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Framura

 

Punte argentee di mare entravano nel cielo, quasi in risposta al richiamo degli ulivi. (Francesco Biamonti)

Framura
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Framura is a village located between Deiva Marina and Bonassola and it’s the seaside resort par excellence. It is a small seaside village like no others and it is appreciated by people of all generations in the Riviera di Levante.

Its  territory, with mountains and terraces of olive trees, which our readers will have grown to love by now, is one of the most well-preserved and suggestive places in the Ligurian coast. Some people define this idyllic site, and Moneglia as well, as the “Missing Five Lands”.

Generally, Framura is indicated as the middle part of Levanto’s territory, with Portofino and the Cinque Terre as the extreme points; Framura shares a great portion of the mountain and coastal landscape with these villages, and all of them are under the protection of the homonymous National Park. Framura is not the typical village with a limited housing unit; it is defined as a “scattered” municipality, which includes five hamlets: Anzo, Ravecca, Setta, Costa, Castagnola.

The municipality is therefore a group of villages gathered in one of the many coves of the coast, all in perfect symbiosis with the surrounding nature. Monte Serro and Monte San Nicolao act as buttresses, and the beautiful Ligurian Sea warms up visitors for most of the year, pampering them with a mild, healthy climate and a pleasant scent of pine resin.

Framura borders in the north with Carrodano, in the west with Deiva Marina, in the south east with Bonassola and in the north east with Levanto. From La Spezia, it takes just over half an hour to get here.

Framura is a village located between Deiva Marina and Bonassola and it’s the seaside resort par excellence. It is a small seaside village like no others and it is appreciated by people of all generations in the Riviera di Levante.

Its  territory, with mountains and terraces of olive trees, which our readers will have grown to love by now, is one of the most well-preserved and suggestive places in the Ligurian coast. Some people define this idyllic site, and Moneglia as well, as the “Missing Five Lands”.

Generally, Framura is indicated as the middle part of Levanto’s territory, with Portofino and the Cinque Terre as the extreme points; Framura shares a great portion of the mountain and coastal landscape with these villages, and all of them are under the protection of the homonymous National Park. Framura is not the typical village with a limited housing unit; it is defined as a “scattered” municipality, which includes five hamlets: Anzo, Ravecca, Setta, Costa, Castagnola.

Framura

The municipality is therefore a group of villages gathered in one of the many coves of the coast, all in perfect symbiosis with the surrounding nature. Monte Serro and Monte San Nicolao act as buttresses, and the beautiful Ligurian Sea warms up visitors for most of the year, pampering them with a mild, healthy climate and a pleasant scent of pine resin.

Framura borders in the north with Carrodano, in the west with Deiva Marina, in the south east with Bonassola and in the north east with Levanto. From La Spezia, it takes just over half an hour to get here.

How to get here

BY AIR

The nearest airport is Cristoforo Colombo in Genoa, followed by Galileo Galilei in Pisa; it takes less than an hour and an hour and a quarter respectively to reach the village from these airports. From Milano Malpensa, Orio al Serio and Linate you can reach your final destination by train; you obviously have to leave from the Milano Centrale station and change train in Genoa or La Spezia.

BY LAND

From northern and southern Italy you can reach Framura via the A12 Genoa-Rosignano-Livorno motorway, taking the direction of Genoa and the exit of Deiva Marina.  Deiva is about about fifteen kilometres from your destination, which is indicated by the signs Framura/Levanto, on the SP65; from Piazza, which is located halfway along the route, you will transit on the SP41, in the direction of Levanto. The first locality of Framura that you will encounter is Castagnola, followed, descending towards the beaches, by Costa, Setta, Ravecca and Anzo. 

However, driving by car is not recommended because of the usual parking issues (lack of parking spots or very expensive fees): we suggest you to leave your vehicle in Costa, and continue by bus towards the beaches, or move directly by train without using the car. Framura can be easily reached through the regional railway line between Genoa and La Spezia.

It also has its own station, with a frequent train service. The upper area of Framura is connected to the station by a bus service provided by the A.T.C. La Spezia. There is also an A.T.P. service, which connects the village to Deiva Marina, Montaretto, Bonassola and Levanto. Moreover, from the station of Framura you can easily reach the cafés and the main beaches.

BY SEA

Framura is not equipped with a structure to host pleasure boats, but it doeas have the Marina, a natural cove that welcomes fishing boats and the most manoeuvrable skiffs. The cove is located right in the inlet that shapes the first village. The Marina has got its own café, toilet and shower services and can be easily reached on foot, by bus, car or train; it is located at the end of the road that leads to the sea, whose entry is the one just before the tunnel.

