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  Region: Region Capital: Other Province Capitals: Other Important Cities:
7. Liguria Genoa   Imperia, Savona, La Spezia


Province of Imperia



Geographical Position

Liguria, the extreme south-western part of Northern Italy, lies on the Ligurian Sea. It is therefore the natural outlet to the sea for the upper and middle Po Valley, from which it is separated by the outlying crests of the Alps and the beginning of the Apennines. Although Liguria is the smallest Italian region after Valle d'Aosta and Molise, it has the highest density of population in Italy after Campania and Lombardy. It borders with France to the west, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna to the north and Tuscany to the east.


The Natural Environment

Liguria spreads in an arch from the mouth of Roia to that of the Magra rivers, embracing the south side of the Ligurian Alps and Apennines (separated by Colle di Cadibona) as well as a large part of the Po Valley flanks. Most of the territory is mountainous or hilly with narrow strips of fairly low terrain along tracts of the coast or near several low alluvial valleys. The highest mountains rise in the west of the region (Mount Saccarello, 2,200 m.) where the landscape becomes decidedly mountainous: to the east, the mountains are lower and the landscape becomes much gentler, broken at intervals by rocky spurs. Numerous valleys penetrate the mountains: those to the south cut mainly across the lie of the mountains, and their rivers are generally fast-flowing torrents; however, the most important valleys (of the Arroscia, Lavagna and Vara rivers) lie longitudinally. To the north of the watershed, the mountains are broken high in the valleys by tributaries of the Po, principally the Tanaro, Bormida di Millesimo, Bormida di Spigno, Scrivia, Trebbia and the Aveto.

The southerly exposition of most of the region, the lie of the mountains providing protection against continental influxes from the Po Valley and the long stretch of coastline are the principal factors making for the particularly mild climate of most of Liguria. On the southern side, the climate is typically Mediterranean with limited variations in temperature, mild winters and cool ventilated summers; in the higher inland areas and the Po Valley side it becomes increasingly continental. The precipitations are more abundant in autumn and winter, increasing from west to east; in the high basins of the Trebbia and Aveto rivers, they exceed 2,000 mm./year, reaching as much as 3,000 mm. in some areas.

Woodlands cover an area of 283,256 hectares, equal to 52.3% of the territory (Liguria is the most heavily wooded region in Italy). The vegetation of the area is distinctly Mediterranean up to a height of 500 m. with evergreen scrub and vast woods of Aleppo and maritime pines. Beyond this lies the chestnut belt, up to approximately 800 m., with some black hornbeams, flowering ash, elm, ash and oaks. From 800 m. to 1,500 m. there are beechwoods and larch and fir from 1,500 m. to 2,000 m. The indigenous vegetation of Liguria, has however, been partly transformed by man, with the introduction of various cultivations and plants from other countries, which have found an environment favourable to growth.

From a botanical point of view, the famous Portofino promontory is particularly interesting; here, two completely different species of vegetation, Mediterranean and middle European-mountain, grow in close proximity.

It is here that the scrub reaches its highest point and the chestnut woods extend so far down as almost to touch the sea: the thermal inversion phenomenon, causing plant life to exchange roles and environment for climatic and ecological reasons is singularly frequent. Sofar, more than 700 different species of plants have been listed, on the limited terrain of this promontory. On the southern slopes, facing the sea, the Mediterranean scrub consists of underwood, thick bushes, tangled brushwood, stands of evergreen oak, beautiful Aleppo and maritime pinewoods, strips of fragmented meadow and long-tufted grasses. The northern side, on the other hand, is predominantly chestnut woods and mixed woodland, with flowering ash, oak, hazel and black hornbeam; spectacular plants such as the large Mediterranean spurge stand out at intervals and there are interesting indigenous plants, including Saxifraga cochlearis and Centaurea aplolepa lunensis. There is still some wildlife, though sorely depleted: vertebrates include squirrels and woodpeckers and there are many indigenous invertebrates, some of them rarities.

Another typically Ligurian environment is the Cinque Terre where vines are grown on artificial terracing, an unusual method of cultivation. The vegetation is largely Aleppo and maritime pinewoods, with the interesting association of evergreen oak and cork trees enlivened by large Mediterranean spurge, fleecy cistus and groundsels.

