Towards the Ligurian Riviera

Cuneo - Imperia - Savona - 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.
Mondovì View

At Cuneo, founded in the Middle Ages, is the Gothic Church of S. Francesco; at Mondovì 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 Savona.

Genoa - Harbour

Genoa - Boccadasse

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.

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.

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).


The Riviera

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.

The Cinque Terre
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 villages such as Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, the gem of the 'Cinque Terre' ("The Five Lands") region in one of the famous beauty-spots on the coastline, famed for its climate and prized white wines.

Lerici Castle

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 Lerici with its superb castle.

After La Spezia let us head for

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).

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.
Food and Wine
Pansotti with walnut sauce
The region of Liguria boasts some of the best food in Italy - including pesto genovese, minestrone and focaccia. Seafood plays a large role in the local diet, with fresh caught anchovies being a favorite antipasti or main dish. Swordfish, tuna, sardines and sea bass are also popular fish. Pesto alla Genovese (Liguria basil blended with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano) is a delicious sauce. It is not only used for pasta, but can also be added to soups like Minestrone or rice dishes. Tipical pasta are Trofie and Trenette. Torta pasqualina is a savory cake served at Easter time. Its 33 layers contain artichokes or chard, hard cooked eggs and ricotta flavored with herbs. Torta marinara contains fish instead of vegetables. Farinata is a bread made from chickpea flour, water and olive oil.
Liguria DOC wines: Cinque Terre and Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà, Colli di Luni, Colline di Levanto, Golfo del Tigullio-Portofino or Portofino, Pornassio or Ormeasco di Pornassio, Riviera Ligure di Ponente, Rossese di Dolceacqua or Dolceacqua, Val Polcevera.
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