Taggia, the medieval village on the enchanting Riviera dei Fiori - Bellarome

Taggia, the medieval village on the enchanting Riviera dei Fiori

Taggia is a scattered Italian municipality of 13.927 inhabitants in the province of Imperia in Liguria.

Taggia

Fourth municipality in the province by population, it includes, in addition to the center of the same name, the hamlet of Levà and Arma di Taggia.

Its conurbated area, extended to the neighboring municipalities of Badalucco, Riva Ligure and Castellaro, reaches a population of 25.000 units and is the fourth most populous in the Imperia and fifteenth in the region.

According to local sources, the primitive human settlements in Taggia should be sought already in the pre-Roman era, where historians do not rule out a probable place of worship – dedicated to the Ligurian god Belleno – in the area called Capo Don (in the municipality of Riva Ligure).

The oldest evidence of the place dates back between the 10th and 7th centuries BC, thanks to the discovery of ancient cinerary tombs on the overlying Monte Grange, where there was a Ligurian castle that also served as a commercial emporium, open for imports from all over the Mediterranean. It therefore underwent Roman domination from the 1st century BC.

The medieval village is divided into two parts: Taggia, the historic center, located in the immediate hinterland of the Argentina valley, and Arma, a seaside resort. The two centers are connected by the area called Levà (the name derives from the Roman name to indicate a raised area). It is about 16 km from the capital. The municipal territory is however very extensive, because it coincides with the lower valley of the Argentina torrent, from the confluence of the Oxentina torrent, near San Giorgio, up to the sea. It is a large inland sector characterized by extensive crops – especially olive groves – in the hilly belt and by extensive forests in its mountain portion, which reaches Monte Faudo, the highest elevation of the Municipality with its 1149 meters.

The tourist heart of Arma is, and could not be otherwise, its wide and choreographic beach: a beach of fine sand, protected by breakwaters, which form a sort of natural swimming pool, with a regular and safe seabed, particularly suitable for families and for children, for ideal and relaxing days the seaside. At the service of the tourist, there are about fifteen modern bathing establishments, with a wide range of services: bar, restaurant, TV room, telephone service on the beach, boat rental, pedal boats and other equipment, sports facilities, and much more, including a small marina, which can accommodate up to 125 boats, with a maximum length of 9.50 meters.

Arma di Taggia is also the ideal starting point for countless trips, walks and excursions, truly for all tastes, in a great variety of natural environments. In less than twenty minutes by car, you can reach the French Riviera, or, in an hour or so, you can climb up to the ridge of the Maritime Alps, at over two thousand meters above sea level, in landscapes and environments now high in the mountains.

Taggia is the home of the Taggiasca olives, so much so that in the surroundings of the church of Santa Maria del Canneto it is still possible to visit a historic olive grove created by the Benedictine monks. But it is also the city of slate, Taggia, of that dark and gray stone that adorns the buildings of the city and that attracts fans from all over the world, interested in buying it in the place where it is extracted.

Let’s start our trip in this gem of Liguria!

 

The convent of San Domenico

The convent of San Domenico is a religious building located in Piazza Beato Cristoforo in Taggia, in the Argentina valley, in the province of Imperia.

The buildings, considered among the largest art galleries of the Ligurian and Nice pictorial school, were built between 1460 and 1490 by Como masters Gasperino da Lancia and Filippo da Carlono.

In its interior, in addition to the presence of the twelve altars, it preserves valuable pictorial works of different painters, including an Adoration of the Magi attributed to Parmigianino and five paintings by the painter Ludovico Brea such as the Annunciation of Mary of 1494, the Madonna del Rosano del 1513, Saint Catherine of 1488, Our Lady of Mercy of 1483-1488, the Baptism of Jesus and Saints of 1495.

Among the other works on display, there are those of Gregorio De Ferrari, Giovanni Canavesio, Raffaele De Rossi, Giovanni Battista Trotti (called Malosso) and other painters of the time.

The complex of San Domenico consists of the convent and the Gothic church dedicated to Santa Maria della Misericordia. In 1468, Blessed Domenico Cristoforo from Milan called to collaborate “wall masters” and Lombard stonemasons: the Bunichi, the Calvi, the Da Lancia, the Carlone who joined, learning a lot, the local workers. The construction lasts about twenty-seven years and it was inaugurated on August 8, 1490.