How to get around

As we mentioned, moving by car is not recommended, at least during high season. The most popular ways to reach Framura are either by train, departing from Sestri Levante and La Spezia, in which case you can comfortably sit in your coach carrying your camera, or on foot, along the half-coast paths that connect the village to Deiva Marina and Bonassola.

The territory develops uphill, as steep as the one of the nearby Cinque Terre, and it includes the five cliff-side hamlets between vineyards and vertical rocks, whose very peak are the defensive walls on Monte Vigo. Framura gives a collective name to these small hamlets, which extend from the sea to the hinterland, all connected by a steep staircase which is equipped with benches where you can rest.

The view of the hamlets and the sea will be your reward for all the effort. The first hamlet that you encounter, once you arrive in the square of the station, is Anzo, whose symbol is the Genoese Guard Tower which was built to defend the old kingdom. If you want to mix with the “crowd”, there is nothing better than going to the Marina: you will have to cross a tunnel, used as a parking lot, and walk down to the area near the coves, where you can go for a swim.

If you look right behind you, you will see the group of historic houses, permeated by the charm of past eras, while the clear blue sea will extend right in front of you. Alternatively, if you don’t fancy the beachfront and beach umbrellas, you can take advantage of the panoramic lift to reach the famous Bike lane LevantoBonassolaFramura; it was once a single-track railway line, part of the Sestri LevanteMonterosso route.

Inaugurated in 1860 and closed to traffic in the early 70s, it has become a track running along the sea since 2011, thanks to the work of the municipalities; along this track, you will immerse yourself in a part of pristine coastline, cycling for more than five kilometres along outdoor sections that alternate with five sections inside the tunnel, which vary in length.Immediately past Anzo, the next hamlets located upstream are Ravecca, Setta, where the town hall is located, Costa, with its Carolingian tower, and Castagnola respectively.

On the peaks and promontories surrounding Framura, there is a dense network of paths which require more caution than the cycle path. All of them are well signposted and kept clean thanks to the environmental sensitivity of the municipal administration. However, since the spring of 2016, the pride of the municipality has been the Via Del Mare (“Way of the Sea”), a panoramic walk “suspended” on the cliff, that leads you to the beaches of Torsei and La Vallà, which we will talk about in a specific paragraph.

From the first overnight stay at an affiliated facility, you can take advantage of the Framura Card, which is reserved for guests of the accommodation facilities associated with Framura Turismo. Thanks to it, you can take advantage of discounts and other extremely cost-effective options.

Cuisine

In Framura we find the Mediterranean cuisine par excellence: it consists of simple but authentic ingredients, such as fruit, vegetables and seasonal vegetables, the ever-present good oil, herbs and plants picked by hand in the fields, with their intoxicating scent. Among them, basil certainly stands out.

In Liguria, it is the main ingredient for the pesto sauce, which has now become renowned all over the world. The most iconic dishes of Framura are the fish-based ones, which typically include deep-sea fish and anchovies: the former are served in soups or “Ligurian style”, with olives and pine nuts, the latter are served fried, marinated or in the form of a cake. The cuisine of the hinterland does not excessively rely on farmed meat, choosing instead game, poultry and rabbit, flavoured with mushrooms, which can be combined with both meat and fish.

Framura is passionate about organic farming: holiday farms and winemakers produce I.G.T. wines, mainly white wines from Vermentino grapes and red wines from different grape varieties.

The production of olive oil, honey and jams is also part of the everyday agenda, together with the local production of  meat and bread. Featuring aromatic herbs and legumes from the garden, we must mention the “prebuggiun”, a very rich slow-cooked soup, and the handmade ravioli, filled with borage and ricotta. Here, the cuisine doesn’t pass on the thin and crunchy focaccia, or on the famous chickpea flat bread, both prepared every morning so as to be enjoyed perfectly hot, or as an aperitif.

Going in order, the first dishes catching our attention are the Tagiain, seasoned with pesto, pasta with anchovies, pasta alla contadina (“farmer-style”), with a panful of simple vegetables, beans, potatoes and parmesan, and the classic Capponada made with dry bread, soaked in water with vinegar, and enriched with salted anchovies, onions, tomatoes, basil, capers and a little red chilli. The mesciua, a soup made with chickpeas, cannellini beans, lentils and hulled wheat is particularly appreciated in taverns during the autumn months.  The mesciua boasts a particular story: it is said that it was prepared by the women of La Spezia who collected the grains that had leaked from the bags unloaded on the docks, to make a hot dish out of them in times of extreme poverty.

