Savona - The old dock
From Varazze to Andora, it is 1,550 sq. km. (598 sq. mi.) of coast, valleys and mountains. Here, winter or summer, life is lived amongst the blue sea and the green of olives and pines.
A territory with unique panoramas and a mild climate eased by the sea allows for comfortable living all year-round on the Riviera. Expansive sandy beaches alternate with rocky promontories encapsulating suggestive, uncontaminated shores.
Vivacious coastal resorts offer guests a vast choice of where to stay, where to dine and where to go for a night out; whether in beach resorts, restaurants and clubs, there is always the option of environments suitable for both children and adults.
The towns' historical centers, with their characteristic narrow streets (carruggi) that open out onto sunny little piazzas and wind past houses with façades of typical Mediterranean colors and unique architectural elements.
Here lie the towns of Alassio, with its beach of very fine sand and its famous Muretto; Loano and its artistic fountains; Pietra Ligure with its monumental square; Finale Ligure and its ample palm-lined seafront; Varigotti with its old center of colorful houses right on the waterfront; and Spotorno, celebrated by Sbarbaro and Varazze and boasting a modern marina.
Not far from the coast lie two small, pristine islands, Bergeggi and Gallinara, regional natural reserves protected for their precious landscapes.
Short journeys allow for the discovery of panoramas alternating hills with mountains, transparent seawaters and karstic landscapes with grottoes and cliffs that take one's breath away.
More than half this territory is covered with woods and forests, where old dwellings have been transformed into rural guesthouses. With opportunities to taste local produce and savor historical towns rich in traditions trip and excursion ideas are truly limitless.
Medieval Savona offers enchanting views recalling the florid city it became between the 15th and 16th Centuries. This was when Popes originated from the local Della Rovere Family. Next to the old resides a modern city with a renewed docks and fashionable attractions. The Pinacoteca Civica di Savona is an excellent Ligurian gallery of paintings on wood and splendid polyptychs, ceramic vases and wooden sculpture work, dating from the 14th Century to the current day.
The historical center of Albenga stands out with its towers and alleyways between medieval palazzi that house museums and art collections. The Battistero or Baptistry is one of the most important early Christian monuments in Liguria. Eight of the towns here are listed among the most beautiful in Italy: Noli, an ancient maritime republic; Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena, developed around its castle; Finalborgo, a mMedieval jewel; Millesimo, with its fortified “Gaietta” Bridge; Colletta di Castelbianco, the first on-line village in Europe; Laigueglia, a colorful fishing village; Zuccarello, with its porticoed street; and Verezzi, a natural stage for its Festival Teatrale Internazionale.
The Italian Touring Club has also given its special Orange Flag award to Sassello, Toirano and Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena for their development policies that promote their cultural, touristic and environmental heritage.
Toirano and Borgio Verezzi are famous for their grottos, rich in archaeological finds and fascinating rock formations.
Artistic handicraft is marvellously expressed by the ceramics of Albisola and Savona, and the glass works of Altare. Thanks to the ancient tradition of nimble craftsmen, these creations are known throughout the world.
The Province of Savona is practically an outdoor gymnasium, considering its opportunities for a vast range of activities and sports. The sea, the unchallenged protagonist of the summer, attracts surfing and sailing enthusiasts year-round.
Its seabeds attract many scuba divers, whether attracted by the exploration of flora and fauna or wreckages and archaeological remains.
The hills offer pleasant excursions anytime for walking, mountain biking and horseback riding, also perfect for families. The long Alta Via dei Monti Liguri trail runs along the whole of greater Liguria, from Ventimiglia to La Spezia.
The Regional Natural Parks are Bric Tana; Piana Crixia; the vaster and better-known Beigua Regional Natural Park - the only GeoPark in northern Italy - and numerous protected areas that safeguard a rich environmental biodiversity.
The splendid pinkish-white rock faces over the sea or slightly inland attract the best climbers from around the world, as well as absolute beginners.
Golf lovers can frequent the top-level Garlenda and Albisola Superiore, both in unique and beautiful settings.
The Cetaceans Sanctuary is an uncontaminated area where one can spot sea mammals such as blue whales, dolphins and sperm whales. This is their rendezvous point in spring and summer, where they nourish themselves until winter arrives.
Many rather fascinating cultural events also await in Savona Province. The Festival Teatrale of Borgio Verezzi in summer animates the magical and panoramic scene of Verezzi. Then there's the Riviera dei Teatri, a professional artistic theatre circuit promoting deep ties with the territory. Culture and the love of tradition enliven a vivacious and spectacular carousel of traditional village festivities with competitions and regattas, flowers, fêtes, markets and religious processions all year long. The most famous and prestigious of the latter is the historical “Holy Friday Procession,” held every two years in Savona. Here local monasteries parade their wooden chests and crucifixes through the town's historic center.
Savona's cuisine blends both fruits of sea and land. Aromatic herbs and vegetables are used to no end, and dishes enriched by delicately-flavored, extra-virgin olive oil.
Among local products we have spiny artichokes, ox-heart tomatoes and trumpet courgettes coloring local farmers' stalls. Recognized slow-food champions are the violet asparagus of Albenga, the Savona chinotto, Noli's cicciarelli (a type of fish) and the dried chestnuts of Calizzano and Murialdo.
Chickpeas are the main ingredient of the famous farinata flatbread, cooked in wood-burning ovens and brass pans. Characteristic of the city of Savona is the white variety, with wheat flour. Also made from chickpeas is the panissa, excellent fried in bread or diced and mixed into salads.
One should taste the formaggetta savonese, produced in the borough of Stella.
There are many desserts, among which famous delicacies such as the amaretti di Sassello and baci di Alassio, and other less known treats among which biscette and millesimini al rhum.
All may be accompanied by local wines, mainly delicate whites. They are represented by Pigato, Rossese and Vermentino for the Albenga area, Lumassina from near Finale, Buzzetto and Granaccia coming from the area of Quililano.
The hinterland of the Bormida Valleys offers cuisine that progressively fuses with that of neighboring Piedmont. In the mountain towns mushrooms prevail, together with game and chestnuts, and delicious truffles can be found in the area of Millesimo.
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The visit to Savona begins with the imposing Priamar Fortress, now a fortified museum. Moving into the old city behind the harbour we lose ourselves in a labyrinth of narrow lanes, discovering picturesque glimpses, historical shops and elegant squares.