The fauna includes the rare red partridge in its original native Ligurian state, the small European gecko and the magnificent butterfly known locally as the `ninfa del corbezzolo' (nymph of the strawberry-tree).

Mount Beigua in the Ligurian Apennines (1,287 m.) has a particularly interesting ecosystem. The vegetation on its south side is woodland (partly planted) with maritime, black, and Scots pines, while the north side is mainly mixed woodland with oak, beech and chestnut trees, mountain meadows and wet peatbogs. An indigenous flower is the Bertoloni columbine.

It would appear that the fauna, though depleted, still includes the rare otter, the short-toed eagle (which nests only in this part of Liguria) and the large speckled lizard, one of the most interesting examples of the local wildlife.


Population and Economy

Here, more than in any other Italian region, the distribution of the population has been conditioned by the morphology of the territory. In fact, 90% of the inhabitants live in the coastal towns which, especially on the Riviera di Ponente (western part), line the coast almost without interruption. The hilly and mountainous inland area contrasts sharply with the populous littoral, and is characterized by progressive abandonment of agricultural activities, with consequent depopulation, especially at altitudes above 1,000 m.

In recent decades, there has been continuous infraregional migration towards the coasts, where industry and in particular the service industries (tourism, transport and other services) have provided scope for increased earnings.

In the nineteen fifties and sixties Genoa, in particular, attracted an influx of workers from the bordering regions and from the south. Apart from the chief provincial towns (Genoa has two fifths of the region's population), the important towns are Sanremo, Ventimiglia and Albenga on the Riviera di Ponente (the western Riviera) and Sestri Levante, Rapallo and Chiavari on the Riviera di Levante (the eastern).

The Ligurian dialect, common to the whole region though with differing shades of meaning near the Piedmont and Tuscany boundaries, belongs to the Italo-Celtic dialects of Northern Italy.

With Piedmont and Lombardy, Liguria is a pole of the industrial triangle which led expansion of the whole Italian economy after the war, and still enjoys a characteristically high standard of living, confirmed by statistics; however, a certain deterioration of the environment has been caused by abandonment of the mountain areas, as well as by excessive concentration of industrial plants in certain districts. Badly planned urban growth, and construction for the tourist industry, frequently motivated by speculation, have had a negative effect on the environment.

Agriculture is of scant importance to the regional economy, a result of the lack of arable land. Nevertheless, some specialized crops are important: floriculture, for instance, is exclusive to the Riviera di Ponente (50% of national production). Fruit is also important (peaches, apricots, hazelnuts, figs) and vegetables (on the Albenga plain). Inland there is limited cultivation of vines and olives, though the wines and oil produced are of excellent quality. At a national level, Ligurian livestock rearing is irrelevant, and considering that the whole length of the region lies on the sea, fishing is a minor activity.

The most important Ligurian industries, concentrated round the main ports are: steel, engineering, petrochemicals and ship-building. This latter, faced with international competition in the construction of large vessels, is now concentrating on small coastal boats and leisure craft. The food and textile industries are also present. There is a vigorous building industry, linked especially with tourism. Electricity comes almost exclusively from thermal power stations, due to the scarcity of water resources, and in fact, Liguria is second to Lombardy (1984) in the production of thermoelectric power.

The service sector is highly developed and employs two thirds of the active population, as a result of commerce linked with the ports which incentivates other service industries (shipping, insurance, finance, road and rail transport). Traditional tourist activities are very important.

In the past, development of road and rail communications in Liguria was obstructed by the nature of the terrain, and only in the last 20 years, with improvement of the motorway, has it been possible to ease congestion of commercial and tourist traffic.

Maritime communications are largely based on the port of Genoa (the major freight port in Italy) and at the ports of La Spezia and Savona. There is an international airport (Cristoforo Colombo) at Genoa.