Among the second courses that are worthy of note there is the Genoese-style “cima”– a pocket of meat, usually veal, stuffed with a tasty filling, to be served warm after being cooked in the oven -, the stewed or fried rabbit,  the chicken alla cacciatora (“hunter-style”), the stuffed guinea-hen, the stewed tripe, the beef kidney cooked in olive oil, parsley and garlic; and to accompany all of this, the stuffed courgette flowers and the herb cakes or vegetable cakes, as a side dish or sandwich fillers.

Let’s now closely explore the real “gentleman” of the tables: fish. In Framura, anchovies, cod and mussels represent the ideal trio, and they are unfailingly cooked with wine or local oil. Stockfish is stewed and served with polenta, while cuttlefish are either stewed or served with broth, or pan-fried with artichokes. Salted cod is cooked “a manéa spezina” (“La Spezia style”), with fresh tomatoes and a light sauté.  A special mention is due to the whitebait pancakes, prepared with a light batter and with a delicate sea flavour.

The wines that best go with the typical dishes of Framura are almost exclusively white, sweet and sophisticated. A completely different option is the Sciacchetrà, a liqueur wine obtained from the fermentation of the Vermentino, Bosco and Albarola grape varieties. Other exquisite wines, which are dear to the admirers of the Riviera, are the DOC dry white wine of the Cinque Terre, the Levanto, produced in the nearby valley, and the Vernaccia of Corniglia.

The traditional desserts are just a few and they are prepared using locally produced ingredients. In particular, we must mention the chestnut cake, made with chestnut flour and covered with pine nuts and raisins; the buccellato, prepared with flour, eggs, sugar, milk, butter, and with lemon and orange blossom aroma; the famous Spongata of Sarzana, packed with candied fruits, jam and dried fruits. 

A little bit of history…

The presence of the Ligurians, the first inhabitants of the area, is attested by numerous archaeological finds that tell us something about these people and suggest that this territory has very ancient origins. In the 2nd century BC, the Romans took over the area and turned the entire coast into a flourishing territory. They also began working on a crucial route that would intensify trade across Liguria: the Via Aurelia.

From the Byzantine culture that later dominated  the entire region, Framura still preserves many circular watchtowers, which were built to defend the village from Saracen incursions. In the early Middle Ages, the heart of the village of Framura developed around the ancient church of San Martino which, together with San Siro di Ceula (Montale di Levanto) and Santa Maria di Pignone, will be the first parish church of this period.

During the Lombard era, the last period before the Middle Ages and the supremacy of the different families, the territory became a property of Bobbio Abbey. And now to the Da Passano family, who originally came from the homonymous locality in Deiva Marina. The events related to this family and to their supremacy, have been thoroughly documented through records of considerable interest, in particular in the hamlet of Castagnola. In this way, the atmosphere of intrigues and betrayals still permeates the castle, of which today only ruins remain, and the parish dedicated to St. John the Baptist. In 1170, the Da Passano were succeeded by the counts of Lavagna, the Fieschi.

Finally, following some vicissitudes, the properties were administered by the Malaspina. Legend has it that it is precisely thanks to the alliance with the Genoese Republic, that the first lords, the Da Passano, never forgot about the loss of their properties and were therefore constantly at war. They were forced to flee by the branch of the “spino” (“thorn”). They found refuge on the slopes of Bracco and gave life to the evocative locality of Arpascià. In the 12th century, the Genoese expansion began in Framura– as in the rest of the Riviera di Levante – with a series of occasional interventions, especially in the field of territorial administration.  But soon, the homonymous podesteria (“authority”) was established in Framura as well, and thus subjugated the present hamlets of Passano and Piazza, in Deiva, and Moneglia. During the French domination, Napoleon Bonaparte reincorporated the village into the Department of Vara, with Levanto as county seat, within the Ligurian Republic. The municipality was annexed to the First French Empire, and from June 13th 1805 to 1814 it was part of the Department of the Apennines.

In 1815, Framura was incorporated into the Kingdom of Sardinia, following the decisions of the Congress of Vienna in 1814. From 1859 to 1927, it was part of the 6th district of Levanto in the Circondario di Levante, which was first within the province of Genoa and, later, in 1923, within the province of La Spezia. Just like the nearby Levanto and Deiva, in the 20th century Framura started being self-sufficient thanks to the new elite tourism from all over Europe.

As evidenced by the majestic villas of the late 1800s, one of which still preserves its panoramic viewpoint, Anzo was a particularly popular holiday resort. The inevitable influence of the Liberty style, was to be seen in the harmonious way of thinking, in the buildings and in the general wealth that followed the war.  This wealth was responsible for giving Framura, especially in the valley areas, its current urban structure without depriving it of its original identity, moulded by a landscape that abounds with natural wonders.

