TERRA ITALIA Newsletter No 1 | 2021
Dear Readers and Fans of Liguria,
Spring has sprung in Liguria and the mild temperatures invite to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. In this newsletter you will find plenty of inspiring suggestions to trigger your interest.
Our title story will tell you a little more about the unique medieval village of Dolceacqua, romantically nestling in the hinterland of Ventimiglia. The rich history of this ancient village has created a unique atmosphere, which can be felt this day.
It is this unique atmosphere and the fact that Dolceacqua offers a range of attractive properties why we decided to settle with our TERRA ITALIA office in this charming village. In this newsletter we would like to introduce you to the many new offers we have for you.
With travel restrictions still in place, we are here for you and offer our local knowledge and service. Should you be unable to travel, we can take on and supervise any building or renovation work you may want to undertake and will be your partner and coordinator for all issues relating to your property. Should you wish to grant us authority, we can also deal with all legal matters and meet with your notary.
We do hope you can come and visit us very soon and wish you a very happy Easter.
The village lies embedded between olive groves and vineyards in the Province of Imperia, some 10 km into the hinterland of Ventimiglia. In 2019 Dolceacqua counted just above 2,000 inhabitants and was granted the Bandiera Arancion of excellence in the tourist and environmental sector, awarded annually to small Ligurian villages by the Touring Club Italiano (TCI).
The name “Dolceacqua” (fresh water) goes back to Roman times and the Latin word “Villa dulciaca”. It was changed through local dialect into “Duisäga” and later still to “Dulcisacqua”. First traces go back to the 1st century BC and the oldest documentations are dated 1151AD.
Today, the village features plenty of attractive sites, cultural heritage and an inescapable magical charm.
Castello dei Doria
The remains of the “Castello dei Doria” tower majestically over Dolceacqua. The core building dates back to the 12th century and was built by the Duke of Ventimiglia at a strategically important bottleneck between the Rocchetta Nervina and the Roia Valley. In 1270 the Genova military leader Oberto Doria bought the castle from the Duke. The Doria family formerly known as d’Oria was one of Italy’s most important aristocratic families and ruler of the Republic of Genova. Oberto Doria defeated Pisa in the battle of Meloria (1284) and then extended the castle built on a fortified rock for better defense. In the 14th century the castle increased its defense measures by building a surrounding wall and was turned during the Renaissance into an impressive residence.
After defending itself against a number of hostile sieges, the castle fell to the Duke of Savoyen in 1643 and was handed back to the Doria Family some nine years later. At the beginning of the 17th century and once again under the rule of the Savoyens, the castle was destroyed on 27th July 1746 during the Austrian succession war. One year later, the Doria Family once again took possession but had to take up residence in the Palazzi Doria and Doria Garoscio next to the vicarage as the castle was inhabitable. In 1887 the castle partly collapsed following an earthquake but remained in the Doria family until 1942 when the ruined castle was finally handed over to the community of Dolcecqua. The community started the restoration process and uses it partly as museum and to hold cultural events and the summer festival.
The historic and rustic charm of the ancient village center below the castle referred to as “Terra” comes to life when walking through the car free mews (“caruggi”) up to the castle. The picturesque and maze like mews meandering up the hill are lined with four storey houses which are connected by stone arches, seemingly supporting each other.
Their magic is captivating for every visitor climbing up the steps, past the many hidden squares and passages with the aromas of vineyards, fresh fruit and Ligurian herbs filing the air – not to mention the many wine cellars, shops and galleries representing local artists and restaurants offering local delicacies from the sea and Ligurian hinterland. Some of the old stone houses have been renovated and are now offering accommodation to tourists. Those fitted with roof terraces offer romantic views over the castle and the surrounding rolling hills.
Ponte Vecchio di Dolceacqua
Right at the entrance to “Terra” is the Nervia bridge – an arched bridge dating back to the 13th century and one of the most significant buildings in the village. The 32 m arched bridge stretches across the Nervia River and connects the two village parts “Terra” and “Borgo”, which was built in the mid 14th century.
The view of the bridge with the Doria castle in the background inspired the painter Claude Monet in 1884 to create his masterpiece “Graceful Jewel of Lightness” which in his view, can only be found in a village as pretty as Dolceacqua. Both, the castle and the bridge attract many visitors every year.
