TERRA ITALIA Newsletter No 1 | 2023
Dear Readers and Fans of Liguria,
A warm welcome to the first Newsletter in the near year.
At a time when snow and grey skies still dominate the weather in North and middle Europe, the vibrant yellow of blossoming mimosas and a clear blue sky are all around on the Italian Riviera. Liguria and the Italian Riviera are no longer out of reach thanks to the various modes of transport connecting the region by car, air travel (airports Genova and Nice/France) and now even by overnight train from Munich/Vienna to Genova. An increasing number of people owning holiday homes or second residences in this region, come here to enjoy the benefits of the mild climate all year round.
The property prices remain stable and the ongoing investments into infra structure, tourism and culture make the region increasingly attractive.
Our title story will take you into the Val Nervia with all its romantic medieval villages and untouched nature.
And of course we would like to welcome all those who already live in our beautiful region to further explore the area they fell in love with.
The valley of the wild water river Nervia is one of the most beautiful valleys along the Riviera di Ponente. The river Nervia originates in the rolling hills near Monte Petravecchia and meanders for some 28 km through the hinterland of Ventimiglia and Camporosso.
It changes with the seasons and the weather from being a gushing river to a small trickly stream that hardly reaches the sea.
The Nervia brings life to an area of some 200 qm and two unusual and unique nature reserves.
The Parco Naturale in the Ligurian Alps, which connects the alpine with the coastal climate and enjoys a close proximity to the sea is home to an impressive variety of animals and plants. It stretches all the way to the mouth of the Nervia with the nature reserve “Oasi faunistica del Nervia” which translates into “Oasis of animals”. In an area of approx. 10 ha protected land, a vast number of some rare animals and plants have space to roam and develop. (See our Newsletter 02/22) The landscape is dominated by dense woodland, deep rock cliffs, healing sulphur sources and hidden stalactite caves as well as cultivated vineyards and olive groves. This is the land of the Rossese, the first ever DOC wine of Liguria.
The Nervia Valley is also known for its well-maintained famous historic villages, which line the river and look back on a rich history and medieval origins.
There are Camporosso, the valley’s agricultural centre, Dolcecaqua with the legendary Doria Castle and beautifully arched stone bridge (see newsletter 01/21).
Isolabona with its octagonal fountain dating back to the year 1486, Apricale (see newsletter 01/2022) with its natural backdrop for travelling theatre productions or Perinaldo, built around the year 1,000 and majestically located on the mountain ridge of Bignone and Caggio.
In the heart of the Nervia Valley there are the two villages located opposite each other and in sighting distance we would like to introduce you to. There is Pigna, known for its healing wells and Castel Vittorio on the opposite and southern range of hills.
The Comune di Pigna is a small mountain village situated above Dolceacqua and at the foot of the Toraggio and Pietravecchia mountains, surrounded by olive groves and chestnut trees. The river Nervia runs right through the village. The village used to be surrounded by needle woods, hence the name Pigna. Yet Pigna is not only named ‘Pine’, it is also arranged just like a pine. The stone houses are stacked in centric circles (“Chibi”) and Pignia’s unique shape can be seen from a long distance away. “Chibi” are narrow and shady mews which meander like deep arches underneath the houses. These arches were of important architectural meaning as they supported the up to 70 cm thick outside walls.
Prehistoric finds discovered in the grotto of Giacherei near Maraellae and surroundings have suggested that human settlings existed in this area for approx. 60,000 years. Pigna itself was created between the 12th and 13th century when the Duke of Ventimiglia built his castle. After that, the fortressed village belonged to the Duke of Provenza (near Nice) and later to Genova. In the mid 17th century ownership was passed on to the Savoia.
Pigna has a population of 800 inhabitants and the medieval architecture and rich cultural heritage make it one of the most important villages in the Nervia Valley. When walking through the Chibi one notices the slate plates listing the social status and the benefits enjoyed by former owners, incorporated into the brickwork. Pigna was an important trading town and benefited from a significant tax income reflected in the Palazzi and the town’s overall architecture.
On the Piazza Vecchia and surrounded by convoluted ancient houses a large Loggia held up by strong slate pillars was once erected to provide shelter for the hustling activities of the traders, merchants and farmers who came here to offer their produce.