Nature

Gradually transformed into a unique landscape, where the sea and the hills meet, unequivocally called the “Pearl of the East”, Framura offers views and landscapes featuring holm oak woods, olive tree groves and pine forests. For this very reason, this pearl has been included in “Natura 2000”, an ecological network of protected areas established by the European Union to guarantee the biodiversity of the territory, through the preservation of the ecosystems that pertain to the EU.

Once again, there is a parallel with the Cinque Terre: the beauty of Framura is the result of a great alchemy between rural elements and natural environment, both preserved thanks to the rugged territory, which happily safeguards the area from the indiscriminate urbanisation. At the same time, man has always committed himself to respecting this ungenerous mother, cultivating her land sustainably and in perfect synchrony with her cycles.

Walking along the paths of Framura, starting from Castagnola, the highest hamlet in the hinterland, means to bask in a coastline that has remained untouched over the centuries, while being immersed in the Mediterranean scrub and in the woods of Aleppo Pines and chestnut trees, listening to the chirp of the titmice and to the shrieks of the foxes. You will also take pleasure in the scents of brooms, thyme and wild asparagus, in the colours of the strawberry tree and emerald green ivy, right where the tangled undergrowth is not touched by the sun.

If you follow the path that leads to Casa Vigo, the vegetation turns into an amphitheatre of cork oaks; walking on the northern slopes of Monte Serro, you will come across rocks crossed by numerous, small watercourses (whose water level depends on the season)  wreathed by alders. In the same hills that descend towards the sea, olives are squeezed in olive-presses of mills as old as our great-grandparents, onions, tomatoes, lemons and oranges are grown in beautiful fenced vegetable gardens. In this regard, it should be remembered that Framura is part of the Cinque Terre National Park and that Monte Serro, 421 metres above sea level between Framura and Deiva Marina, belongs to its Protected Area.

Framura is also home to fishermen, and when it comes to the fauna, we cannot avoid mentioning the magnificent diversity of the fish species that inhabit its sea. Thanks to the rocky nature of the seabed and to the great number of coves, sea urchins and mussels abound, and it is not uncommon to encounter tuna, amberjacks and even the generally harmless and beautiful barracuda, which arrive here from Sardinia thanks to the currents of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The presence of dolphins is even less rare, especially in the sea of La Spezia, going towards Tellaro and Portovenere: it is like a  pilgrimage destination for the whale-watching lovers who every year visit the portion of sea included in the Cetacean Sanctuary.

Places of interest

Anzo, the starting point of our virtual tour, hosts the neo-Gothic chapel of Nostra Signora della Neve (“Our Lady of the Snow”). Built in the 15th century and later expanded to become a church, it reflects the Gothic style of the ancient Ligurian churches, with a beautiful central rose window and a striped façade. Inside it, you can admire the “Christ at the Column” by the school of Cambiaso,Christ and Veronica” (18th century) and the “Virgin Mary with Child, Saint John and Saint Sebastian”, from the 17th century.

The second hamlet of our itinerary, going up towards the mountains, is Ravecca, which shows a clear medieval structure, providing a very different setting from the beachfront. The history of the hamlet is firmly linked to that of the Benedictine monks, who owned several lands here, next to the monastery. In memory of the monastery, today there is the small private Farini chapel, dedicated to Saints Bernard and Pascual and decorated with unfinished protome made of mortar. Once in Setta, seat of the Town Hall, you should visit the Chapel of San Rocco, with a façade decorated with architectural elements in Neoclassical style and tempera paintings, dating back to the second half of the 18th century. However, the real beauty is inside, with the Virgin Mary and Child between Saints Rocco and Nicholas and a marble bas-relief depicting the Resurrection, dating back to the 16th century.  Historically speaking, the hamlet of Costa is the most important. In the centre of it, you will come across the massive watchtower belonging to the Carolingian era, 9th century. Built to counteract Saracen invasions, it is one of the most characteristic examples of defensive architecture.