Vicarage San Antonio Abate
The neoclassical vicarage Saint Antonio Abate situated at the foot of Terra features a square tower surrounded by ancient walls later used as foundation to a clock tower. The building is richly decorated and home to the valuable Polyptychon Santa Devota by Ludovico Brea (1450-1523).
Rossese di Dolceacqua DOC
Rossesse di Dolceaqua was the first Ligurian wine decorated with DOC in 1972. The name of this unique vine not only relates to its colour but also the French word “Roché” for ‘rock’ hinting at the stony ground the vine is being cultivated on.
Rossese di Dolceacqua is known for its gentle aroma underlined by minerals and its ruby red colour. The wine contains a minimum of 12% alcohol and is classified as ‘Superiore” once it exceeds 13% in alcohol content.
La festa della Michetta
The Michetta is a basic pastry typical for Dolceacqua and resembling female shapes. It can be found in all food shops throughout the year and relates to the legend of a ghost who is thought to roam the Doria castle to this day. Every year on 16th August, Dolceacqua celebrates the “Fiesta de Michetta”. It symbolizes the victory over the tyrant “Imperiale Doria” and as part of the festivities, young men beg the girls for the pastries as a sign of their affection and virginity. On the day, the piazza and mews of Dolceacqua are filled with the sound of music and dance.
Since 2008 the Michetta is protected by the local indication of original (DECO) to maintain its cultural and economic value for Dolceacqua.
The Legend and origin of the ‘Michetta’
Imperiale Doria, the imperial Marquis who ruled the country in the year 1300, was known to be a brutal man who reintroduced the “Jus Primae Noctis” – the right of the landlord to the first night with a newly wedded bride.
The legend surrounds the beautiful 19-year-old Lurezia who, together with her fiancé Basso, had attracted the attention of the Marquis. The young couple decided to marry in secrecy so she would escape the Marqui’s decree. But at the time of the festivities the watchmen of the Marquis broke into the couple’s house, kidnapped the bride and brought her to the castle.
The Marquis took the girl into his private quarters where Lucrezia put up a fight and refused to pay the dreaded tribute. She managed to escape and threatened to throw herself from the highest point of the tower. Fueled by his rage, the Marquis followed her and had her thrown into a dark and damp dungeon expecting her to eventually give in. Lucrezia however decided to rather starve herself than giving in to his demands – and she did.
When the people of the country heard of her tragic death, they were enraged and her fiancé Basso took oath to revenge his bride’s death. On the evening of August 15th hidden in a bundle of hay carried by a mule, he managed to smuggle himself into the castle.
There, he confronted the Marquis and forced him to formally end the “Jus Primae Noctis”*. The following day, the people euphorically greeted the news whilst mourning the death of Lucrezias. Her ghost is said to roam the castle walls to this day.
The women of the village decided to bake a cake resembling the female organ to symbolize it’s right to freedom. They called it “Michetta”. The next day the women stormed the piazza, shouting: “From now on it is us who decide who we want to give the Michetta to”.
To this day and some 700 years later, Dolceacqua still celebrates the 16th August as the festival of Michetta in memory of the heroine Lucrezia who gave her life to free the women from being victims of dishonorable violence.
Dolceacqua is waiting to be discovered by you!
*In truth, this and other violations of preempted rights were abolished in the year 1364 following a riot.
TERRA ITALIA’s Restaurant Recommendation:
The “Sarri” is one of the most outstanding Ligurian restaurants in the Imperia region. The owner and head chef Andrea Sarri brings to the table both his talent and passion. Even though his cooking style can be described as traditional, he is always open to exploring new tastes and surprising combinations.
When selecting his cooking ingredients, freshness, quality and creativity are paramount.
“The cuisine does not only focus on fish and seafood but reflects the variety and richness of all local produce” comments the Guide Michelin on “Sarri”.
Together with his wife Alessandra, Andrea Sarri has created a magical place appealing to all who appreciate excellent food. The restaurant is situated on Borgo Prino, a small seaside fishing village on the fringes of Imperia and its impressive coastline.
The warm colour scheme and discreet lighting underline the elegant and welcoming atmosphere of this restaurant. From the outdoor terrace stunning views over the sea accompany the wonderful food. Thanks to the mild climate, outdoor lunching is even possible during the winter months. On the lower floor level is a small room adjacent to the kitchen with a beautiful crystal table as its focal point. The room is often used for ‘display cooking’ or can be hired for private functions.