The Piazza Vecchia in Pigna was not only a meeting point where to do business but also the place where meetings of the local parliament were held. Pigna gained independence in the year 1575 and was managed by the “parlamento giurato” with two mayors, ten communal members of the local council and 28 “uomini da bene” from then on. This “conseglio delli docedi” was renewed every year on the “San Michele” day and all authorities had to join the meeting on the Piazza Vecchia.
When wandering through the Chibi you will come across some stunning artefacts of immense value.
The “Chiesa Parochiale San Michele Arcangelo” tells the story of a small chapel dating back to the 13th century. Over the centuries and with the support of the Savoyen it grew into an impressive church in order to accommodate the increasing number of traders passing through Pigna. The high Campanille with its gable made of irregularly sized stone slabs is now the town’s landmark. The famous window of the “Dodici Apostoli” by Giovanni da Bissone” adorns the entrance portal and the altar inside the church is a master piece measuring 4.5 m in height, dating back to the year 1500.
Apart from the church there are a number of other artefacts located on the small square such as the fountain “Fontana di Caui”, “Oratorio di Sant’antonio Abate” and the birthplace of “Carlo Fea”, the well known archaeologist in charge of Roman excavations in the 18th and 19th century. There are plenty more history revealing sights worth visiting in Pigna, such as the church painting of the Madonna del Passoscio by Maratta.
When walking on along the narrow mews, one arrives at the Museum of Pigna up a few steps. Here, the traditional life of the farmers from the Nervia Valley is told by way of exhibiting their original tools. You will also find out why the local baker of Pigna was well off and why the small wood fired oven “antico forno a legna” was regularly fired up on Christmas Eve to make bread.
But Pigna has more to offer than ancient history. The village and the surrounding nature are the perfect place where to relax or take advantage of the hot sulphur spring wells cascading out of the source “Madonna Assunta”.
Pigna also invites to celebrate and have a good time. In October the “Pignaschi” celebrate the “Raviolta die San Tiberio”. This pasta in pecorino cheese has its name from the story that the locals ran out of oil during the fight against the Sarazenes. In May Pigna marks the significance of black bread, in June it celebrates St John the Baptist, in August the comedy festival “Intemglia” takes place, in September their sacred patron holy Michael is being honoured and at the beginning of October the festival of mushrooms is being hosted.
Pigna is always worth a visit – as is Castel Vittorio.
Just 3 km away and rising on a hilltop opposite Pigna right above the river Nervia lies the mountain village Castel Vittorio. At 420 m above sea level the elliptically shaped historic centre sits on a steep hillside at the end of a mountain ridge.
With 274 inhabitants Castel Vittorio is only a quarter of Pigna in size but historically just as impressive. The medieval village was founded in the 12th century by the Duke of Ventimiglia and remained under his rule until 1260. The Duke Bonifacio belonging to the line of dukes of Ventimiglia, decided to sell the village to the Genovesan citizen Gianella Avokato who in 1261 passed on the village to the commune of Genova. The republic changed the name to Castelfranco and handed over the jurisdiction to Triora.
A number of well documented feuds between Pigna and Castelfanco took place over the years. In 1625 the Savoyen who managed Pigna ransacked the castle of Castelfranco and stole 1747 bells from the local vicarage. As a revenge the inhabitants of Castelfranco ripped out the stone slabs on the village piazza in Pigna. The councils of the villages changed frequently until well into the 18th century and the feuds were only pacified when Napoleon Bonaparte fell and as dictated by the Vienna congress of 1814, the commune Castelfranco fell under the administration of the Kingdom of Sardinia. From 1861 onwards the village was made part of the Kingdom of Italy and in honour of King Vittorio Emanuele II the name was changed to Castel Vittorio. The gruesome second world war did not spare Pigna and Castel Vittorio when many civilians lost their lives and historic sites were destroyed.
Today, Castel Vittorio is a small and peaceful community living of farming, floriculture and growing wine. Visitors will experience a warm welcome in the charming small restaurants or can explore the beautiful nature and holiday accommodations.
There are also a number of medieval religious buildings worth visiting in Castel Vittorio.
