It’s been a while since I went hunting for secret Italian places for you.
But I took advantage of a splendid October Sunday and decided to visit a place I had been dreaming of for quite a while. I first heard about it a couple of years ago, but somehow never had the chance to go there – even if it is just one hour away from where I live.
Actually, chances need to be created: what a better opportunity than discovering a hidden corner of Italy for you, dear readers? Therefore, a few Sundays ago, we woke up early, had our usual cappuccino and cornetto fix and went to La Cervara Abbey.
La Cervara Abbey is a Medieval Abbey located in one of the most breathtaking locations in Liguria, between Santa Margherita and Portofino, on a cliff above the sea. From its garden, you see nothing but the sea, the sky and the green hills of the gulf around you: it seems that the monks knew perfectly how to choose the right spot for a monastery!
The Abbey has a long history and many famous visitors, like Francesco Petrarca, Saint Catherine of Siena, a number of popes and even the king of France Francis I, who was imprisoned here in a tower overlooking the Portofino bay – definitely not a bad place for an imprisonment.
Actually, visiting La Cervara is really a journey throughout time.
First of all, it is privately owned and can be visited with a guided tour only (and on certain Sundays only), which is nice because the tour guide is really great and tells you everything about the history of the place. And there’s actually a lot to say about that as the place has been around for quite a while now.
The first stone for what was a monastery at the time was laid in the summer of 1361 by Benedictine monks. The religious order experienced a period of great splendor in the 15th and 16th century and this can still be seen today in the design of the church and the cloister as well. In the 16th century, they even had to build a tower, which still exists today, to protect such a rich settlement from Saracen raiders.
La Cervara survived all battles and revolutions throughout time, but in the 18th century the Benedictines had to abandon the place as the monastic orders were suppressed. Since then, the place went through a period of abandon, served as accommodation for other religious orders throughout time and then became a private residence in 1937. The current owners fell in love with it in the 1990s and restored it to its original splendor.
If you are interested in history and art, you’ll surely appreciate the visit to the interior: you’ll see the Cloister, the 16th century Saracen Tower, the Church of St. Jerome and the Emperor Gallery. Actually, since I am more into flowers and natural sceneries, I went mad for the garden.
To be honest, it is impossible not to be moved: a luscious garden overlooking the sea, with an incredible view all around. You will see the amazing Gardenia Garden, with floral pillars and bougainvillea, the Italian garden and the Portofino Terrace, which sits on the tower where the King of France was held prisoner. But the highlight of the visit is the incredible Wisteria Courtyard, with its centennial wisteria acting as a natural roof.
Unfortunately, I visited in October and it was not in bloom, but I’ll make sure to come back next year in Spring. After all, the visit to La Cervara is interesting in terms of history – even if much of the place has been restored and now hosts a modern event center – but especially for the garden and the views of the gulf of Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure. If you are passionate about gardening, I am sure you’ll fall in love!
Now tell me, have I convinced you? Shall we go?
If you are interested in visiting it, La Cervara Abbey can be visited from March to October, the first and third Sunday of the month. For information, please check La Cervara website.
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