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A Brief Itinerary to Discover the Medieval Village in the Hinterland of Albenga

Are you exploring the Riviera di Ponente and looking to discover a village in the hinterland? Then, read on to find out what to see in Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena!

Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena was a true discovery, stumbled upon one hot August day when we craved an escape from the chaos of the coastline. This small village, home to just over a hundred inhabitants, is located a mere 15 kilometers from the coast but feels like a mountain retreat, surrounded by dense woods and houses nestled against the mountainside, connected by narrow cobblestone alleys.

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Glimpse of a corner of the village (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The village exudes a unique atmosphere that seems to have frozen in time several centuries ago. It is this ambiance, coupled with the splendid panorama, that earned Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena a place among Italy’s Most Beautiful Villages and the Touring Club’s Orange Flag.

The Village’s History

The village’s origins are ancient, dating back to the 1st century according to recovered artifacts. Its current form, however, emerged in the Middle Ages, around the 11th and 13th centuries, when the Marquises of Clavesana decided to build a castle. This castle, the first in the Val Neva (hence the name Castelvecchio), remained significant until the neighboring town of Zuccarello was established. Despite changing ownership to the Marquises of Zuccarello, the castle retained its strategic importance, leading to conflicts between the Duchy of Savoy and the Republic of Genoa for control over this crucial domain on the salt route. After a period under Napoleonic rule in 1815, it permanently became part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, like the rest of Liguria.

Now that you know a bit more about the village’s history, let’s delve into what to see in Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena!

What to See in Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena: The Castle

Our itinerary on what to see in Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena must start with the Castle. To reach it, navigate through the narrow alleys, staircases, and arches of the original core of the village, leaning against the base of the fortress.

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One of the alleys to go up to the Castle (Credit To Matteo Marongiu)

The village’s birth and development are attributed to the Marquises of Clavesana’s decision to build the castle on a hill overlooking the Val Neva. Today, it stands as the undisputed symbol of the village with its quadrangular structure flanked by towers dating back to the 11th century.

The castle, passed to the Del Carretto family, was expanded and served as the noble family’s residence until they moved to Zuccarello. A significant part of the building was damaged in 1672 during one of the numerous sieges it endured, leaving visible marks on the side facing the mountain.

Currently owned by the Del Conte family, the castle underwent restoration, breathing new life into the structure. As a private property, it may not always be accessible but opens during holidays and cultural events. Visitors claim that the panoramic view from the castle is truly exceptional.

What to See in Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena: The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption

Another important building to explore in Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena is the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption. This edifice originated in the early decades of the village’s existence, evolving from a small parish in the 12th century to its expanded form in the 15th century, still visible today. The exterior of the church is modest with a main portal covered by a small awning and a half-moon window. Adjacent is another 14th-century portal, now sealed, featuring a fresco depicting the Madonna with Child and two saints. Next to the church, you’ll find a tall bell tower with a distinctive pyramid-shaped spire and simple hanging arch decorations.

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the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption(Credit To Matteo Marongiu)

The interior is equally unadorned, divided into three aisles – the central one covered by a barrel vault, while the side aisles have cross vaults leading to an intriguing presbytery and apse. Noteworthy works within include frescoes depicting the Cardinal Virtues and a medallion portraying the Holy Trinity crowning the Madonna. Equally interesting is the wooden choir created in 1872

What to See in Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena: The Oratory of Santa Maria Maddalena

Locating the Oratory of Santa Maria Maddalena may pose a challenge. Situated in Torre Square, it seamlessly blends with neighboring houses, distinguished only by a small sail-like bell tower and a trilobate lunette depicting Santa Maria Maddalena. Constructed in the 12th century and formerly known as the Oratory of the Disciplinati, this building served as a gathering place for notable individuals making decisions regarding the village’s affairs.

What to see in Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena - oratory of Santa Maria Maddalena - frescoed lunette - bell tower
Oratory of Santa Maria Maddalena (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The interior, a simple single-naved space, underwent extensive renovations in the 18th century, adopting Ligurian Baroque elements like frames, floral and vegetal volutes. Adorning the walls are valuable canvases by local school painters.

Excursions in the Surrounding Area

Among the most captivating activities in Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena are the excursions. Those who ascend to the village often opt for trails traversing the slopes surrounding the settlement.

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The mountains around Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The most renowned is the Ilaria Path, a scenic route connecting Castelvecchio to Zuccarello, dedicated to Ilaria del Carretto, a prominent figure in the region. Many choose this path to reach Castelvecchio, leaving their vehicles in Zuccarello where ample parking is available.

Other itineraries depart directly from the village, leading mostly towards panoramic peaks such as Monte Carmo, Monte Subanco, and Poggio Grande. Some are designed for experienced hikers, while beginner-friendly options also exist. If you want to get an idea, you can check here!

Now that you are acquainted with the main things to do and see in Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena, all that’s left is to decide when to visit!

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Article Name
What to see in Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena
Explore the Riviera di Ponente's charm and discover the hidden gem of Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena. Find out what to see in Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena!
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La Scimmia Viaggiatrice