On the lower floor, it is characterised by cross vaults supported by side arches. The plan is square-shaped, divided into two floors sloping downwards, with a frieze that runs around the cornice between the two floors. The beautiful and ancient Parish Church of San Martino, built behind the tower, has a basilica plan with three naves divided by octagonal pillars; the presbytery has an elliptical plan. This church certainly has monastic origins and was first controlled by Saint Colombanus and Bobbio before falling under the control of the Diocese of Genoa in the 12th century. It houses other interesting paintings inside: the most important is the Virgin Mary of the Rosary with Saints Dominic and Charles Borromeo, one of Bernardo Strozzi’s masterpieces. Once we reach the top, we are welcomed by Castagnola, a quiet village surrounded by vineyards. Its religious building is the parish church of San Lorenzo, which houses the painting of “The Deposition” by Luca Cambiaso, a famous painter of the 16th century born in Moneglia, who was well-known for his paintings at the Escorial of Madrid, residence and pantheon of the kings of Spain.

Leaving the hinterland and its churches aside, let’s move to the sea and to the enchanting coast of Framura, where we can skirt the gardens and massive walls, or visit the breathtaking panoramic squares, until we see the station that faces the cobalt blue marina and the wild and rocky beaches scattered along the coast. If gravel roads and sheltered bays are suitable for families, for the more adventurous ones there are alcoves made of solid rock, which are therapeutic places where you can enjoy the clear, calm sea and the vibrant sun while tanning on the rocks.

Torsei is the beach opposite the station and, from the platform, you can reach it through the underpass. It is a nice and small beach of gravel, with the two emerging rocks of Furmigua and Agua right in front of it, which contribute to its uniqueness. From here, the new promenade connects it with the larger stony beach of Vallà, which is protected by a breakwater. East of the station there is the Porticciolo (“marina”) of Framura, from which you can see the beautiful and shady beach of Porto Pidocchio, a dark inlet made of lava stone, which can be reached on foot through a path.

Interesting fact: the beach is equipped for climbing. In Framura, you will enjoy the crystal clear water, which is perfect for snorkelling lovers, who can have lucky encounters with flathead mullets, striped seabreams and sea breams. Scuba diving lovers will also be satisfied; they can find the right equipment at the “Framura” Diving Centre, open on weekends all year round and almost every day in summer. You can go for a boat trip with the fishermen to discover the ancient art of repairing nets, or explore the seabed in search of wrecks.

Accommodation, tourism and events

The Framura Turism Association, in collaboration with the Municipality, is the body responsible for the development of a type of informed tourism that cares about the preservation and enhancement of the territory. It is a reference point to get all the information necessary to make the best out of your holiday. Your stay in Framura will be enhanced by healthy walks in the woods, in search of the intense and unique scents of nature. Or, you can trek up and down the paths and trails, which are nine in total and one more suggestive than the other, explore the terraces and the mule tracks still in use today, get your fill of the breathtaking views of the uneven coast.

The five hamlets are also perfect for sport lovers. Apart from tennis courts and five-a-side football fields, there is also an equestrian centre and a natural wall for climbing. Moreover, there is the possibility to rent bikes, tandems and mountain bikes. The experience in Framura is further enriched by festivals and events.

At the end of June, there is the provincial festivalI luoghi della Musica” (“Music Places”), which consists of several themed events hosted in the squares, alleys and palaces in Setta, Costa and along the promenade. From mid-July to mid-August entertainment is at its best with the Paganiniano di Carro Festival, which celebrates musical virtuosity selecting international groups and soloists inspired by Niccolò Paganini.

Another lovely event is the Madonna della Neve Festival, with markets, buffets, music. In Framura, one of the traditional events is the Tourist Festival, taking place in August: a food and wine journey that starts in Costa and continues in Setta, Ravecca, Anzo and Casella, enriching the lanes and narrow alleys with food stalls, which delight you with sumptuous menus, aperitifs and desserts. This itinerary culminates in the evening with the usual dance in the hamlet of Setta! On August 10th, there is the Celebration of San Lorenzo, with a procession and concert held in Castagnola, starting at 9.30 p.m. On August 14th and 16th, the Celebration of San Rocco is held in the locality of Setta: it is a village festival with music, ballroom dances, food and wine.

Surroundings

From Framura, thanks to the dense network of trains and buses, you can reach Deiva Marina, Moneglia, Sestri Levante in the direction of Genoa, or Bonassola, Levanto and Carrodano in the other direction, continuing towards wooded areas that are not far away from La Spezia.

The Cinque Terre, here at your fingertips, are the icing on the cake of this Unesco Heritage territory. The reasons speak for themselves. The high mountains touching the sky and the deep waves await keen adventurers.

The Valley of Vara and the Valley of Magra will be a nice way to conclude your comprehensive holiday in the Riviera di Levante. If you like, you can also visit the villages of Lunigiana and the crowded beaches of Versilia.  You won’t definitely forget the warmth of the local people, the conviviality of staff members accustomed to receiving guests from all over the world and the culture that permeates these five villages, which goes beyond their geographical extension.

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