Visiting old Ligurian villages is one of my favorite pastimes and I have been to a lot of them over the years.
I have been to Triora, which is famous for being il paese delle streghe, to Apricale and Perinaldo, two lovely perched villages in the west of the region, to Verezzi and its scenic beauty, to Bussana Vecchia and its unique story, and to many other interesting places but there was one village I still had to cross off my list: Seborga.
Seborga is a very small village in the westernmost area of Liguria, very close to the French border. It has less than 300 inhabitants and it is very similar to many other villages in the area. But there is something that makes it unique: the inhabitants have declared their independence from Italy.
the sign when you enter Seborga
In fact, around the mid-60s, Giorgio Carbone, the head of the local flower-growers co-op, started claiming the independence of Seborga because it seems that the sale of the small village to the Kingdom of Savoia, which took place in 1729, had not been registered, making it invalid.
In 954 the territory of Seborga was donated by the Count of Ventimiglia to the monks of the Abbey of Lerino. In 1079 the monks obtained the title of Princes of Seborga and, even if the Republic of Genoa tried to conquer Seborga multiple times, it remained independent until it was sold to the King of Sardinia, Vittorio Amedeo II di Savoia. It is this specific sale that is considered invalid.
a view of the historic center
In 1963, Giorgio Carbone was elected Principe di Seborga, taking the name of Giorgio I and the title of Sua Altezza Serenissima. In the 90s, his government approved the laws of the principate, minted its own currency, and issued stamps, identity documents, passports, and license plates, all without any legal value.
The currency of Seborga is il luigino, which is accepted in local shops and businesses. Seborga also has a flag and an anthem and on August 20, 1996, Prince Giorgio I declared the independence of Seborga from Italy, which of course Italy has never recognized. He died in 2009 and was succeeded to the throne by Marcello Menegatto and then by Nina Menegatto, who is now the Princess of Seborga.
the Palace of Monks
After the declaration of independence, Seborga became very famous in Italy and abroad. The village has been in the news multiple times and tourism increased significantly. The historic center of Seborga has been carefully restored and is now included in the Borghi più belli d’Italia (the most beautiful Italian villages) official list.
I have to admit that I have always found Seborga and its most recent history a bit folksy and touristy and I have never had the curiosity of visiting it. But one day, last summer, I was near Bordighera and I thought it would be interesting to go and take a look at this Ligurian village with a truly unique character.
a restaurant in the village
Like many other villages in inland Liguria, Seborga is perched on a hill and from up there you can enjoy a magnificent view of the coast. If you are in Bordighera, it takes more or less 20 minutes to get to the village, and once there, you can enjoy a lovely stroll up and down its narrow alleys.
The village is really small but it is very well preserved and full of picturesque corners. It is worth visiting the main church, Chiesa Parrocchiale di San Martino di Tours, in baroque style, and the Oratorio di San Bernardo, right outside the historic center. In front of the church of San Martino, there is the Palazzo dei Monaci, which in the 17th century was the mint of the village.
old pictures on the walls
I don’t know if it was a temporary exhibition or not but that were old pictures of the village and its inhabitants hung on buildings all around the city center and I really enjoyed taking a look at them. It was really interesting to look at those images of the past and imagine how life must have been decades ago, in that secluded and remote village.
Seborga is a perfect destination for a day trip if you are in the area, or for a longer stay if you want to enjoy some peace and tranquility. We haven’t had lunch there, unfortunately, but I have spotted a couple of restaurants that seem really promising. I still think that all this independence thing is a bit touristy but it is a great excuse to visit a lovely Ligurian village!
some souvenirs of Seborga
Finally, if you want to learn more about Seborga, maybe you can check the work of writer and journalist James Vasey. He fell in love with Seborga and its unique history years ago and now divides his time between England and Liguria. He has written three books about Seborga, its history, and its food tradition, which are now included in The Seborga Trilogy: Cooking Up A Country, Unlikely Pairings, and Recipe For A Nation.
Well, it’s time for you to visit and discover Seborga, don’t you think?
If you are looking for interesting ways to practice your Italian daily, I’d suggest you check my program called Giorno dopo giorno, a daily Italian practice.
If you sign up to Giorno dopo giorno, you will receive an email every other day for 365 days. Each email will contain a prompt, a little exercise, something to watch, read, listen or something that will gently force you to practice your Italian every day, making it part of your daily routine.