Cervo, Ten Kilometers East of Imperia, Italy
So there we are, travelling back west from Albenga along the Italian Riviera, to sight Cervo, which is a lovely yellow-pink town on a hill. The restoration here is near complete. No houses are rotting like in Gerassio’s borgo medieval with the cold river running past.
We drive the car around the town to negotiate some hairpin turns and park up top. We go through the Porto on the northwestern side of the Cervo’s protective walls, and wind our way downhill through the alley-streets, also known as “carrugi.”
There’s a winery, some lovely restaurants, views of both sides of the promontory far down below, and far to the southwest, you can see Imperia, a large point or cape where the mountain ends on Mediterranean Sea – – and some lovely little waves roll in on the west side of the breakwater.
The Church of San Giovanni Battista is magnificent inside. Repainted and plastered yellow pink orange and a pastel green outside, the innards are filled with marble pillars and artwork in multiple colors — of yes, mostly marble. It is amazing, the size and depth of the church, and how far back it spreads into the outcrop of Cervo. We donated, for the restoration to be continued. Took home a few postcards of the town on the hill, photographed from the water. And one of the altar, with the gold giant candlesticks and the white marble layers in between others. It almost looks like a ship.
Still thinking of walking the magical entrails of the town, with all the crisscrossing paths, the stones artistically laid, and rather smooth for those klutzes who tend to trip on their beeg feet, or on annoying stray stone edges sticking out, beveled indifferently by some lout in blue trousers and nicotiney eyes. Just kidding. All the work must be congratulated on this lovely crafted space of the functional architecture of man in Italy. Reworked, and reworking, as the jackhammers badger, and the stone dust rises.
And how about this piece of history, from “Cervo, Historical and Tourist Guide (translated from Italian):
“The XVII century was the golden century for Cervo, and many of its families had accumulated considerable riches thanks to sailing and trade. This fact enabled our ancestors, animated by Christian charity and love for their country, to show their gratitude to God by building the wonderful Saint Giovanni Church. The humble coral fisherman offered his work instead of money.
In the inactive months of Winter, the boats were used to carry materials and marbles to the beach; from there up to the Balzo along steep rises, the seamen of the village carried them with the strength of their arms.
The Church that rose from the sea and from the top of a hill, faces the sea to protect and defend its children, is rightly called of the “Corallini.” There is a legend about the Cervesi Corallini quite true in its moving and tragic end. All the inhabitants decided to make every effort to finish the Church and an exceptional fishing expedition was prepared.
All the profit from it would be spent on the new Church. The flotilla of their boats aligned along the coast early in the morning and the Parish Priest blessed them from St. Erasmus’s chapel. The boats, after unfurling their sails, in the fair spring wind, soon disappeared. Nothing was heard from them any more.
Summer went by, Autumn followed, and Winter was getting near. From the Balzo, from the Bastione, from the high terraces the women with their children in their arms scanned the horizon but in vain, as no sail appeared on the sea, which was, then, considered a hateful enemy. The sea, the boundless grave which had swallowed men and hopes in a violent storm. The shipwreck probably occurred in the Sardinian Sea, not far from the small island of Mezzomare, beyond the Bocche di Bonifacio, where there was a rich coral reef, later named Banco delle Vedove (Widow’s Reef). After giving up the fishing of coral, Cervesi young people devoted their strength to other activities. This is the epic of the Corallini; it is the poetry of the sea hovering about our beautiful Church and above all the faith in God of the old Cervesi people.”
Quite a tale.
Cervo, the Cervo of today, is a place to climb through medieval feelings. Walls around the town. Magnificent Mediterranean colors.
But sleeping tonight, our last night, in Imperia again. In front of those rolling waves outside our window, forty feet up, the salty breeze invigorating our dreams.
OK, please go to the final installment now at: