My mission to help you discover interesting and unique places in Liguria continues.
In these past months, I have taken you to Noli, a small place with a very long and important history, to Triora, a remote village up in the mountains that is famous for its dark past, and to Verezzi, a small town that offers scenic views and great hiking opportunities. But there are many more places to discover.
In this post, I want you to learn about Bussana Vecchia, a little town that is undoubtedly one of the most unique places in Liguria. This village is part of the municipality of Sanremo, a very popular tourist destination in the western coast of the region. Sanremo is a very famous place for basically two reasons: the Sanremo Festival, a musical competition that has been taking place there since the 1950s, and a booming flower industry.
a panoramic view of Bussana Vecchia
Many people choose Sanremo as their holiday destination because it is a very elegant and picturesque town. There are endless sandy beaches, a wide variety of shops – a new luxury fashion outlet has just opened there too – and many restaurants. But there is something more to discover if you are willing to take a trip up in the hills: it’s Bussana Vecchia.
As I said, Bussana Vecchia is a little village on a hill. In 1887, a terrible earthquake destroyed the place, which at the time was called just Bussana. The event took place on Ashes Wednesday, while the daily Mass was being celebrated: the roof of the church fell down and many people were killed. Moreover, all the houses in the upper part of town were completely destroyed, leaving people without a roof on their heads.
the old church and the bell tower
For a few years, in the beginning, the inhabitants camped outside the village, waiting for permission to restore their houses and move back to their hometown. But a commission stated that it was too dangerous to do so and forced all inhabitants, even if unwillingly, to move just a few kilometers below, where the town of Bussana Nuova was established.
The oldest town, which was then called Bussana Vecchia, remained completely abandoned for many, many years, until the 1950s, when some artists discovered the village and decided to settle there. They established some rules to live together: houses could be occupied but had to be restored using only the materials found in town, houses had to be used only for artistic purposes and it was forbidden to sell art there.
an art gallery in Bussana Vecchia
The group of artists grew with the passing of time but the utopia of the first days began to crumble and fights among artists began as well. However, they all stood together against the first attempt to evacuate them, which took place in 1968. The attempt failed but problems remained: the more people moved to live in the town, the more urgent the issue of private property became.
The dream of a group of artists living and making art together vanished in the 1980s, when the fame of Bussana Vecchia began to attract people who wanted to make money exploiting tourists and the village charm. Meanwhile, fights between the residents, the municipality and the heirs of the old inhabitants of Bussana went on and are still going on today: in 2017 the office for the state property stated that all inhabitants are illegal dwellers and must be evacuated.
with my dog in Bussana Vecchia
I have been to Bussana Vecchia many times in my life. The first time I went there I was very little, it was the mid-80s and my parents took a day trip there to see this utopia in real-life. I don’t remember anything about my visit there but I remember my parents being quite disappointed. I came back many other times but I have always had mixed feelings about it.
I decided to go there one more time this year, in order to write this post, but my feelings haven’t changed: it is a charming little village, a bit scruffy I have to say, but I don’t see the authenticity many people praise so much about the place. Anyway, it is worth the visit if you are in the area because it is a very unique place. The most fascinating thing, for me, is the old church, which has never been restored and cannot be accessed. The old bell tower has not been damaged by the earthquake: it is still intact, making it a very special element and the symbol of the town.
la Kambusa, a lovely restaurant with an amazing view
Moreover, you can spend time checking its little boutiques and art galleries and looking for spots for a nice, Instagram-perfect picture. If you go there in summer, I’d recommend you go there in the afternoon, so that you can then dine at La Kambusa, a lovely restaurant just outside the village that has the most amazing scenic view.
If you go to Bussana Vecchia, I’d also take the time to stop in Taggia, just a few kilometers away, an almost unknown place that has a unique historical center and is famous for two delicacies: i biscotti di Taggia, simple and rustic biscuits with fennel seeds, and i canestrelli, which, unlike all other types of canestrelli in Italy, are salty (locals dunk them in cappuccino, though).
What do you think of Bussana Vecchia? Would you visit it if you were here?
If you are interested in learning more about Italian culture and lifestyle, I’d suggest you jump on my digital Vespa and join Be Italian For A Month, your 30-day virtual journey to Italy.
You will also learn some Italian words, you’ll receive some typical Italian recipes – ready to be cooked and enjoyed, you’ll get to tour around Italy, and learn about Italian traditions, proverbs, stereotypes, you name it. Plus, some cute surprises along the way!