Liguria Property: Lavagna
The town of Lavagna on Italy’s Riviera sits on the left of the Entella River, forming a single conurbation with Chiavari on the opposite bank.
From Roman times to the present, Lavagna has been noted for the traditional craft of slate-working.
But in recent times the area has become noted principally as a tourist resort, thanks in large part to its stretch of sandy beaches, the longest along Liguria’s eastern coast.
Lavagna’s port is one of the most scenic in Italy and the entire Mediterranean. It has a pier running parallel to the coast that extends for more than a kilometre and has mooring space for more than 1,600 boats.
Lavagna’s most famous festival, the Torta dei Fieschi (Fieschi Cake), attracts crowds of thousands – tourists and locals alike.
The event, started in 1949 and celebrated every August 14, commemorates the 1230 wedding between Lavagna’s Count Opizzo Fieschi and Siennese noblewoman Bianca dei Bianchi in which cake was handed out to townsfolk.
Nearly eight centuries on, the re-enactment features a horse-riding tournament followed by the distribution of slices of a giant cake whose recipe remains a closely guarded secret.
In keeping with the matrimonial theme, pairs of matching tickets are issued to the crowd (blue for men, pink for women). The aim is to find the person of the opposite sex with an identical ticket so you can romantically receive your slice of Fieschi cake together.
But Lavagna has other, perhaps more sober, evocations of its rich medieval history, in particular in its characteristic old town.
Here, several ornate porches, supported by massive columns, stand testament to its past. And it is not too difficult to also find 15th century gateways and 18th century lintels.
Also noteworthy are its churches, most prominent of which is St Stephen’s Basilica. It was reconstructed in 1653 on the site of a pre-existing church, which itself dated from the 10th century.
The basilica boasts an elegant façade flanked by two bell towers and preceded by a wide staircase. Inside, one can admire the rich baroque decorations and crucifixion scenes.
However, the Church of Our Lady of Carmine, built in 1631 and subsequently restructured, is without a doubt the church most beloved by the local Lavagnesi – in particular by mariners and fishermen, who down the years have left ex-voto (little hearts in velvet frames) in the church in gratitude for perceived acts of divine protection. The church also houses the local library in its cloisters.
A panoramic road leading out of Lavagna takes you to the Church of St Julia Centaura. It sits atop one of the most beautiful hills of the eastern Ligurian shore and boasts a wonderful view over the coast from Portofino to Sestri Levante.
Inside, there is a wooden Byzantine crucifix and, close by, a 16th century polyptych painting. Worth seeing also is the churchyard.