Among the Western Liguria towns that deserve a visit Albenga makes no exeption, located about 10 km from Loano and second only to Savona for extension and population density.
Regardeless of the old saying “Albenga, chi non c’ha da fare non ci venga” ( Albenga, who has no business here just stay away), this city has much to offer its visitors, as well as for the beauty of its historical center and for its surrounding landscapes.
A little bit of history
The name derives from the latin word Albìngaunum that translates in Città degli ingauni (City of the ingauni), and had a critical role in the foundation of the Roman Empire in the Western Liguria. It was conquered by Rome in 181 B.C. and got the roman citizenship about a hundred years later; thanks to the economical prosperity of the empire, it experienced a major boost and advanced development.
In the V century it was razed and invaded by the Goths and afterwards by the Longobardi.
In 451 gave birth to its diocese, among the most first in Liguria.
After the year 1000 it became one of the first free common, and in 1251 was assimilated into the Republic of Genoa territories.
In the XVII century avoided the pirate attack, who sacked Ceriale.
Then it fell under the control of Del Carretto family, part of the Marquisate of Finale, then of Visconti family, afterwards was property of the French and then again under Genoa’s influence.
What to see in Albenga
Albenga is considered the Ligurian roman and medieval capital, and its evidences are still present and well visible in the beautiful historical center. The most ancient part of the urban center antico offers an enormous potential for tourism that, in the last period, after years of carelessness, has been reclassified. Nowadays, the narrow alleys of the center are lively, with typical products shops, inns and wine stores where is possible to taste the local delicacies.
One of the many names that have been attributed to Albenga is “città dalle cento torri” (city of a hundred towers), and it suggests its peculiarity; actually the towers are not so numerous, but they are many for sure, especially if the church belltowers are counted in, too. They were built in the XIII century in the proximity of a noble house in order to underline the power of the family. The building stands on solid stone blocks, while the upper walls feature red bricks.
They suffered different fates: some stands still, perfectly preserved, but others have been transformed, embed into other buildings or destroyed.
The towers of Piazza San Michele are definitely the most famous ones, as they have become the symbol of the city.
San Michele’s Cathedral
Facing the homonymous square, it’s the heart of the historical center. Its front, revisited more than once, it’s the evidence of different styles that have succeded one onether for centuries. Initially conceived as Romanesque church with a single aisle, it was subsequently influenced by the gothic current, so that two new side aisles and a belltower were added later.
It is an early Christians baptistery built in the V century A.D. because of Flavio Costanzo, conserva al suo interno una fonte battesimale e un mosaico del VI secolo, ricco di simbologie cristiane; è uno dei monumenti paleocristiani più belli del Nord Italia e visitato da moltissimi turisti. Consigliamo una visita all’interno per scoprire i tesori che proprio qui sono custoditi. Particolarmente degno di nota è il mosaico, considerato uno tra le più belle opere d’arte di tutta la regione, datato V-VI secolo, realizzato su una delle volte: raffigura Cristo su un cielo cobalto pieno di stelle.
The Gallinara island, with its strange shapes that resembles a turtle, stands not so far away from the coasts of Albenga. Regarded as a natural reserve, it offers to its visitors a substantial wildlife variety. Here is possible to experience a boat trip devoted to discovering nature.
The Via Iulia Augusta (Iulia Augusta Road)
Built in the 13 B.C., it starts at the south gate and climbs up the mountains towards Alassio. During that time, massive memorials stood along the road. Nowadays just the track remains, reduced to a shingle path where ancient remains are still visible. The road, viable by foot or mountain bike, offers a wondrous landscape, between the sea and the Mediterranean scrubland.