What to see in Laigueglia

What to see in Laigueglia - Panorama - Pier - Wind rose - Sunset

A Brief Guide to Discovering the Famous Coral Village in the Ligurian West

If you love the sea in all seasons and quaint seaside villages, Laigueglia is the perfect destination for you! Let’s explore what to see in Laigueglia.

Laigueglia is a small village in the province of Savona, nestled in the charming Bay of the Sun. This stretch of the Riviera delle Palme, bordered by Capo Santa Croce to the east and Capo Mele to the west, seems to have been shielded from the transformations brought about by mass beach tourism. The ancient charm of the fishing villages that once characterized the entire Ligurian West is still very much alive in Laigueglia, making it a long-standing member of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy” club.

The name Laigueglia is quite peculiar, supposedly deriving from the Roman legion’s eagle that passed through these areas centuries ago to fight against the Ligurians. Since medieval times, Laigueglia remained loyal to the Republic of Genoa, thriving as a prosperous port. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the town experienced significant Catalan immigration, drawn by Laigueglia’s richness in coral. The seabeds near Capo Mele were so abundant in this precious material that Laigueglia quickly transformed into a thriving town. Even today, many Laigueglia families carry surnames with clear Iberian origins, a testament to this historical migration. When the coral trade faced a crisis, the village adapted remarkably well, reinventing itself as a beach resort in the early 1900s.

After this introduction, let’s immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of the village and discover what to see in Laigueglia.

What to see in Laigueglia: The Historic Cente

Whether you spend a day or a vacation in Laigueglia, the historic center will undoubtedly captivate you. While you may not find many architectural or artistic masterpieces, the village’s charm is undeniable. The intersection of small, winding alleys opening into quaint squares, surrounded by colorful tall buildings, creates a truly stunning atmosphere.

What to see in Laigueglia - Historic centre - Piazza della Libertà - trees - Pink buildings
Glimpse of Piazza della Libertà (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Another appealing aspect is that, through small alleys, you can directly reach the beach from the ancient nucleus of Laigueglia. There are no seawalls or other barriers, just occasional low walls preventing rough seas from reaching the houses. This adds to the enchanting, evocative atmosphere, reminiscent of times gone by.

The Church of San Matteo

While Laigueglia may not boast many architectural masterpieces, the Church of San Matteo, dominating the village, is a notable exception. Its imposing structure reflects the wealth Laigueglia attained during the peak of coral trade. The church’s history dates back to ancient times, but its current appearance is a result of reconstruction in the late Baroque style during the 18th century. External highlights include two tall bell towers with dome-covered facades, richly decorated.

What to see in Laigueglia - Church of San Matteo - Palaces - Bell towers - small square -
Church of San Matteo seen from the seafront(Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The interior is adorned with Corinthian-style pilasters alternating with ten chapels and their altars. These chapels house intriguing works by the finest painters from the Genoese school of that era, including Bernardino Strozzi, Giovanni Battista Merano, and Giovanni Battista Carlone. Another noteworthy feature inside the church is a “cartelame,” life-size cardboard cutouts depicting sacred scenes supported by a wooden structure—a tradition from Liguria’s almost-lost celebration of Holy Week, still preserved here.l tutto perduta e che qui si può ancora apprezzare.

The Oratory of Santa Maria Maddalena

Adjacent and part of the same structure as the Church of San Matteo is the Oratory of Santa Maria Maddalena. Its rectangular shape with a lunette-vaulted ceiling and small windows at the top, preventing outside views, houses valuable artworks and furnishings. Notable items include Domenico Piola’s painting depicting Santa Maria Maddalena in the desert, a seventeenth-century crucifix with silver decorations, and wooden benches beneath the organ.

The oratory’s uniqueness is enhanced by a 17th-century fresco uncovered during a recent restoration. This artwork portrays Santa Maria Maddalena watching over Laigueglia while boats laden with coral were greeted from the village’s defensive towers upon returning to port. This makes it an essential stop on any itinerary exploring what to see in Laigueglia.

The Tower of Levant and the Cyclists’ Wall

A short stroll from the beach reveals another relic of Laigueglia’s past—the Tower of Levant, also known as the Horse Tower. This defensive tower, somewhat stout, is the sole survivor of three guarding the village against pirate raids. The Genoese decided to erect it in the 16th century after a tragic raid by the pirate Dragut, who plundered the village and took many residents hostage. Adding to the charm of this corner of Laigueglia is the small fishermen’s harbor, where one can witness fishermen repairing nets or preparing boats for fishing—an everyday spectacle in a fishing village that has become increasingly rare.

The Torrione of Levant and the small port (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

For cycling enthusiasts or the merely curious, a must-visit is the Cyclists’ Wall. Here, tiles bear the signatures of the world’s greatest cyclists, both past and present, who participated in the Laigueglia Trophy held every February.

What to see in Laigueglia: The Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Penne

Outside the historic center, perched on the promontory of Capo Mele, lies the Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Penne—a secluded place with a fascinating history. Built in the 17th century by the Catalan community of coral fishermen, it was dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la peña (Our Lady of the Rock), from which its Italianized name derives. The small church has a single nave and predominantly houses maritime ex-votos. What truly sets it apart is its commanding position overlooking the entire Bay of the Sun, offering one of the best panoramas in the area.

What to see in Laigueglia- Panorama- Baia del Sole-coast
Panorama of Laigueglia from the foot of Capo Mele (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Unfortunately, the sanctuary is only open for visits on Saturdays in May and the first Saturday of each month from June to September, with occasional special openings throughout the year.

What to see in Laigueglia: Colla Micheri

Another attraction in Laigueglia is the medieval hamlet of Colla Micheri. While technically the historic nucleus of Andora, it is so close to Laigueglia that it could easily be considered a fraction of the latter. To reach it, we recommend taking the splendid walk along Via del Castello Romano. About two kilometers immersed in nature, among olive trees and maritime pines, provide a special experience.

Once inside the hamlet, one is amazed that time seems to have stood still. The village revolves around the central square paved with gray and white stones forming mystical patterns. Here stands the small church of San Sebastiano, known for its dark red color and for hosting Pope Pius VII upon his return from French exile. Surrounding the square are numerous alleys creating picturesque views that even charmed Thor Heyerdahl, a renowned Norwegian explorer and navigator. After circling the globe, he chose to spend his final years in Colla Micheri. The resulting fame allowed the village to survive depopulation, undergo restoration, and gain appreciation.

What to see in Laigueglia - View - alley - arch - bench - Colla Micheri
Glimpse of an alley in Colla Micheri

This brief guide to discovering what to see in Laigueglia concludes here. Now, you only need to decide when to visit! Enjoy your exploration!

Final Recommendations

If you plan to stay in Laigueglia at the best accommodations and prices, click here.

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Summary
Article Name
What to see in Laigueglia
Description
Love the sea year-round and charming coastal villages? Discover what to see in Laigueglia for an irresistible seaside escape!"
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La Scimmia Viaggiatrice

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