In 1468, the first religious settled in the convent, which soon became an important center for the cultural, spiritual and artistic development of the city and for three centuries it would be the main center of culture, where there is also a library necessary for the training of preachers and rich enough despite the abandonment and the spoliation of the late nineteenth century, in which manuscripts and miniatures were reproduced.

The church, restored in 1935 in the original Gothic lines and recently restored again, has a facade decorated with late Gothic elements including a gray stone edged portal surmounted by a pointed arch, in the middle of which a marble bas-relief represents the Pietà . A geometric pattern with vertical lozenges and stylized leaves links the arch of the door to the central window; the tympanum is decorated with hanging arches along the two slopes and a central oculus.

The irregular Latin cross plan is flanked by pointed chapels; the three internal naves are decorated with black and white ashlars in the ribs of the vaults and in the arches of the side chapels. The church has valuable decorations by Giovanni Donato da Montorfano, while the decorative apparatus and works of art are clearly influenced by the Flemish, Lombard and Genoese schools. The paintings that adorn the interior, with 12 altars, represent a meeting point for artists of different origins and constitute an art center of primary importance. In the church you can admire several paintings by Ludovico Brea such as the Annunziata triptych, the Madonna del Rosario, the triptych of Santa Caterina da Alessandria, (1483), in the Curlo chapel the polyptych by Ludovico and Antonio Brea depicting the Baptism of Christ (1495).

The convent has a splendid fifteenth-century cloister: the square-shaped cloister is covered with twenty columns of the Benedictine convent of Santa Maria del Canneto. In the relative lunettes, frescoes, executed between 1611 and 1615, depicting episodes from the life of San Domenico by Alfonso di Pietro (1613) and Gio Batta Merulo (1613) were recovered under a coat of plaster. Adjacent to the cloister there is also the refectory room and the Chapter room, where there are two frescoes of the Crucifixion by Giovanni Canavesio.

 

Church of Nostra Signora del Canneto

The church of Nostra Signora del Canneto, a former abbey of Canneto founded in the seventh century, is a Catholic place of worship located along the ancient road to Badalucco.

Its construction developed between two cliffs; originally there was also the underlying church of Sant’Anna.

Built between the tenth and twelfth centuries, with adjustments that have defined a predominantly Romanesque style with Gothic influences, the church is now in a very poor state of conservation and, while still standing, it suffers severely from neglect as much on the outside, with the ruined facade, as for the interior, with the ancient cycle of frescoes substantially erased by time, and with a large part of the structure not accessible.

The bell tower with a vaguely Gothic taste, with mullioned windows and mullioned windows “in crescendo”, and the classic peak at the height, surrounded by four minor cusps, remains standing and in a better state of conservation.

The Saracen raids of the ninth century that depopulated the coasts, also hit the abbey of Taggia. In 891, the Saracens profaned the monastery, demolished it, killed all the monks, and set fire to the precious library.

It will be rebuilt again by the Benedictine monks of the abbey of Santo Stefano di Genova, owned by Bobbies, at the end of the tenth century with various alterations over the following centuries, especially in the twelfth century. Later the monastery passed to the Dominicans.

The interior of the church, now ruined, has a mural cycle painted in 1547 by the painters Giovanni Cambiaso, Luca Cambiaso and Francesco Brea.

Starting from 1935, some restoration interventions followed: the collapsed apse was rebuilt on the foundations of the ancient; the access on the side was ennobled by a portal from a nearby church, S. Anna, partly ruined and now no longer existing; the bell tower has been brought back to the Romanesque phase.

Attempts to restore the frescoes are more recent, partly ruined by infiltrations.

 

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lampedusa

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lampedusa is a Catholic place of worship located in the municipality of Castellaro, in the province of Imperia. The sanctuary, part of the diocese of Ventimiglia-San Remo, is located at an altitude of 370 meters and is about one kilometer from the urban center of Castellaro. The main feast is celebrated on the Sunday following September 8 (feast of the Nativity of Mary).

The birth of the sanctuary is linked to a popular history and in particular in the figure of an inhabitant of the then village of Castellaro. It is said that the villager Andrea Anfossi – nicknamed “Gagliardo” – was, according to one version, captured in 1561 by the Turkish pirates who attacked the town on that date; another version instead sees the protagonist fall into the hands of the Saracens while chasing them at sea.