The “Sarri” dedicates itself to offering an excellent service such as a personalized wine recommendation so the guests can lean back and enjoy the culinary experience.
Pizza dell’ Andrea is a specialty of Imperia, Bordighera and other villages in the Imperia Province where anchovies are a popular. Another version of this pizza commonly found in Sanremo called “Pizza Sardena” is made with sardines.
The name “Pizza dell’Andrea”, “Pissalandrea” or “Piscialandrea” goes back to Andrea dei Doria (1466-1560) who was very fond of this pizza.
Recipe and Ingredients for 6 people
600 g flour
30 g fresh yeast
4 Tbl spoon Olive Oil
Salt and water as required
For the topping:
2 sliced onions
½ glass olive oil
1 kg ripe tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and sliced
100 g anchovies
A handful of basil leaves, chopped
2 garlic cloves (optional)
12 black olives in salt cut in halves (or 1 Tbl spoon of capers)
Dissolve the yeast in a glass of warm water with the oil and salt. Put the flour on a worktop and mix in the yeast liquid. Bring together the dough and knead for some 15 minutes, shape into a ball, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place for some 2 hours.
Whilst the dough is proving, gently fry the onion and add the tomatoes once the onions have softened. Rinse and chop the anchovies and add to the sauce and let it sit for a while.
Roll out the dough to 1 cm thickness on a prepared baking tray or large pan, use your fingers to smoothen the dough and pour the cooled tomato sauce over the it. Add a few basil leaves, black olives (or capers) the chopped garlic and spray over some olive oil.
Bake in a 240° preheated oven (200° fan assist) for ½ hour or until the pizza looks golden and crisp and serve.
The Laura Aschero vineyard is a traditional family company in Pontedassio in the Imperia province. In 1975 Laura Aschero decided to bring back to life and cultivate the family owned vineyards. The family runs this winery in third generation and the label Laura Aschero is well established and recognized among wine connoisseurs.
The winery occupies a renovated historic building fitted with the latest equipment in winemaking and is situated close to the village piazza.
The tasting room is always open to visitors and you are more than welcome to try various house wines or the olive oil and grappa produced by the family.
Laura Aschero produces more than 70,000 bottles premium Ligurian wine such as the Vermentino DOC, the Rossese DOC and the Pigate DOC and Rosato. For this section, we have picked two wines we would like to introduce you to:
Pigato is a local typically West Ligurian wine recognized back in 1988 as DOC. The origins of the grape can be traced to the near East and was later cultivated in Europe. In the Albenga area in the province Imperia the grape was matched with the perfectly balanced alluvial soil to grow on.
The wine makes a perfect aperitif and is the ideal wine to accompany “Trofie al Pesto”, grilled fish, “Mullet alla Livornese” and all steamed dishes.
Colour: Straw yellow
Aroma: Broad, intensive and long lasting with a hint of yellow peach, acacia honey and broom blossoms.
Taste: Full bodied, dry yet soft with a long continuity and pleasantly bitter aftertaste
Vol./Temperature: 12% ; 10-12°
Laura Aschero’s Rosato is the result of a refined balance between Rossese grapes
and other white grape variants, which develop their intensity in the rolling hills above the sea.
A perfect aperitif or to be enjoyed in combination with meat, fish and vegetable dishes.
Colour : Clear with subtle ruby reflection
Aroma : Fruity with a characteristic hint of mixed berries and typically Ligurian wild herbs
Taste : Dry, pleasantly soft
Beer – A Ligurian tradition from Savignone/Busalla
Hardly anybody knows that brewing beer has a long history in the Genovesian hinterland and dates back to the end of the 19th century.
During the mid 19th century, the beer consumption began to develop steadily and in 1878 the first brewery “Premitia Fabbrica di Birra Busalla” opened in Busalla. It was shut down in 1929 and reopenend some 70 years later in 1999. As the first microbrewery in Savignone, the brewery managed to create the first Craft beer and was granted the “Toponym Birra”. In 1905 the “Busalla Birra Factory” founded in 1905 was listed as a historic company by the Italian government.
Savignone beer is brewed following traditional methods and is therefore recognized by the Ministry for agriculture as an agricultural product.
