“Liguria. Il mare nei capelli, l’odore dell’estate nelle vene, e le bougainville negli occhi.” (Fabrizio Caramagna)
Liguria is a house of dreams that are never too far from the sea, just think of when you travel in eastern Liguria going towards Sestri Levante, the town with two seas, you bump into very narrow lands too small to be inhabited, lands that stretch from the promontory to the small piers that look like party favours, lands with the typical pastel colour houses that challenge gravity, as they are built between the breakwater and the hills, the quality of our dream destination is so romantic. The writer Christian Andersen fell in love with the two bays in Sestri Levante, one is called the bay of Silence and the other one is the bay of Fairy Tales a sandy beach and a small round gulf, where visitors are a sort of dealers between a real, practical world and that made of legends and magic.
Set in the same area, between Sestri Levante and Moneglia, or to be more accurate spread where Punta Manara and Punta Beffe meet, at a few kilometres from the Cinque Terre, and a little bit more from the town once called the Superb-Genoa, we find one of the oldest hamlets of Tigullio: Riva Trigoso, a small village that can be easily reached by train with the railwayline Genoa-La Spezia. If you take a regional train in August it will be an experience to remember, the aisles are usually ventilated thanks to the lowered windows, the laugther of young people, and the smell of suncreams and warm focaccia will be an unforgettable memory for the local people whether they feel dreamy or not.
At first glance we might think that there is not much to see in the outskirts, just a bunch of houses located at the mouth of Val Petronio, cut in two by the river that bears the same name. The inhabitants call the area towards Monegli “Riva Levante” and the ancient hamlet “Riva Ponente”. If we want to quibble the area is in fact split in two separate parts: Trigoso that is on the maps the most ancient part and Riva, asleep like an old sailor, once called “la Ripa” overlooking the sea from two promontories. The names of the places Riva and Trigoso date back to 1874, when the railway station was built.
As often happens in the east we have to stop our car to discover miths and legends that inhabit these quiet places, it will take just a day or two, they are so rich in traditions that it is not simply a small coloured village. If we listened to the writer Mario Antonietti we would think that the village name is due to the sacrifice of two young lovers who lost their life during the period when there were several raids by the Saracens.
Riva was the name of the girl and Trigoso was her betrothed, they were divided by doom, she was kidnapped and taken aboard a ship while, he was killed by a hail of arrows when he rushed on the shore, trying to call his love.
The sacrifice of Riva, who was killed and thrown at sea, because she had the courage to challange the captain , she wanted to return to her lover, but she was thrown into the sea, and in this exact place a rock arose, it is called Asseu, and at the same time where Trigoso died, the pebbles sang a love tune that reminds us of a calm and friendly undertow.
So stop over in Riva and breath the saltiness, dive into a real palette of colours with cobalt given by the sea, green by the lush Mediterranean maquis that shines under the midday sun, just like a wreath made of laurel, thyme and rosemary.
The welcome in this oasis, where nobody arrives by chance but certainly to escape from the crowded town, comes from the pedestrian areas that stress the importance of having proper areas to stay, and by those people who might seem at first glance a little but wary, however you will soon discover that after you get to knwo them better they are kind, and they are used to trust travellers, because almost all the inhabitants have been travellers once.
Riva Trigoso is a well known place among by professionals as a place of the famous “leudi” or “leudi rivani” latin sailing boats with which many products were traded, the gold from Tigullio, that is the good olive oil, sweet wine and savoury cheese.
At the turn of the nineteenth and the twentieth century, the area of “Riva Levante“, that is still linked to the heritage of the beginning of the century, took place the ambitious project of a shipyard by Fincantieri, this gave jobs to many hard working people, and at the same there was the construction of the main seaside resorts.
Fincantieri shipyard is one of the main and oldest Italian shipyards, it was built in 1897 by Erasmo Piaggio and set in 1898 by Società Esercizio Bacini, to perform shipbuilding constructions, operations and maintenance, creating the most beautiful ships for the Navy.
The cranes and storage piers have something majestic and are not at all out of space in the surrounding nature, because they have a minimun impact on the environment. In the morning you get up and feel observed by the long neck of these steel dinosaurs, yet the presence of such huge machines does not disturb, on the contrary it helps to keep our eyes open and alert.
In Riva it is possible to buy fish directly from the fishermen, or why not pay a visit at the local market in the mid afternoon when the fishing boats from Sestri return back, take you time to listen to the old men while they are playing at the local bowls club, or when they sit under the sun like lizards, in the small square of the village.
The well appreciated sauces made by the housewives will prepare us to taste the delicious local recipes: anchovies bagnum, ciuppin, savoury pies, testatoli and pesto sauce, not to mention tagliatelle and pansotti.
Another positive aspect of this salty flavoured dream is the fact that the coast in Riva Trigoso is mostly sandy. The beach is divided into two separate parts: the biggest and most crowded part is close to the centre of the village, the other one is located east, towards Moneglia. It is called Borgo Renà. The two beaches as you can imagine are separated by the shipyards. We have to say a few words about the second, small beach, if you are brave enough to climb the alternate one way system tunnels dug in the rocks, this will help you to change your perception. We know that tourists are used to see all sort of things, yet here there is an extraordinary clean blue sea, you have to see it to believe it.
Just be careful or your heart will be stolen by one of the many handsome and tanned lifeguards, who grew up tasting aperitifs and playing in the local tennis courts.
There is a sort of state of mind, a virus that penetrates the skin when you dream of Riva Trigoso, something has stopped the time, there is something of the twentieth century, of the sixties, seventies and eighties that has never disappeared from this small village, where almost everyone knows each other.
We are talking about a humble, undemanding village where you can still buy bread in a bakery or where you see grandmothers trim basil while they are telling off their grandchildren.
The culture of Riva was exported, as in the past century sailors and fishermen from Riva Trigoso founded the town of Santa Cruz in California, the same dialect is still spolen nowadays.
Those who reach this small atoll, isolated from the big and well known places like Camogli or Santa Margherita Ligure, know that they will find here hospitality and a hot dish to welcome them, crowded beaches even in winter, close to the shore that still keeps the heat of the summer. In the same way as when the Rivans managed to adapt and made themselves welcome when they crossed the ocean.
When you open your eyes Riva Trigoso will be there waiting for you.
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