Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On randomness

Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena is another medieval village with an old castle on a hilltop we happened to visit in the Savona province of Liguria on our Italian holiday in late April. There was a parking lot for visitors up by the road so we left the car there and climbed down to the village.






It wasn’t exactly a ghost village (see my previous post here) but it very much felt like that. The only people we saw were someone sunbathing on a rooftop terrace, a mother returning from an errand of some sort and a couple in their fifties necking in the park-like square overlooking the valley. (They must have been travellers too to choose such an open location for their cooing.)




It seemed there weren’t any services in the historical centre of the village. We did see a sign here and there indicating there would be a shop or a restaurant behind a door or around a corner but they were all not only closed by completely lifeless.



This village made me think about the randomness of most everything. Some haphazard acts may determine so many things around us, including fame and popularity of places. In this hectic time and age when we can be online practically nonstop – and many of us are ­­– information on anything is constantly at our reach. But as we do not have the time or energy to concentrate on practically anything properly but rely on the judgement of others some random happenings may define even the survival of gorgeous little villages such as this one.



A popular travel writer might wander into the village and ‘find’ it. A celebrity might end up there and start singing its praises. One place will make it to the travel guides and another one, equally spectacular and equally unique, just happens to be left unmentioned. So it may remain unnoticed by the general public and may therefore be destined to wither away.



I had no idea coincidences had shaped also the fate of this village in recent decades. I have now learned that the accidental arrival of some Scandinavians greatly contributed to its subsequent revival after the damage caused by a heavy landslide in (again) 1953. A few Swedes arrived in the 1970s and then a few Danes. They fell in love with the Neva valley and started to restore buildings in the village from ruins. Later “a Genovese antiquarian” restored a country house for himself, bringing with him his sisters with their families and also some of his friends, a group of artists and restorers. I have understood also the feudal castle built in the 11th century by the Marquis of Clavesana has now been restored as a private residence.




This sounds like a legend but even if it were I don’t mind. What’s important is that the lovely old village I regarded as a faded one and felt sorry for is fairly alive and well even though its flourishing is only seasonal. We just happened to be trying to find something to eat out of season. It would probably have been different only a few weeks later. And yes, we did see a fifth person when we finally noticed a restaurant door that wasn’t locked. The owner handed us two cold beers and we had a look at the local newspaper while waiting for him to fetch a couple of baguette panini  from next door, his home presumably.

I spotted some B&B potential also in this village.
I’d love to see beautiful historical villages like this bloom all year round but you can’t have everything. With a population of much less than 200, you must be happy you have at least the holiday season to depend on. 

In fact, Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena will surely continue to receive many visitors as it has been accepted to The most beautiful villages in Italy (I borghi più belli d’Italia), an association promoting small Italian villages of strong artistic and historical interest. Furthermore, the Touring Club Italiano has awarded it the Orange flag (Bandiera arancione), which is a recognition for sustainable tourism with excellent service and a welcoming atmosphere. On second thought, wasn’t that exactly what we experienced in the empty little taverna?


8 comments:

  1. It is gorgeous, I dare say, and probably not to be found in Spain as such. Happy encounters!

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    1. Indeed, Liisa. I'd recommend Liguria to anyone. The only downside (to me) is its distance from Rome. But Côte d'Azur is close so there is an advantage.

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  2. Replies
    1. Lisää "vastaavia" stooreja pitäisi olla tulossa talven mittaan...

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  3. Beautiful photos of such a beautiful village. I'm glad someone has taken an interest and it's not completely abandoned as the village on your previous post.

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    1. It must be stunning in the summertime when the oleanders and other plants are blooming.

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  4. Wow, I never heard of this village before. It is true that sometimes travellers know more than the locals!

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    1. But we didn't know about it. We just happened to find it. That is one of the joys of travelling: to find something you didn't know existed.

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