It has a very low alcohol content and is known to be a refreshing thirst quencher. As the beer is not pasteurized or microfitered it has a mildly cloudy appearance. These days the Savignone range offers an interesting spectrum of beers ranging from light, red, amber coloured, dark, honey coloured or the seasonal chestnut beer “Castagnasca” which uses chestnut flour collected by hand and dried in the Genovesan mountains. The taste shows traces of fire, smoke and stone floors. The Savignone beer is best enjoyed ice cold and goes perfectly with savory dishes, crisply baked tarts, sweat treats and sour dough.
Brússo dell’alta valle Arrocia (short:Brússo)
This fermented ricotta made of sheep’s milk was traditionally poured into a small circle shaped cherry wood container with a lid. It was part of the daily lunch carried to work by the farmworkers in the Ligurian hinterland and either spread on bread or used to spice up potatoes or pasta such as the typical Streppa e Caccia lá or Sciancà Pasta from the upper Arroscia Valley.
Brússo de’ll alta valle Arrocia is a grey white paste of creamy consistency with a varying level of intensity depending on the herbs used in the process.
To make the Brússo the whey is first heated to 70-90° C. Once the foam starts rising to the surface it is gently removed and poured into specially made small slotted baskets the liquid can slowly drain off. Depending on local tradition various herbs, spices, Grappa or other spirits, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper or chili are added to the mixture which is then transferred into specially made wooden containers (traditionally made of larch) and fermented. The Brússo needs roughly a week to mature and needs stirring every day.
The Brússo dell’alta valle Arrocia is a popular Ligurian delicacy.
Cabannina – the unique Ligurian Cattle Breed
The Cabannina is a small cattle breed, which has over centuries adapted to the Ligurian living conditions through natural selection. It originates from the Cabanne plane and was at times in danger of extinction. In the 1980-ies the Cabannina were successfully bred again in Val d’Aveto and Valle Scrivia (Genova Province).
One of the characteristics of the Cabannina is their large rear body, suited to digest large quantities of local Ligurian vegetation usually ignored by other cattle breeds. The Cabannina have a small head, thin long horns and chestnut coloured fur showing a cream coloured mark on the back. They have strong muscles enabling them to effortlessly around the Ligurian landscape.
Cabannina are predominantly bred for milk production. The milk is then processed into high quality and popular milk and cheese products with a distinct flavor.
The surroundings of Dolceacqua have a network of hiking routes inviting you to explore the landscape and the cultural heritage. Let us introduce you to a few especially selected routes, all starting from Dolceacqua:
Start your walk among olive groves, Mediterranean plants and then turn to a tarmac path in direction of the Terra Biance. The loamy soil contains plenty of seashells lending this region its name, Terre Blanche. There is also a well-known winery named Terre Blanche, which cultivates the popular wine Rossesse di Dolceacqua DOC. Not far from here, there are old military bases and remains of ancient castles waiting to be discovered.
Height difference: 400 m – Challenge level T.
The medieval church with its recently revealed frescos from the 14th century by Emanuele Maccan from Pigna, is a 25 minutes walk away. Starting on the piazza Garibaldi in the center of Dolceacqua you walk up to the water shed between the Val Nervia and the Val Roia. A former donkey trail then takes you to a chapel, open to visitors on guided tours. A little further on you will reach the ruins of the Agustine Abbey. From here, the views over Dolceacqua are simply breathtaking.
Height Difference : 150m – challenge level T
The walk starts on the Piazza G. Mauro and leads up to the Castello dei Doria. From here, you walk some 30 minutes on a former donkey trail starting at the rear of the castle, which takes you through olive groves and then meanders through the valley and up the hill. Along the way you will be awarded with stunning panoramic views. Once you have reached the Addolorata (Santuario dell’Addolorata) a wide view over the sea awaits you.
Height Difference: 400 m – Challenge level T.
The Abellio Mountain is partly located in the commune of Dolceacqua. It forms part of the Ligurian Alps and rises to 1,016 m above sea level. Waliking to the summit and back will take you some 6 ½ hours.
Height Difference: 950 m – challenge level E.
This simple castle served Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625 -1712) the founder of a dynasty of astronomers as watchtower for all his studies on planets and the starts.
Walking both ways takes 5 ½ hours.
Difference in height: 500 m – challenge level E.
For more information on hiking routes and tracking, please follow this link: https://www.visitdolceacqua.it/contatti-e-info/
Or you can download a PDF with updated hiking maps on:
The Ligurian hinterland offers plenty of opportunities to explore the many tracking routes, donkey trails and mountain ridges on horseback. The region opens up breathtaking views over the Martime Alps and the sea. The horses are used to the challenges excursions into nature present and so should be their riders.
