the date and their names with the smoke of candles: Lillo, Tito and Valentino.

Nobody realizes the extent of the discovery until 1951, the year in which Giovanni Dentella, at the head of the Speleological Group Ingauno, begins the systematic exploration of the cave, finding a complex of rooms and galleries that winds for a few kilometers below the town of Borgio. Dentella himself, impressed by the extraordinary beauty of that underground world, will conceive and implement the tourist route inaugurated in 1970.

The still and transparent waters of the lakes constitute one of the major attractions of the tourist route, which winds for about 800 meters inside large halls, between huge blocks detached from the vault in remote ages. The concretions of every shape are very rich: from the cannulas, thin and almost transparent, to the drapes, as thin as sheets, to the large columns that seem to support the vault up to the eccentric stalactites, which challenge the force of gravity developing in all directions.

And everywhere the colors: white, yellow, red in a thousand different shades. Due to the presence of various minerals, they make the Caves of Borgio Verezzi the most colorful tourist cave in Italy.

 

Gavone Castel

Castel Gavone was the main seat of the Marquis Del Carretto, lords of Finale. It is located in today’s hamlet of Perti in Finale Ligure, in the province of Savona.

At the end of the XII century (most likely starting from 1172) Enrico I Del Carretto or his son Enrico II established a “caminata”, that is a feudal palace, above the Becchignolo hill, the rocky outcrop that dominates Finalborgo, the capital of the marquisate; it was enlarged and fortified by Henry II in 1217. It was partially demolished in 1448 by the Republic of Genoa and immediately rebuilt by Giovanni I Del Carretto between 1451 and 1452.

During the following century the castle was further enlarged by Alfonso I Del Carretto, his son Giovanni II and his grandson Alfonso II. The project of these extensions is a typical example of the so-called “transition military architecture” and seems inspired by Francesco di Giorgio, with whom Alfonso should have had occasion to meet in Rome and perhaps in Milan. The first intervention was the addition of a triangular building culminating in the “Torre dei Diamanti” (around 1490), a tower in the shape of a ship’s hull and covered by a splendid ashlar. The new body was used to defend the castle from artillery attacks from the side of the slope that descends towards the sea.

Shortly thereafter, in the second or third decade of the sixteenth century, the construction of an external rectangular wall began, the construction of which was completed in the last years of Carretto domination (before 1558).

Further external works, but aimed at the security of the castle, were carried out under Spanish rule. The main intervention was the construction in 1643 of Castel San Giovanni, which protects the slope below Castel Gavone, preventing the installation of enemy artillery.

The last major intervention, the work of Gaspare Beretta in 1674, was the excavation of a rocky slope on the northern side, always to prevent the attackers from being fortified. Simultaneously, a crosspiece, a point and a covered road were built at the base of the outer wall to prevent the approach of enemy engineers.

The castle was again demolished by Genoese artificers in 1715 after the purchase of the Marquisate by the Republic of Genoa.

On 29 December 1989, the castle was donated to the Municipality of Finale Ligure, and after the restoration started in 2007, it is finally possible to visit this splendid complex.

 

The Cave of the Arene Candide

The Cave of the Arene Candide is one of the most important caves in Europe for the famous finds made inside it.

Inside this cave, finds have been found that testify to the presence of man between the upper Paleolithic period and the Byzantine age; these important findings make this cave one of the most important in Europe thanks to the remains preserved in it. The history of this cave begins about 30,000 years ago even though it was discovered much more recently, more or less 150 years ago, and the archaeological research inside has not yet stopped.

The Cave of the Arene Candide is located 89 meters above sea level, in the Caprazoppa promontory that divides Finale Ligure from Borgio Verezzi. The name derives from the now disappeared quartz white sand dune, which until about 1920 reached the shores of the sea.

In the Paleolithic period, the cavity was the site of several important burials, among which we remember that of a young hunter who lived 28,000 years ago: many objects and rich ornaments were placed with his body, so as to give him the nickname of “young man” prince”; this finding is undoubtedly one of the most important in all of Europe.

The most numerous remains were attributed instead to the Neolithic period, between 5800 and 3600 BC. Most likely, the first farmers who came from the sea settled in the cave and found a safe and favourable place to settle here.

Thanks to the research carried out over the years in the Cave od the Arene Candide, much has been discovered about the culture, habits, conditions and standard of living of the populations that lived in the Finale area in the Neolithic period. Not only that, these studies have made it possible to understand and deepen information about the economy, resource management and the relationship with the environment. From this point of view, the prehistoric site has been an important source of news that has no equal in the whole Mediterranean.

The international importance of the Caene delle Arene Candide derives from the fact that inside it there is a sequence of about 10 meters of sediments which contain imposing traces of human frequentation between the Upper Paleolithic (about 34 thousand years ago) and the VI-VII century AD: it is still the most complex and complete archaeological stratigraphy of the western Mediterranean. Most of the layers are linked to the presence of prehistoric man: burials, fragments of vases, shells, bones, wooden coals, accumulations of manure, ashes, characterize large areas of the cave.

 

 

Church of San Pietro

The church of San Pietro is a Catholic place of worship located in the hamlet of Borgio, in Piazza San Pietro, in the municipality of Borgio Verezzi in the province of Savona. The church is the seat of the homonymous parish of the pastoral area of ​​Pietra Ligure of the diocese of Albenga-Imperia.

Built in 1789 on the area where the ancient sixteenth-century defensive castle stood, the parish church of San Pietro was completed in 1806 and is characterized by a white neoclassical structure and the two bell towers on the sides of the main facade.

The church was built in 1789 on the remains of the ancient castle of the Burgum Albinganeum – designed by Giacomo Barella – with the completion of the works in a period between 1806 and 1808.