Liguria's geographical position, mild climate and pleasant landscapes have made it a successful traditional pole of attraction for national and international seaside tourism since the middle of last century. All along the coast, from Ventimiglia to Lerici, there are small holiday resorts which, though themselves endowed with works of art, have only developed alongside the famous holiday resorts: Bordighera, Sanremo, Alassio, Finale Ligure, Nervi, Portofino, Santa Margherita and Rapallo. The development of tourism has improved amenities and infrastructures but not without damage to the environment, only now the object of energetic measures of conservation. The authentic character of the region can still be found in the quiet corners of certain seaside villages or in the rare coves still unaltered by the hands of man. In the Cinque Terre, for instance, a group of picturesque fishing villages clinging to a rocky coastline, cars are banned. The beautiful inland area, bypassed by the tourist hordes, is surprisingly and unexpectedly fascinating and deserves greater attention. Behind Sanremo alternative itineraries touch the medieval villages of Taggia and Triora; Pigna with its characteristic chibi (alleys) surrounded by olive groves; Apricale, a medieval village magnificently facing south; Dolceacqua, with the Doria castle and vineyards. Farther north, on the slopes of Mount Saccarello (2,200 m.) lies Monesi, a winter sports resort.

The inland areas round Savona with their picturesque villages, Calizzano, Millesimo and Pontinvrea deserve a visit; in the Province of Genoa, Uscio has the Romanesque church of Sant'Ambrogio; Torriglia, near Lake Brugneto and Fontanigorda, amongst woods and meadows, in an area of considerable mycological interest (mushrooms). On the slopes of Mount Maggiorasca (1,799 m.) lies Santo Stefano d'Aveto, an Apennine winter sports resort. Far inland, behind the Riviera di Levante, lies Varese Ligure (interesting urban plan) and, on the Tuscan boundary, stands Sarzana, a small town with a wealth of history and interesting church buildings, the majestic Cittadella and the Fort of Sarzanello.

Other parts of Liguria have extremely interesting grottoes and archeological features. These include the Balzi Rossi (prehistory museum), near Ventimiglia, characterized by the presence of human settlements dating from the Paleolithic to the Meso lithic periods, then the popular Grotte di Toirano (grottoes), inland from Loano, which can be visited, following a planned route, for more than a kilometre amidst spectacular mineral deposits and evidence of man's life twelve thousand years ago; lastly Luni, an ancient Roman town near the mouth of the Magra, which conserves splendid traces of its past, such as the `Grande Tempio', `Campidoglio', the Forum and the Amphitheatre (Museo Archeologico Nazionale-national archeological museum). Other Roman monuments can be seen at Ventimiglia (theatre, 2nd century BC.), Albenga, Albisola Superiore, Bocca di Magra etc. Traces of prehistoric civilization are also to be seen at Finale Ligure, inland from Varazze, and at Chiavari.




Genoa (Genova) (LIGURIA)

The chief city in the region lies in the innermost part of the gulf to which it gives its name, and stretches for c. 25 km. along the coast and c. 15 km. inland up the Polcevera and Bisagno river valleys. Originally sited on the Sarzana hill, the city underwent subsequent phases of expansion (in the 12th-14th centuries and 16th-17th centuries) within the city walls, but not until the 19th century did Genoa began to grow to considerable proportions by absorbing an initial group of suburban villages; this trend reached its peak in the first thirty years of this century, giving origin to the conurbation.

Founded by the Ligurians, it became an important Roman municipium before passing, after the fall of the Western Empire, into the hands of the Byzantines, later succeeded by the Lombards and Franks. In the Middle Ages it was ruled by the bishop-counts, then became a free municipality (12th century) and a formidable naval power, engaged in fierce struggles first with Pisa, and then Venice, for supremacy in Mediterranean trade. After a period of decline at the turn of the sixteenth century and an object of contention by France, the Duchy of Milan and Spain, it again prospered under the command of Andrea Doria, regaining in 1528 an independence which was to last, with varying degrees of fortune, until 1797, the year of the declaration of the Napoleonic Ligurian Republic. In 1815 it was annexed, with the whole region, to the Kingdom of Sardinia, sharing its history.

Numerous monuments and works of art include: the Cathedral (11th-15th century), Santa Maria di Castello (11th-12th century), San Donato (Romanesque, 12th-13th century), San Siro (16th-17th century), San Matteo (13th century), Santa Maria Assunta Carignano (16th century). Of the civil buildings: Palazzo San Giorgio (Gothic-Renaissance), Palazzo Municipale (16th century), Palazzo Rosso (17th century), Palazzo Spinola (16th-18th century), Case dei Doria (13th-15th century) and many others, mostly Baroque, which gave the city its deserved title `Superba'.

