Dolceacqua – In the castel’s shade

Dolceacqua – In the castel’s shade

Brasco and I walked over the bridge that charmed Monet on a day in March that felt like Spring.
As it often happens on a hot day, the air was almost thick, and only the colors, still frozen by Winter, revealed the real season.
The village, located in the Nervia valley, in between the valleys of Bordighera and Ventimiglia, is called Dolceacqua, and now you’ll visit it with me…

I arrived at lunch time and the first thing I noticed were the parking signs, clear and well detailed, perfect for a touristic borough! Once I parked my car I walked towards the village. The day was incredibly bright and the old dwell seemed to lean against the blue sky while the Doria Castle dominated this perfect picture viewed from any angle.
The first owners of the castle (that dates back to 1177) were the counts of Ventimiglia. A hundred years later it was bought by Roberto Doria, who at the time was expanding his rule towards the Nervia valley and obviously thought it was a good idea to purchased the house that was built on his land.

Around the 14th century, the castle was the scene of bloody battles between guelfs and ghibellines, but you can read about it on wikipedia, I prefer to talk about gossips, like the legend of the “Michetta”, a typical (very tasty) local sweet.

It all begun with the romance between Lucrezia and Basso, shattered because of the “jus primae noctis”. This barbarous tradition requested that the future bride would honor her virginity to the marquis on the night before the wedding. Stoic Lucrezia refused such savage custom and for this was locked in the castle’s dungeons were she perished of hunger and thirst.
The inconsolable groom decided to revenge his lost love and, armed with a knife, one night entered the marquis’ chamber and forced him to write an edict that abolished this horrendous tradition.
To celebrate the end of such a uncivil cruelty, the village women created a sweet they named “Michetta” (and it’s shape clearly resembles female parts). From that day, every year on the 16 of August the village celebrates the “Micheta” by dancing, singing, baking sweets and naturally drinking rivers of superb Rossese, the local wine. What can I add ? Another happy ending love story, since one of the two died before the wedding!
May be because of the stories one can read on the planks along the streets that led to the fortress, or because of the somewhat obscure yet fabled fascination that always hangs around castles like a mist, but with no doubt my sight is always magnetized towards this mansion, which certainly is very successful at intimidating possible invaders.

I start descending along the cobbled streets, making my way in an accidental order. At times the lanes are so dark, that the lights are on at 2 pm; houses are clustered together in a labyrinth of sceneries that after listening to tales of mean marquis and heroical peasants, become mysterious and seducing. I don’t want to leave and I almost fulfill my wish loosing myself a couple of times.

But here I am, back to the light again. I rejoin the river Nervia with it’s seagulls who appear to be always rejoicing, the strictly blue sky and Monet’s bridge: a bijoux dé légerèté, as he would usually say (I learn this by reading the placard affixed by it).
Googling I’ve discovered that in 2007, the Touring Club Italiano, awarded Dolceacqua with the orange flag for it’s merits in excellence of offer and quality hospitality. There are no better words than excellence and quality to reward a tourist destination. I’m mostly glad to talk about a revalued hinterland who’s virtues have been accredited.

I end my visit with a walk along the romantic river that today has dressed the soft shades of the land’s colors, and it seem too, to be waiting, still, for the Spring’s arrival.
Awaiting flowers, awaiting bees and all that exiting anticipation that belong to the season of rebirth. But I, just as Monet, enjoy the peace of this silence, delightful sweetness.

Dolceacqua – In the castel’s shade
Liguria Dolceacqua

writing and photography by paola faravelli
translated and adapted by daniela menzano

for more information: web site of Dolceacqua


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  1. Ah, this beautiful post takes me back in time. I used to go on holiday to Bordighera when I was a kid and I have so many sweet memories of the Doria’s Castle of Dolceacqua. I am always such surprised that such an amazing place is not that known as it should.

    • Ciaoooo, you’re right, blame the Ligurians who do not speak much of their beauty. Fortunately, now I got it!!!! Ahahahah…
      Thanks for the comment!

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