To mention just a few, there is the Oratorium Santa Caterina, the church of the Madonna Assunta and the vicarage Santo Stefano, built in the 16th century and altered to the baroque style in the 18th century. Also impressive is the bas-relief on the side portal and the bell tower opposite the church with its dome adorned with multi coloured tiling.
The rich mix of mild climate, culture, history, culinary delights and beautiful landscape make many fans of Liguria want to settle in this area. If you are one of them, feel free to browse through our offer!
Turtun from Castel Vittorio
This traditional dish from Castel Vittorio being granted a beautiful festival in its honour every year, is the Turtun. It is a savoury cake which was labelled Denominazione comunale (De.Co.) due to its local authenticity.
Typically, it is being created with a few simple ingredients and depending on the time of year filled with raw vegetables of the season and eaten either hot or cold.
The filling in our recipe uses trumpet courgettes and potatoes with olive oil, goats tuma cheese primo-sale, salt and pepper.
Ingredients for the filling:
- 1 kg trumpet courgettes
- 300g local tuma cheese
- 1 large potato
- 1 large red onion
- Native extra virgin olive oil, depending on personal taste
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 EL pre-cooked rice
For the dough:
- 400 g flour 00
- 180 ml water
- 2 Tsp native extra virgin olive oil
- 2 pinches of salt
1. The dough
In a bowl mix all ingredients (flour, water, oil, salt); first with a fork and then with your hands until you have a smooth elastic dough.
Shape the dough into a ball, cover with cling film and let it rest for roughly one hour.
2. The filling:
Wash the vegetables and cut into cubes together with the cheese. Add to a bowl and mix with olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste. In order to soak up the moisture of the filling, you can mix in the rice; set the bowl aside.
3. The Turtun:
Remove the dough from the cling film and place on a slightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a thin circle of approx. 60 cm in diameter.
Place the dough on a baking tray laid out with baking paper and ensure the dough extends over the edge.
Add the filling to the centre and fold over the dough towards the centre of the baking tray and fold it bit by bit over the filling until the turtun is closed like a sack (see photo)
Pierce the dough all over with a fork and brush with native olive oil.
Bake in the pre-heated oven (190°/200°C) until the surface is golden brown and serve.
Our recipe suggestion comes from the Danish chef Pia Scharling who is very familiar with the Ligurian cuisine. Together with food critic Helle Brønnum Carlsen and photographer Flemming Gernyx, she explored the whole of Liguria collecting recipes and stories from grandmothers, chefs and cheerful gastronomists. More than 50 recipes, inspiring photos and stories were put together in a beautiful book, available in Danish, English and Italian.
The book can be ordered through TERRA ITALIA.
Virginia Woolf used to say “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” – and the Ristorante Storie di Mare has taken this quote to heart.
The restaurant is located right on the beach in Camporosso and in the summer, it invites to enjoy cooling drinks and snacks right on the waterfront on the restaurant’s own deck chairs. The Storie Di Mare offers deliciously fresh seafood and excellent wines for lunch and dinner. Whether you sit inside or outdoors, the ambience is there to enjoy and the wide views over the sea and sunset will make your visit unforgettable.
The kitchen team is very meticulous when selecting the ingredients of only the highest quality. Only the freshest of fish and seafood make it into the kitchen where they will be matched with seasonal vegetables and other excellent ingredients before being turned into delicious dishes cooked with great attention to detail. A tempting dessert, digestive and coffee awaits to round up this culinary experience.
The team at the Storie Di Mare is looking forward to welcoming you and will endeavour to attend to your wishes.
We recommend reserving a table as the restaurant is well known for its location and high standard.
Storia Di Mare, on the beach in Camporosso (IM)
You can book a table by calling: +39 0184255660
Or you can send an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening times: September to June open daily for lunch and dinner, except Tuesday.
July and August open from 9.00 – 23.00 serving breakfast, lunch and dinner; except Tuesdays.
Nicole Durand – Sculptress
Nicole Durand is an acclaimed and internationally recognized artist who took inspiration from the Italian and French masters such as Micheangelo and Rodin.
Born in 1957 in Lyon Nicole Durand worked for more than 30 years as successful artist and lecturer on sculpting at international art academies in Monaco, Switzerland, New Zealand, USA and Italy. Her art expresses itself as mixed media sculptures in bronze and alabaster as well as on canvas. Nicole Durand also founded the Academia d’Art and offers work shops on sculpting in Italy and Greece. She lives and works mainly in Italy on the Riviera where she has created a little paradise on the border between France and Italy.