If you don’t feel inclined to take up the challenge, you can of course take riding lessons in one of the riding schools located between Nice and Genova. There are a number of local schools and horse associations offering a wide number of horse related activities to choose from.
The riding center Val Nervia was founded in 2009 and is situated in the Ligurian hinterland between Dolceacqua and Camporosso. The center offers a number of activities and all riding lessons are carried out by highly qualified instructors.
Riding Center Val Nervia
Via Udine – 18033 – Camporosso Tel. 01841956717 –
“Via Julia Augusta” was built by Emperor Augustus between the 13th and 12th century BC shortly after the Maritime Alps had been conquered. It was built to connect with the provinces in Gallia and ran from the river Trebbia in Emilia near the town of Piacenza to the river Varo near the French Riviera. There are old documents and remains relating to this ancient route.
“Via Julia Augusta” starts in Ventimiglia and runs for some 3 km along the coast to the French border. The route is a pleasant stroll and suited for all levels. Sheltered from the traffic noise of the SS1Aurelia you will walk in the footsteps of the ancient Romans, blessed with stunning views and stumble across a number of historic places.
The “Via Julia Augusta” passes through the “Porta Canarda”, which was built in Ventimiglia in the year 1158 following the siege in 1140 by the Genovese people to serve as a defense fortification. Over the years, the fort kept being renovated and extended as part of the city walls. In 1887 Sir Thomas Hardy carried out yet another renovation. The Roman road also passes the beaches of Calandri and connects with the Giardini Hanbury. At the lower end of the botanical garden is a public road, which was in use until 1836 and may have been part of the Via Julia Augusta, which ends in Piane di Latte just outside Ventimiglia. The beautiful holiday town dating back to antique times still shows traces of the old Roman road. This is a historically interesting excursion of roughly one hour.
The “Supernatural Mountain Bike” club was founded out of appreciation for the landscapes and villages in West Liguria and the Côte d’Azur. The club has the aim to support the region between Italy and France and bring attention to the many sights, villages and the nature in a most environmentally conscious manner. All through the year it offers a number of excursions in the area between the Maritime Alps and the Mediterranean sea such as shuttle service, Enduro adventures and Free Rides as well as outings specially designed for E-bikes.
The founders of the club are all experienced mountain bikers and sport event managers; the experienced guides are certified in either France or Italy and only take small groups up into the mountains. They all have vast knowledge of risk management and the local area. Each excursion is designed to leave the riders with beautiful and unforgettable memories. The network of biking routes stretching between the French and Italian border allows for excursions to suit your individual needs, ideas, experience and level of fitness.
The “Tennis Club Dolceacqua” was founded by a group of tennis enthusiasts in 2012 and has been supported with a great deal of professionalism and appreciation for the sport since. The spirit of sport and relaxation is being celebrated in equal measures and the prices are reasonable.
Each guest of the club receives a warm welcome and is given access to the tennis and padel courts for private use or to take up some lessons with the friendly and competent trainers. The “Tennis Club Dolceacqua” is fitted with clean showers and provides parking spaces. The entire club area is very well looked after.
The clubhouse with views over the Castello dei Doria in Dolceacqua is a good place to socialize and has a sheltered outdoor area and a pleasant bar inside the clubhouse.
On occasions the club organizes music events and is open for lunch and dinner where simple but highly rated meals are being served.
It is essential to book Tennis and Padel courts as well as lessons for children and adults in advance online.
Exhibition Palazzo Ducale in Genova
Runs only from 6th April to 2nd May 2021
The sculptor, painter, architect and poet Micheangelo Buonarroti was the creator of some unique and famous works of art. This exhibition focuses on his encounters with high-ranking personalities who influenced the life of Michelangelo and were reflected in his energy and complexity of his work. The exhibition in the Palazzo Ducale in Genova shows two unusual marble sculptures: the Madonna della Scala from the Buonarroti house dating back to 1490 and the monumental Christ the Savior of San Vincente Martire from Bassano Romano. Further to these and other sculptures there are signed drawings, letters, poems and original documents on display, which are usually kept behind closed doors at the Buonarotti House.
Please note: Exhibitions can only open if the daily Covid 19 infections allow for the classification “yellow”. A mouth and nose cover is mandatory.
The following link with give you daily information on planned events in our region. All changes and booking information is updated daily depending on the Covid 19 situation.