It assumed the title of parish church from the already existing church of Santo Stefano – originally dedicated to San Pietro and now a sanctuary – located inside the local cemetery.

A few years later – in 1814 – the church was visited by Pope Pius VII during the return from French captivity.

The church has a single nave, with six side chapels; the facade is neoclassical, with the main door flanked by four Corinthian columns. Among the works preserved, a canvas depicting Saint Peter in the apse area.

 

Phoenician mill

The Phoenician mill of Verezzi, so defined for the Phoenician and Middle Eastern influences that characterize its construction technique, represents the best preserved example of the three currently present in Europe, one of which in Spain and one in Sicily, both in ruins. In this type of windmill, the blades were located inside the structure and moved thanks to the wind that passed through the open slits on the facade.

The windows were closed or opened according to the wind and needs, in order to convey the flow with maximum intensity on the veiling of the blades and thus take full advantage of the power of the mill. Unlike traditional windmills, which made the most of the wind coming from only one direction, this mill was therefore able to take advantage of the entire wind rose, constantly present in this area of Verezzi.

The Phoenician mill of Verezzi is one of those pearls of our beloved Liguria that we forget too often. If anyone asks “What is there to see in Borgio Verezzi?” the beach or the suggestive historical center comes to mind. Yet, not far from the center, there is a monument of inestimable historical value to the most unknown.

It is an internal blade mill, defined as a Phoenician mill. This name derives from the construction technique born in the Middle East and then spread throughout the Mediterranean area. The importance of this ancient construction is also given by its rarity: in fact, there are only two in the rest of the world. These, however, located in Spain and Sicily, are practically ruins that retain extraordinarily little of the original construction.

Windmills built with this technique have the main peculiarity of the internal presence of the driving blades. In this type of structure, the wind was channelled regardless of its direction thanks to the slits that surrounded it.

 

These openings to the outside, specially opened or closed according to requirements, allowed continuous work. The construction of the Phoenician mill in Verezzi at that point is not causal: the area in fact often presents highly inconstant winds, which would have caused considerable inconvenience with a traditional external blade mill.

 

The Church of Nostra Signora di Loreto

The church of Nostra Signora di Loreto or church of the Cinque Campanili stands on a hill just outside the town of Perti in Finale Ligure, in the province of Savona, in a dominant and very panoramic position on the valley, and  constitutes one of the very few examples in Liguria of Renaissance construction still impregnated with late Gothic influences.

The Renaissance-style building with Lombard influences represents an almost unique case in Liguria. Art historians have highlighted the architectural similarities with the chapel of San Pietro Martire, built by Pigello Portinari in the basilica of Sant’Eustorgio in Milan between 1462 and 1468. Given that the Portinari chapel was frescoed by Foppa and that he was active in Savona in the years 1489-1490, in which the chapel of Perti was built, Graziella Colmuto Zanella suggested that Foppa may have played an important role in the transfer of the Lombard model to Perti.

In addition to its unusual appearance, the church is in a respectable position: it dominates the valley and enjoys a wonderful panorama.

The church has a square plan surmounted by an octagonal dome with a polygonal apse leaning on one side. The interior is illuminated by large circular windows decorated with red brick cornices, also used in the decoration of the corners of the building alternating with stone blocks of the Finale. Above the 4 corners of the structure, 4 small and slender bell towers rise which frame the central one slightly higher and resting on the center of the dome. From this feature derives the nickname “church of the five bell towers”.

The construction of the church is attributed to the client of Alfonso I Del Carretto and his wife Peretta Cybo Usodimare: their coats of arms appear on the corner pillars of the building. The construction would take place in 1489-1490, immediately after their wedding (which took place in Rome on November 16, 1488). In the church there are frescoes by two Dominican blesseds, probably the finalese Domenico Folcheri da Perti and Vincenzo Maglio da Orco.

In addition to its unusual appearance, the church is in a respectable position: it dominates the valley and enjoys a wonderful panorama.

The Blue Dragonflies Waterfalls

For those who want to spend another day outdoors, there is the possibility to immerse themselves in a magical place. Far from horns and city noises, here is a corner of nature that combines a little fantasy with crystal colors: The Blue Dragonflies Waterfall. It is located in the hinterland of Finale Ligure, exactly in the hamlet of Calice Ligure named Rialto (Savona).

As soon as you arrive you are surrounded by emerald green, which is also reflected in the lakes of the waterway. And the name of the waterfall? It is connected to the particular inhabitants of this area: the Blue Dragonfly families that move throughout the surrounding woods. You can also swim under the waterfall and along the increasingly popular Torrente Pora.

The Blue Dragonfly Waterfall is a manned, controlled, and tidy place. To access safely, in fact, you go through the AgriBike Camping, and the offer of 1 euro that is requested for entry is a contribution intended for the protection of the site and maintenance of the access path. The path is short and suggestive, especially suitable for children: it is possible, in fact, to reach the Pora stream in 5 minutes.

Cosimo Melacca and Francesca Magillo, respectively farm manager and Environmental Hiking Guide, gave the name to this waterfall, enhancing it over the years. After the opening of the Camping and the cleaning of the path, in 2015 guided tours (here for info) to the highest and most beautiful waterfall in the whole Rialto began. Nearby there are other water jumps generated by two streams that are channeled into the narrow valley, almost in parallel, inhabited by a large colony of Calopterygidae or bridesmaids, more simply called blue dragonflies.

These cute little animals, which fly in summer, are witnesses of a healthy habitat, thanks to the clean waters of the waterways and the intact and luxuriant forest present in this Savonese gorge. In the area, there are also signs that narrate the habits of these insects, also inviting respect for simple rules of behaviour. Access to the waterfall is forbidden from October 1st to April 30th, for security reasons.