Just over 25 kilometres from Relais del Maro is the picturesque village of Cervo, where time seems to have stopped in the Middle Age. The village, included in the prestigious club of “The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy”, is nestled on a spur that slopes down to the sea and is able to amaze and fascinate in every season of the year thanks to its extraordinary historical, artistic and architectural heritage.
Cervo boasts an evocative historical centre, enclosed by ancient walls and characterised by a labyrinth of narrow alleys (in Ligurian dialect called carruggi) that descend towards the coast, lined with typical pastel-coloured houses. As you lose yourself in these shady glimpses, you can savour the village’s still entirely medieval atmosphere. Its coastline consists of small bathing establishments, wide stretches of free beach and quiet rocky inlets.
At the highest point of the village, precisely in Piazza Santa Caterina, stands the Clavesana Castle, from whose terrace one can see both the mountains and the sea at a glance. It was built around the 13th century by the Marquises of Clavesana (from whom it takes its name) as their residence, incorporating the original high-medieval tower. The structure has been used for various purposes over the years: seat of the municipal parliament, defensive bulwark against the Saracens, Oratory of the Disciplinants of Saint Catherine of Alexandria and hospital. It is currently home to the Tourist Office and the Museum Centre, which houses, on the first floor, the Ponente Ligure Ethnographic Museum and, on the second floor, the permanent exhibition ‘Women of Liguria – A Century of History 1850/1950’.
Another feather in the village’s cap is the majestic Church of San Giovanni Battista, also known as ‘dei Corallini’ because it was built with the proceeds from the coral fishing that the people of Cervo practised in the seas of Corsica and Sardinia. Begun in 1686 to a design by architect Gio Batta Marvaldi and completed in 1734 by his son Giacomo Filippo, it is one of the main examples of Baroque architecture in western Liguria. The elegant bell tower was instead erected in the second half of the 18th century to a design by painter Francesco Carrega. The church houses several valuable works of art, including the wooden crucifix by Maragliano, the high altar by Pittaluga and the choir frescoes by Carrega. From the square in front, one can enjoy an enchanting view of the entire gulf.
In the immediate vicinity of the Church of St John the Baptist is the former Oratory of St Catherine, a classic example of a Romanesque structure originally built on a Latin cross plan. The building was built in the 13th century on the initiative of the Knights Hierosolimitani as a church, but around the 18th century, when the Church of the Corallini was consecrated, it was demoted to an oratory. Inside, some 16th century works can be admired, including a large fresco of St George slaying the dragon above the main entrance. The building is now deconsecrated and used as a hall for art exhibitions, concerts, conferences and cultural events.
At the foot of the village is Palazzo Viale, the residence of one of Cervo’s most important families. Built in the 18th century, it is distinguished from other buildings by the Baroque decorations that adorn its façade. Inside, walls and ceilings are embellished with remarkable frescoes by Carrega. The palace is now owned by the municipality, which carries out cultural initiatives there. Other buildings of some value are: the 17th-century Palazzo Morchio, today’s Town Hall; the Tower of Sant’Antonio, built around the middle of the 16th century; and the Church of San Nicola da Tolentino, Cervo’s oldest and first parish church, located just outside the walls.
Among the major events in Cervo, we recommend the International Chamber Music Festival, born in 1964 from a happy intuition of Hungarian violinist Sandor Vegh. The prestigious kermesse, scheduled on evenings between July and August, owes its success to the fame of the performers who take part.
A tip for the gourmand: an aperitif with a breathtaking sea view at Bar Ariel and a dinner accompanied by good wine at Ristorante San Giorgio or San Giorgino wine bar