Thecity's economy is based on the port, the largest in Italy (covering 45 sq km. of water), which, however, is finding difficulty in coping with the competition of the North European ports especially in container traffic. Closely linked to port activities are insurance, finance and transportation. The industrial sector present concerns the transformation of transit freight, chemicals, petrochemicals, steel, the metallurgical industry food and shipyards. In the summer months there is considerable tourist traffic.

Events: Salone Nautico Internazionale (international boat show, autumn), international exhibition of tourist and hotel facilities (Tecnhotel), wine and spirits exhibition (Bibe) in October November, Euroflora, Premio di Violino `Niccol Paganini' (violin award), the `Repubbliche Marinare' regatta (every four years), international sailing craft regattas, `Palio remiero dei sestieri' (29th June), Columbus celebrations, Fiera di Sant'Agata.

Famous People: Christopher Columbus (explorer and traveller, 1451-1506), Niccolף Paganini (musician, 1782-1840), Giuseppe Mazzini (politician, 1805-1872), Bernardo Strozzi (artist, 1581-1644), Domenico Piola (artist, 1628-1703), Benedetto XI (Pope, 1854-1922), Gilberto Govi (actor, 1885-1966), Eugenio Montale (poet 1896-1981).

Cultural and Research Institutions: University, various cultural institutes (Istituto Colombiano, Istituto Mazziniano), Museo Archeologico Ligure (archeological museum), Galleria di Palazzo Rosso, Galleria di Palazzo Spinola (paintings by Antonello da Messina, Guido Reni, Van Dyck, Strozzi, De Ferrari), Galleria di Palazzo Bianco (all art galleries), Museo di Storia Naturale (Natural history museum), Museo dell'Istituto Mazziniano (Risorgimento memorabilia), Museo Navale (naval museum), Galleria d'Arte Moderna (modern art gallery), Museo Luxoro, Biblioteca del Conservatorio Paganini (Paganini Conservatory library), Istituto Italiano della Saldatura (Italian Institute of Welding), Ansaldo Ricerche (research centre).

In the Province: Numerous beach resorts such as Chiavari, Rapallo, Portofino (nature park and museum), Santa Margherita Ligure, Camogli (maritime museum, archeological museum), Sestri Levante (shipyards), Nervi (opera and ballet performances), San Fruttuoso (abbey, Cristo degli Abissi-underwater statue), Pegli and Arenzano.


Imperia (LIGURIA)

The town, whose present administration dates to 1923, comprises two distinct urban centres, Porto Maurizio and Oneglia, separated by the mouth of the Impero torrent which gave its name to the town itself.

Historically, Porto Maurizio, already active as a port in Roman and Byzantine times, is the older. From the thirteenth century, it was federated to Genoa, later sharing the fortunes of the Republic. Oneglia is of medieval origin; after a period of episcopal rule, it passed to Genoa in 1298, but in 1576, was ceded to the Savoys who made it, together with Nice, their outlet to the sea. From then on, it was to share the vicissitudes of the Savoy Kingdom.

The Monuments include: Collegiata di San Giovanni Battista (Baroque collegiate church at Oneglia); at Porto Maurizio, Basilica di San Maurizio (neo-classical, 18th century); Convento delle Clarisse (18th century convent); Chiesa di San Pietro (church, 16th-18th century); Palazzo Pagliari (15th century); Chiesa dei Cavalieri di Malta (church of the Knights of Malta, 14th century).

As far as the economy is concerned, the town has a traditional and markedly active food sector, with oil mills (partly supplied by local olive production), pasta factories and flour mills. Port activity and fishing are limited, but there is considerable tourist traffic.

Events: `Cittא di Imperia' painting award (August-September), international chess tournament, sailing regattas, Sagra di San Lorenzo (10th August).

Famous People: Edmondo de Amicis (writer, 1846-1908), Andrea Doria (military leader, 1468-1560), Gregorio de Ferrari (artist, c. 1644-1726).

Cultural Institutions: Teatro Cavour (theatre-Porto Maurizio), Pinacoteca Civica (civic art gallery), Museo Navale del Ponente Ligure (naval museum).

