Varazze Travel Guide

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The town, set on a broad bay stretching from the Punta di Mola to the Punta dell’Aspera, has a fine beach and a tourist harbor with berths for 300 boats. From the sea, it climbs up the flowering slopes of the hills, with the outlying wards of Casanova and Pero overshadowed by the mountains of the Beigua group. Varazze was founded as a Roman military post, called Ad Navalia because ships were built there, and then came to be known as Varagia and Varagine, again with reference to vessels and their launching (varo in Italian). It was already a town of considerable importance around the year 1000 when, surrounded by high walls, it was set further back from the sea, up against the hills. It was the birthplace of Jacobus de Voragine. Among the monuments of artistic value that testify to the important role played by Varazze over the centuries, the collegiate church of Sant'Ambrogio stands in the heart of the town, on the square of the same name. It dates from 1535 but was built on the ruins of a fourteenth-century church, whose beautiful campanile with a spire and three rows of three-light windows, in an elegant Romanesque-Gothic style, still stands. The interior, with a nave and aisles roofed by domes, houses precious baroque altars and fine canvases and panels (by Barbagelata, Cambiaso and other artists of the Ligurian school). Higher up extend the Piani d’Invrea, covered with mimosa and Maritime pine and with steep cliffs overlooking the sea at several points. In the area known as Pian di San Giacomo stands the interesting church of San Giacomo di Latronorio, dating from the twelfth century and extensively restored in the 1960s. A crudely-made menhir of presumed prehistoric origin is located close to the expressway junction. The seventeenth-century monastery “of the Desert,” given a suggestive and severe appearance by the typical small cells of the Discalced Carmelites, stands in an isolated position. Alongside the flourishing tourist industry, the tradition of shipbuilding is maintained.
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