Apricale: inland Liguria, amid art, olive oil and natural wonders
We are in Ponente, inland Liguria. There are no views of the sea from here, nor can you smell the salt water. Instead the area is dominated by the slopes and high grounds to which the groves of taggiasca olives and the houses of the small towns cling, where stillness and legends reign.
This area has one of the oldest olive routes in Italy, a road that unites 20 towns, with stone houses, covered passageways, parish churches, bell towers and paved alleys that are never level, as the terrain does not permit it.
One of the most famous is Apricale, which presents itself more like a backdrop than a town.
The castle, known as Lucertola, is very interesting. It was constructed around the year 1000, and its ownership passed through some of the most powerful families in the area, such as the Doria. Its renown is due to the fact that it houses the town by-laws on parchment dating back to 1267. These documents set out the primary activities of community life, such as paying taxes and administering justice. The most serious offences carried terrible punishments, e.g., burying a murderer alive along with his victim. Women who committed adultery were beheaded and livestock thieves had a foot or hand cut off.
The heart of this bizarre tumble of streets and houses is the square. At the back of this small space you will find the Saint Bartholomew oratory. It houses a large polyptych with 6 panels, created in 1544. The Purification of the Virgin Mary Church is also interesting, dating back to the 1200s and restored several times over the centuries. The bell tower was once the tower of the castle.
The town has several artisan workshops, which open onto the flights of steps or narrow and makeshift corners. With its unique aura, Apricale has attracted, and continues to attract artists from all over the world.
As evidence of the reciprocal passion between the village and art, in the middle of August the entire town becomes an open-air theater. Beginning in 1990, for ten consecutive days, it hosts touring productions, and often the streets, walls, churches and buildings provide the stage and the seating. The audience must follow the actors and sometimes are involved in the show.
As we’ve said, Apricale is located in a district that is rich with artistic inspiration, but can also boast of its gastronomical temptations. Pigna is located nearby, a town which is famous for growing haricot beans, which are known locally as rundin.
The haricots, which originated in either Spain or Provence, have found in the soil and sun of this little corner of Liguria a place where they can thrive. They grow in prepared terracing, fastened to canes. They are delicious boiled, obviously seasoned with taggiasca olive oil, added to soups, in a typical dish you can taste in some of the local trattorias, or as a side dish with lamb.
If you would like to enjoy an album whose sound is imbued the unique atmosphere of Apricale, try Ivano Fossati’s Discanto.