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Towards the Ligurian Riviera

 

Cuneo Genoa The Riviera La Spezia Parma - Piacenza

 

This excursion hinges around the internationally famous Ligurian Riviera and takes us through a variety of different landscapes from Piedmont to Emilia, passing through Genoa, the 'Cinque Terre', Parma, Piacenza and along the River Po. Travelling southwards from Turin the road takes us through towns which are steeped in history: the feudal capi­tal Carignano, Carmagnola with its ancient build­ings in the heart of the Langhe, a hilly region abounding in ancient villages and castles, and fam­ous for its cuisine; Racconigi with its beautiful Royal Palace, Saluzzo with its Gothic cathedral and fine example of a Renaissance stately home, Casa Cavassa; then there is Manta, with its castle whose great hall is frescoed with some of the treasures of Piedmont art, and contains a fine collection of 'international' Gothic paintings. At    

 

Cuneo,                      

 

 founded in the Middle Ages, is the Gothic Church of S. Francesco; at Mondovi the delightful mediaeval

Carassone hamlet with its Cittadella, and 14th and 15th c. courtyards and churches. As we drive down the Tanaro Valley, through Ceva, Garessio and the luxuriant Col di Nava pass, we will catch our first glimpse of the sea, and soon we will be on the Ligurian Riviera at Im­peria. From here let's make an excursion to the re­nowned resorts of Bordighera, Ospedaletti and San Remo, which need no introduction. Going back, our road now runs by olive-covered hillsides through Diano Marina, Cervo, Andora, Laigueglia, followed by the elegant resort of Alassio. Then come Albenga, with its interesting Naval Museum, Loano, Borgio, Finale Ligure, Noli, Spotorno and finally

 

 

 Genoa                       

 

 the 'Queen' of Liguria, built in a semicircular pattern overlooking the sea — the maritime city where the narrow winding streets lead up to some of the most beautiful stately homes. Let us visit the harbour first of all, with the Banco di San Giorgio building, and the colorful Piazza Caricamento sur­rounded by the ancient porticoes of Sottoripa under which the typical narrow alleyways (the "carrugi') criss-cross in the light of Genoa's lighthouse — the 'Lanterna'. Leaving Piazza Principe, we come into Via Balbi, with its Palazzo Reale, the University, the Palazzo Durazzo Pallavicini, Palazzo Balbi Senarega, all of which have valuable private paint­ing collections. Via Garibaldi is yet another street lined with majestic historic buildings, beginning with Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Rosso, which house the city's main art collections. The Palazzo Bianco Art Gallery mostly contains paintings by Genoese artists (Brea, Sacchi, Cambiaso, Strozzi, Magnasco, etc.). Other artists include Lippi, Pontormo, Veronese, David, Rubens, Van Dyck, Zurbaran, Murillo. In the Palazzo Rosso Gallery are works by Pisanello, Veronese, Titian, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Guerrino, Reni, Cambiaso, De Ferrari, Van Dyck, Durer, Ribera, as well as collections of medals, crib statues and ceramics. After Piazza Corvetto and Via Roma, we reach the heart of the city: Piazza De Ferrari. Walk up the narrow street of San Matteo to the Church of S. Matteo surrounded by the mediaeval houses of the Doria family, and then down towards the Ducal Palace where the former Doges of Genoa used to live, and the Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral of S. Lorenzo with its black und white marble-clad facade. The 15th c. chapel of St John the Baptist and the Treasure Museum (Museo del Tesoro) are well worth a visit.