Slaved by pirates and loaded onto a Turkish ship, he made a stop on the island of Lampedusa and, to supply the ship with timber, the Andrea Castellaro was sent to the woods of the island and it is there that, in the midst of a dazzling light , found in a niche a canvas depicting the Virgin Mary.

Looking forward to escape from captivity, he made a rudimentary boat from a trunk and a sail from the Marian web to face the open sea and return to his native land; legend claims that Anfossi arrived on the Ligurian coast – near Arma, today’s hamlet of Taggia – and then in Castellaro in 1602.

Here, the villager vowed to erect a sanctuary, to thank the Madonna for the dangerous journey, in the locality called Costaventosa. In 1619, the works for the construction of the Marian sanctuary by the inhabitants of Castellaro ended. The solemn coronation took place in 1845.

According to religious belief, some miraculous events such as healings, cessation of natural disasters such as drought, and even the expulsion of wolf packs hungry from the village of Castellaro are attributed to Our Lady of Lampedusa.

 

The Medieval Bridge

It is a unique construction of its kind: entirely in stone, 270 meters long and composed of 16 arches.

You will walk on river pebbles that have seen thousands of women, men and animals pass by. You can sit on the characteristic stone seats and enjoy the view of the hills or the valley, listening to the passage of the Argentina stream.

But how come they built such an imposing bridge over a stream?

The medieval bridge of Taggia was not built all at once. The Argentina stream passed very close to the Castellaro hill many centuries ago and only one arch was needed to overcome it. The course of the waters, however, moved more and more towards the west, especially on the occasion of ruinous floods. It was thus necessary to gradually build other arches, arriving as said at sixteen.

Where once the stream passed, you will find gardens and vegetable gardens.

First arches towards the east of the medieval bridge of Taggia.

It is said that the Romans built the first arch of the bridge. Later the work perhaps continued the Benedictine monks. According to tradition, they already owned the area of ​​the Madonna del Canneto before the year 1000 and had to connect it to their grange located towards Riva Ligure. The only road to Taggia once used the left bank. We certainly know that the last arches of the bridge were raised under the impulse of the Dominican friars.

On the medieval bridge of Taggia, there are two newsstands that tell interesting stories.

That of the first arch was an important historical memory of the city. In fact, it housed three statues from the ancient Romanesque parish church, where they were placed on the facade. A fundamental testimony because the church was completely rebuilt in the Baroque period, keeping very little of the previous one. Unfortunately, in the last century someone noticed their value and stole them. Now they will probably be in some “private” collection.

The eleventh arch newsstand speaks instead of a story with a happy ending. We are in 1831. Two children, two brothers to be precise, are crossing the bridge. In short, they laugh, chase each other, make children. Suddenly the earth begins to tremble under their feet, the span collapses. Miraculously both boys are saved, indeed they remain completely unharmed. Their dad then decided to have a newsstand erected on the rebuilt arch bridge, as a token of thanks.

A walk on the medieval bridge of Taggia is also the best way to reach the elegant Villa Curlo. It is an elegant eighteenth-century noble residence built outside the walls, with a private chapel and a beautiful garden.

 

Church of San Maurizio Martire

The church of San Maurizio martyr is a Catholic place of worship located in the municipality of Riva Ligure, in Piazza della Chiesa, in the province of Imperia. The church is the seat of the homonymous parish of the Vicariate of Levante and Valle Argentina of the diocese of Ventimiglia-San Remo.

The parish church is located in the historic center and its construction was decided to remedy the insufficiency of the previous building, today’s sanctuary of Our Lady of the Good Council. Taggia, on which Riva Ligure depended, together with the Republic of Genoa gave the positive vote in 1693 for the construction of a new religious temple and already in that year the land for the construction was found.

The works, entrusted to the master builder Girolamo Arlotti, proceeded very slowly, above all due to the lack of the necessary funds, so much so that in 1717 he was quite behind the forecasts. The building was supported a lot by the spontaneous donation of the same resident inhabitants who financed the work throughout the eighteenth century.

The internal paintings depicting the Immaculate conception and San Vincenzo [unclear] are by the painter Carlo Giuseppe Aicardi of Oneglia, while the sculptures present are by Anton Maria Maragliano.