This is where she opens her studio to experienced artists to work or simply stay in this inspiring atmosphere. Both, beginners and advanced artists come here to spend time painting and sculpting.
The Villa d’Arte with its sculpture studio has sea view and offers residential stays in this authentic Italian village with a choice of half board or self catering.
All through the year the Villa d’Arte offers classes in stone and wood work or painting with the option to learn and deepen new techniques with access to a variety of tools. Depending on the course there are also practical demonstrations, lectures and single consultations with a tutor on offer.
If you’re interested, why not browse through the list of work shops:
Via Moretti 29
18039 Mortola Superiore, Ventimiglia
+33 6 08 17 78 97 – +39 0184 38421
Every year the classic Milano-Sanremo race marks the opeining of spring and the international competitive cycling season. It always takes place on the roads of Liguria on father’s day, by now in its 114th year.
26 teams (18 UCI World Teams, 7 wild cards) take 7 cyclists each to the demanding route from Vigorelli-Maspes Vlodrome in Milano, through Pavia, Ovada, across the Turchino Pass into Liguria: Varazze, Savona, Albenga, Imperia and through all the coastal resorts with views over the three well known Capes, Capo Mele, Cervo and Berta, up the ascend Cipressa-Costarainera and finally up to the Poggio and down to Via Roma in Sanremo.
The race promises to be as exciting as every year and attracts large numbers of fans who want to follow their sporting heroes.
A complete list of teams can be found here: https://www.milanosanremo.it/squadre
For more information on the race please follow this link:
The starting signal fort he Grand Ocean Race or World Circumnavigation with crew was given on 15th January in Alicante.
True to the idea of sustainability and with the aim to raise awareness for the protection of the oceans, 11 crews, among them 2 Italians (Cecilia Zorzi and Alberto Riva under the flag of San Giorgio) started their journey.
They sail around the world in six laps, starting in Alicante and sailing more than 1,900 miles to Kap Verde. Once there, the Ocean Race of Kapstadt takes place on the 24th February. On 21st April the longest of the laps over 12,750 miles starts in Itajai, surrounds the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Hoorn. The fourth lap takes place on the 20th May in Rhode Island, USA. The final laps in Europe pass through Aarhus on 4th June and Den Haag (13.-14. June).
Fo the first time in the 50 year history of this 32,000 sea miles race, the 14th leg and grand final will take place in Genova Italy. From 24th June to 2nd July the city of Genova will organise a large festival in the Ocean Live Park on the waterfront to bring together sailers, athletes and sea lovers from all over Italy and the world. On 1st July 2023 Genova will welcome the arriving boats for the grand final and celebrate the winner.
If you would like to take part, just follow this link:
If you are interested in exploring the beauty of the Nervia Valley, Dolceacqua, the Via Borgo and other local sights whilst comfortably leaning back, the Visionarium cinema 3D in Dolceacqua is exactly right for you. The Visionarium is a projection room where images, music, poetry and special effects are rolled into one unique experience. In 3D and Omnimax projection you can watch documentaries of the highest quality on large screens. They convey naturalistic interests and are created individually and to the highest cultural and artistic standards.
For more information on the Visionarium in Dolceacqua please follow this link:
The artist Monet known all over the world once lost his heart in Dolceacqua where he created a number of his popular paintings. Why not take the opportunity to follow a tour through Dolceacqua on every first Sunday of the month at 3.00 pm and get to know the favourite places and paintings of this famous artist. Part of the tour will take you to the Palazzo Luigina Garoscio from the 17th century and the art gallery Morscio. The tour ends with a wine tasting of the DOC wine Rossesse di Dolceacqua and a few produce typical for this region.
If you would like to join, please follow this link:
Between the 22nd January and 26th February the Ligurian Riviera and Nice on the Côte d’Azur throw themselves into the world of carnival. Dressing up, games, confetti, masks, endless fun, pancakes and sweets are all part of the festivities – don’t miss it!
The King of the Carneval in Savona is Ciocciolin!
Right between Savona’s two symbolic buildings Torretta and Campanassa the carnival procession for children with masks, actors and many games takes place.