From Piazza S. Lorenzo we reach Piazza degli Embriaci with the 12th c. Embriaci Tower, and a group of interesting churches: S. Maria del Castello, S. Agostino, S. Donato, and S. Maria Assunta di Carignano. Via Fieschi takes us down to Porta Soprana — Christopher Columbus's tall Gothic battlemented home. Just behind it stands the an­cient Church of S. Stefano and the 16th c. Church of S. Annunziata di Portoria (otherwise known as S. Caterina's). If we still have time, we can visit the National Gallery in the 16th-17th c. Palazzo Spino­la, a typical Genoese stately home, and the Chiossone Museum (over 15,000 items of oriental art). Above and below Genoa we can stroll at leisure, visiting outstanding villas, and tasting the local de­lights in restaurants between the Albaro Lido and the picturesque port of Boccadasse. We shall leave Genoa by the road to Nervi (a famous health resort with splendid parks, and the setting for the International Ballet festival every summer); after Recco we come to Camogli, with its ancient harbour. We recommend a visit to San Fruttuoso, an isolated fishing village tucked away inside a sheltered cove (Benedictine Abbey, with its an­cient cloisters and the Doria family tomb, 1275-1305). We come to Portofino, an elegant town lying in a setting of rare beauty, and to the famous Gulf of Tigullio, with

Santa Margherita Ligure and Rapallo — the pearls of

 

the Riviera.  

 

Then come the coastal resorts of Zoagli, Chiavari and Lavagna, and finally the breathtaking bay of Sestri Levante. The roads run through enchanting landscapes, past castles, hamlets and small towns such as Levanto and Monterosso, the gem of the 'Cinque Terre' region in one of the famous beauty-spots on the coastline, famed for its climate and prized white wines. Further down the coast is the Gulf of

 

La Spezia,                       

 

another major port. Visit the cathedral and the

 Archaeological Museum with its prehistoric, Etruscan and Graeco-Roman exhibits, unearthed in the ruins of the ancient town of Luni. At the far end of the Gulf— known locally as the "Poets' Gulf — with its cliffs and sandy beaches, stand Portovenere with its tall Genoese-style fortified houses, and Leriri with its superb castle. After La Spezia, let us head for  

 

 

Parma,                      

 

the capital city of an independent State from 1545 to 1860, first ruled by the Farnese family, then by Napoleon's wife, Marie Louise, has one of Italy's most outstand­ing examples of Italian Romanesque: the Baptistery and Cathedral built by Antelami. The cathedral dome is richly painted with frescoes by Correggio. Other delights include the churches of S. Giovanni Evangelista, S. Antonio Abate, Madonna della Steccata (frescoes by Parmigianino), the unfinished Palazzo della Pilotta (1583-1622) which houses the National Museum of Antiquities, the National Gal­lery, the Farnese Theatre (one of the first permanent theatres in Europe with a mobile stage, built in 1618), the Biblioteca Palatina library with over half a million books, as well as the Bodoni National Printing Museum.

A short distance away is the 'Camera del Correggio', frescoed by the artist in, 1519, and the neo-classical Teatro Regio. After Par­ma, we will drive towards Fidenza (Romanesque-Gothic cathedral), and on the way we can make three interesting detours: to the 15th-16th c. Rocca di Fontanellato castle, containing magnificent frescoes by Parmigianino, to the luxurious 16th-18th Rocca di Soragna castle, and to Busseto — an absolute 'must' for all lovers of Verdi (visit his birthplace at Roncole, Villa Sant'Agata, Villa Pallavicino, Teatro Verdi). And so to

 

 

 

 Piacenza,                       

 

 with its Romanesque and Gothic Basilica of S. Savino, the 15th c. Palazzo dei Tribunali, the Romanesque cathedral the octagonal bell-tower of the Church of S. Antonino, the Town Hall (Palazzo del Comune or 'il Gotico') which houses the Galleria Alberoni. If you wish to return to Turin, continue along the picturesque Lomellina road, via Abbiategrasso, the mediaeval Morimondo

Abbey, Vigevano (fine Ducal Palace, cathedral, Bramante's Castle), and Mortara.We now leave Lombardy and enter Monferrato, the capital of which is the agricultural and industrial town of Casale, which used to be the capital city of the Duchy of Monferrato (1435-1708), with its fine churches and palaces Nearby is the monumental Shrine of Crea. It is only a short drive down the hill through Alessandria, Valenza Po (famous for its goldsmiths) and Asti, and we are back in Turin.                    

 

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