A facade enriched with stuccos and an elevated and elegant bell tower: this is one of the symbols of the baroque Riva Ligure. It is the new church of San Maurizio, located in the heart of the town, with a large churchyard which welcomes passersby along the narrow road parallel to the coast. The ancient church of San Maurizio was now insufficient for local demographic development. The Taggese government, on which Riva Ligure depended within the territory of the Republic of Genoa, authorized the construction with a resolution of the Parliament of 1693. In that year the use of land of the Braia, formerly of the mayors of the Riva, was granted. In reality, the construction of the new sacred building was thought of since 1657, since the old San Maurizio was now inadequate. The construction of the large church is slow, also due to lack of funds: still in 1717 there was quite a bit of work behind. The foreman in charge was Girolamo Arlotti, a native of Riva himself. The latter had also led the construction site of the new parish church of Taggia. The relationship with the Taggese building appears undoubted, considering the single nave plan, with side chapels and a deep presbytery.

In the meantime, the construction was supported by revived families, such as that of the Philippians, who from simple sailors had enriched themselves to become owners. The construction site continued throughout the entire eighteenth century and each generation of Rivesi provided its contribution. A decisive phase of development is to be found during the second half of the 18th century. The churchyard is a splendid example of Ligurian pavement dated to 1760. In 1775 two paintings were commissioned by Carlo Giuseppe Aicardi, a well-known painter from Oneglia. These are those of San Vincenzo and the Immaculate Conception.

For some years, in fact, the titles of new chapels have multiplied, with the establishment of new prayer companies capable of managing individual titles. This is the case of the Compagnia delle Anime Purganti, erected in 1734. The stucco decoration is the main attractive aspect, with an insistent presence, from the outside, where there are also all-round statues, inside, with particular interventions in the chapels of San Vincenzo and Suffragio linked to the Ticino-born Vincenzo Adami (early 19th century). The nineteenth century still sees Rosina Ferro’s legacy in favor of the construction of the main altar in marble. It is evident that this church is truly the result of the religious passion in which hundreds of people have identified themselves.

 

Costa Balenae

Costa Balenae is an archaeological site located along the ancient route of via Julia Augusta (the current SS1, also known as via Aurelia) near the mouth of the Argentina torrent (in ancient times Tabia fluvius), mentioned both on the Antonino itinerary ( as a landing), both on the Tavola Peutingeriana, on the latter with the name of Costa Bellene (as mansio). It is also called the archaeological area of ​​Capo Don.

The toponym of Costa Balenae could derive – according to some studies – from the Ligurian divinity Belenus, linked to the cult of fertility and assimilated by the Romans to the god Apollo, while another less documented version reports the connection of the toponym to King Belo, father of Dido, of Phoenician origin. Located in the current territory of the municipality of Riva Ligure, formerly in an intermediate position between Lucus Bormani (located between San Bartolomeo al Mare and Diano Marina, perhaps near the sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Rovere where archaeological excavations were carried out) and Albium Intemelium ( the current Ventimiglia), is believed to have been founded shortly after the victory over the Ligurians reported in 181 BC by the consul Paolo Emilio.

Next to the sea, it was equipped with a small landing place and was mainly used as a road station for changing and stopping horses and for direct goods coming from Gaul. Numerous coins and medals found on the spot suggest that Costa Balenae remained very active for the entire duration of the Roman Empire: recent excavations, conducted by the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archeolog,  (still in progress), have confirmed this hypothesis and the almost certainty of a continuity of life in the settlement from the second or first century BC (the remains of a Roman villa, excavated only partially) date back to this period from the 3rd or 4th century AD.

The Christianization of the site can be traced back to these last centuries, but the archaeological traces found date back to the first half of the sixth century, when it was erected, probably by the will of the bishop of Albenga in whose jurisdiction the area fell, the so-called “basilica di Capo Don ”, including an octagonal baptistery, perfectly preserved (already re-emerged with the archaeological excavations of 1937 conducted by Nino Lamboglia) and typical of the early Christian era such as those, very similar, present in the Roman cities of Albium Ingaunum and Forum Julii); there is also a conspicuous funeral area (inhumations of different types have been brought to light), a further sign of a well-organized center used continuously, with subsequent modifications and constrictions of the buildings, up to the tenth century, perhaps partly even up to XII century if you want to consider the presence, on the hill behind the site (the Grangia), of a Benedictine monastery dependent on Genoa, attested until the XIV century. The decline of the settlement is probably attributable to a number of causes: the formation of new inhabited centers nearby, the reorganization of religious institutions in western Liguria, the change in traffic and transport routes and the violent incursions of Muslims stationed in the south of France, in the locality of Frassineto.