The carnival king’s mask of Cicciolin, designed by the potterer and painter Romeo Bevilacqua in 1953 plays an integral role in the festivities. Why not join in with the carnival atmosphere and get to know the historic centre and local traditions.
For more information: https://lamialiguria.it/eventi/carnevale-a-savona/
The biggest carnival in Liguria, the Carnevalöa in Loano
The carnival in Loana starts on the 29th January with the ceremonial handing over of the town keys to the three loanesque masks: Puè Pepi king of the carnival, U Beciancin, the official mask of the Carneval and Captain Fracassa, mask of the Commedia dell’arte. Between the 29th January and 26th February 2023 Loano will abandon itself to the carnival fever marking the occasion with coastal processions, floats and buckets full of confetti.
More information under: https://www.visitloano.it
Carnevaloa in Cairo Montenotte on February 19, 2023
The carnival of the small town Cairo Montenotte is a children’s event, which pleases young and old and attracts many people from all over the region. This carnival has historic roots and circles around two characters. There is the Nuvarin the Casté or court jester who was sent out to amuse and distract people from the horrors of the black death back in 1630. The Castellana is the name of a girl who was chosen each year by the local historic committee to accompany the court jester together with her family on his tour.
For more information, please follow: https://www.festedicarnevale.it/carnevale-di-cairo-montenotte/
Traditional Carneval dei Belli e Brutti in Suvero on Saturday 18th February 2023
It’s always been tradition for the “beauties” to join the carnival with colourful clothing and decorated hats and for the “uglies” to put on goat furs or sheep skins and hide behind grumpy masks with big horns. Starting in the early hours of the morning they visit farmhouses and are given plenty of food, wine and Grappa in return. Later in the afternoon they reach the town and are given refreshments at every house they choose to stop at. The beauties persuade the women to join them in a dance and the uglies make practical jokes with plenty of banter. When darkness sets in, they all meet and sit down for dinner.
For more information on these myths and traditions surrounding the carnival: https://www.carnevaledisuvero.it
Carneval di Diano Marina on 26th February 2023
Ever since 1969 the carnival is being celebrated here in Rio de Janeiro style, with plenty of floats on the roads and a lively atmosphere. And so one of the longest lasting and funniest carnivals in Liguria attracting all communes of the area was established. In the morning the day starts with the children getting made up and joining the fun with music and games. From the afternoon onwards the city celebrates the colourful floats, groups featuring traditional masks, music bands and street artists.
You are cordially invited to join in the fun: https://lamialiguria.it/2023/01/cinque-carnevali-liguri/
Just a few kilometres further west there is the most important carnival celebrations of the whole of France taking to the streets of Nice on the Côte d’Azur.
Carneval in Nice – a different Theme every Year
The celebrations date back to the year 1294 and follow a different theme every year. “King of music” is the vision for this year’s event in Nice. Magic lies in the air when the city is turned into a sea of lights and the colourful floats decorated with flowers roll through the streets of Nice. The town is heaving with performing dance groups, fantasy costumes are paraded by people on stilts and the Promenade des Anglais sees many a caricatures and large figurines passing down the boulevard. You will never see Nice as colourful as during these festivities. There are also dancers dressed in black and white, accompanied by a music band dressed in black and faces made up in contrasting white. Roses, orchids, mimosas and coronations are being thrown into the crowds until the procession reaches the Massena square. Here, the celebrations can carry on well into the early hours of the morning.
Genova celebrates its Palazzi dei Rolli – 28th April – 1st May 2023
During the Renaissance the aristocracy of Genova instructed various artists to build opulent palaces. As a result a large number of glamorous residences were built and the Senate in 1576 decided to use them officially for hospitality. An official list of opulent buildings was created and their owners had to host state visits when instructed. The palaces were allocated depending on the status of the relevant guest. The higher the status of the guest, the more glamorous the palace and wealthier the family who was asked to host. The “Elenco degli Alloggiamenti pubblici o Rolli” are kept in a series of valuable books in the State archive of Genova.
Since 2006 the Palazzi dei Rolli have been a UNESCO world heritage. On two weekends a year the doors of these palaces are open to the public where the beauty, the curiosities and history of the Genovese aristocracy of the 16th to 18th comes to life again.