In the Province: Numerous internationally famous beach resorts: Sanremo (floriculture, Pinacoteca Ramboldi, art gallery-, Museo archeologico-archeological museum), Bordighera (Museo Bicknell-museum-, Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri-International institute of Ligurian studies), Diano Marina, Ventimiglia (Giardini Hambury-gardens-, Museo dei Balzi Rossi-prehistory museum), Ospedaletti. Inland: Pigna (Festival della Poesia Dialettale-poetry in dialect-in August), Monesi (winter sports), Pieve di Teco (environmental interest), Pontedassio (Museo Storico degli Spaghetti-spaghetti museum).


La Spezia (LIGURIA)

Situated in the inner curve of the gulf of the same name, the town is about 20 km. from the Tuscan boundary. Already inhabited in Roman times, it was for many centuries a fishing village, acquiring a certain importance in the 13th century when the Fieschis, at war with Genoa, turned it into a fortified village. Destroyed by the Genoese (1273), it became part of the Republic,sharingitsfortunes.Duringthisperiodthewalledtownstarted to expand. It did not, however, increase in size until the second half of the nineteenth century, when it was chosen to constitute the major naval base of the Kingdom of Sardinia; in 1869, the great military Arsenal was built.

Monuments: Castello di San Giorgio (14th century castle, modified and restored), Duomo (of 13th century origin, houses a polychrome terracotta by Andrea della Robbia), Arsenal.

The economy is based on port activities; traditional industries linked to the military sectors were replaced after the Second World War by shipyards, engineering and petrochemicals.

Events: Palio del Golfo (first Sunday in August), Premio Biennale di Pittura `Golfo della Spezia' (biennial painting award).

Famous People: Antonio Carpenino (artist, 16th century), Giuseppe Pontremoli (artist, 1836-1899), Giovanni Cappellini (geologist, 1833-1922), Ubaldo Mazzini (historian and archeologist, 1868-1923).

Cultural Institutions: Teatro Civico (civic theatre), Museo Archeologico `Raccolta Lunense' (archeological museum), Museo Tecnico Navale (museum of naval technology), Biblioteca Comunale Mazzini (library).

In the Province: Various beach resorts and places of environmental interest such as Bonassola, Lerici, Portovenere, Levanto, Cinque Terre; Sarzana (agricultural and commercial centre).


Savona (LIGURIA)

Situated on the Riviera di Ponente close (15 km.) to the Colle di Cadibona (435 m.) the town stretches over the Letimbro River alluvial plain.

Inhabited in ancient times by the Ligurian Sabazi tribe, it came under Roman influence in c. 200 BC. after the Punic wars. At the fall of the Empire, it passed under Lombard rule, then acquired independence in the 11th century becoming a free municipality. Subsequently it fought Genoa before being definitively conquered in 1528. It then shared the fortunes of the Republic of Genoa until Napoleonic times, and subsequent annexation to the Savoys (1815).

The oldest part of the town is medieval and lies around the port,

while the rectangular more recent area has grown over the Letimbro plain since last century and now reaches Vado Ligure.

Monuments: Duomo (16th-17th century with Romanesque baptistry), Chiesa della SS Concezione (18th century), Palazzo della Rovere (15th century), Torre del Brandale (12th century), Cappella di Sistina (15th century), Palazzo Vescovile (17th century), Fortezza Priamar (16th century), Torre di Leon Pancaldo (14th century).

The local economy has always been closely linked to that of the hinterland and, with easy transit over Colle di Cadibona, to that of nearby Piedmont. It is based on port and commercial activities and on the steel, engineering, shipbuilding and petrochemical sectors.

Events: Cerimonia del Confuoco (ceremony, Sunday before Christmas), Good Friday procession.

Famous People: Gabriello Chiabrera (poet, 1552-1638), Giulio II della Rovere (Pope, 1443-1513), Cesare Tallone (artist, 1853-1919), Leon Pancaldo (navigator, 1490-1538).

Cultural Institutions: Teatro G. Chiabrera (theatre), Pinacoteca Civica (civic art gallery of the Genoese school), Museo delle Ceramiche Antiche (museum of antique ceramics), Societא per il Costume Savonese (traditional costumes of Savona).

In the Province: Various tourist resorts such as: Alassio, Albenga (Museo Ingauno and Museo Navale Romano, museums), Loano, Finale Ligure (Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri - International institute for Ligurian studies), Varazze, Laigueglia, Celle Ligure, Cairo Montenotte (industrial town), Sassello (of environmental interest).