“D’azzurro, alle tre fasce d’argento, alla sbarra di rosso attraversante” (Descrizione araldica dello stemma)
The village of Varese Ligure, in the Upper Valley of Vara, is the heart of the “Organic Valley”. There are more than 40 certified farms that supply raw materials to local cooperatives for the production and sale of top-quality meat and cheese. It is no coincidence that this was the first Italian municipality to obtain environmental certifications (ISO 14001 and EMAS) and that in 2004 the European Union officially recognised it as the best rural community in the continent.
Walking, trekking, horse riding, mountain biking, trout fishing, typical products, peacefulness and even classical music: this is the magic formula that Varese Ligure uses to promote the perfect relaxing holiday.
Even driving along the panoramic road that leads to Valley of Taro through the Passo di Cento Croci, the undisputed kingdom of the Buzzard, is a pure immersion in living nature.
A visit to the Cooperativa Casearia Val di Vara, which produces high-quality organic cheese and cured meats, is highly recommended. After one taste, you will immediately tell the difference.
Food & Wine
As far as the History of the place is concerned, we know that in 1161 Emperor Frederick Barbarossa granted the village to the Fieschi family as a fief. However, the origins of the village probably date to an earlier period (some people think that the ancient part of Grexino is a clear Byzantine toponym). It was under the dominion of the Fieschi family that the entire Borgo Rotondo and the defensive castle were built.
Right at the threshold of the town we find the elegant 18th century Palazzo Ferrari, whose private chapel hosted the wedding of Domenico Pallavicini and Luigia Ferrari, the iconic woman who eternalised the concept of the transience of Beauty in Foscolo’s famous ode To Luigia Pallavicini Fallen from a Horse.
The origins of a settlement are never accidental. Varese Ligure owes its own origins to the strategic position at the intersection of the transapennine roads leading to Parma, to the North-East, and to Bobbio and Genova, to the West, following the ridge road.
The village was probably built on a previous Byzantine settlement, since remains belonging to that era were found during the excavation works that were carried out in the area of the Fieschi castle. This hypothesis is supported by some toponyms of Greek origin such as “Mount of the Greeks” and the district of Grecino; furthermore, Giorgio Ciprio, an ancient geographer of the Empire, documented the existence in the area of Lunigiana, between the 6th and 7th century, of four fortifications that represented the Byzantine borders in Lunigiana. Among them, Ciprio mentioned the Kastron Kampsas, which was identified by scholars with Campi, located in the upper Taro Valley, on the road to Mount Gottero.
Varese Ligure was under the dominion of the powerful Genoese family of the Fieschi, who were Guelphs. Their presence has been documented since the beginning of the 11th century, when they were appointed by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (1161). The Fieschi exerted a strong authority over the entire Upper Vara Valley and, among many vicissitudes, they represented the greatest part of its history until 1547, when, following the unsuccessful conspiracy against Andrea Doria, the House collapsed and its properties were confiscated by the Republic of Genoa. In 1797, the village was under the French dominion with Napoleon Bonaparte. Later, in 1815, it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Sardinia. In 1862, it received its current name of Varese Ligure and in 1923, with the establishment of the province of La Spezia, it was incorporated into this provincial administration.
The structure of the Fieschi Castle mainly consists of two fortified towers. One is known as the “Torre del Piccinino” and it was named after the captain of fortune who conquered the castle on behalf of the Visconti family and had the tower built in 1435; the other is known as the “Torre del Landi” because it was built by this new owner in 1472. The castle was recently donated to the Municipality by the last owners and it has since become a new centre of cultural activities that involve the community of Varese.