Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Real Italy: Alassio

Alassio lies in the beautiful bay between Capo Santa Croce and Capo Mele on the western Riviera. It has been one of the main international tourist sea-side resorts in the whole area for over a century. It boasts a beautiful sandy beach stretching for over 3 km. You may find interesting the fact that this sand is so fine because it is made of pure quartz.

Distance from SAVONA, nearest big city: 51 km
Altitude: 5m above sea level
Nearest airport: "Cristoforo Colombo" Airport, GENOVA
Train connections: easily accessible from FRANCE, GENOVA and SAVONA
Zip code: 17021
Telephone: dial +39.182 before the number you want to call

Alassio was part of the town of Albenga in the Middle Ages. In the XI century it became a feud of the Benedictine monks that lived on the Isle of Gallinara. It did not become an independent town with its own rules until the XVI century. In 1540 Alassio was free by Genova and so trade developed. After the Congress of Vienna in 1821 it was annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia. About a century ago the town became a fashionable sea-side resort and began to attract both Italian and foreign tourists.

We recommend that you start you visit in Alassio from the splendid Italia promenade, which runs along the beach, renowned for its fine sand. From here and also from the pier you can enjoy a beautiful view of the bay. All the best hotels and restaurants in town are arrayed along the promenade. In summer don't miss the chance to stroll under the tall palm trees, sunbathe or lazing under a sunshade on the beach!

If you think the sun is not for you, then take a stroll in one of the narrow streets of the town center where the fishermen's houses and the elegant XVI and XVII century houses are. Go window-shopping in the old budello, the busy inner street where all the best and trendiest shops are.

Have a look at the famous muretto, i.e. the low wall covered with ceramic tiles on which you can read autographs and dedications of sports, culture and showbiz personalities. Every year in August a Miss Muretto contest is held, which is when some of the most beautiful girls in Italy show up here. Not far from the Muretto across the nearby gardens you can find the church of Sant'Ambrogio.

The parish church of Sant'Ambrogio dates back to the XI century, but it was altered and enlarged between 1455 and 1507. The current fa硤e was remade in 1896. The interior is baroque. You can see some paintings by De Ferrari, Benso and Castello, besides a 1740 tabernacle.

You can also see many of the works of the Irish painter Richard West's in Palazzo Morteo. West lived and worked in Alassio at the end of the last century and the beginning of the XX century. His works show Alassio as it was a hundred years ago: an unspoiled fishing village. West's house, which gives onto the promenade, is now a hotel.

At the western end of the town stands the Torre della Coscia. The tower is round-based and was built around the middle of the XVI century in order to protect the area called "della Coscia", which was just outside the town walls, from sea raids.

An interesting attraction not far from Alassio, easily accessible on foot, is the small Chiesa di Santa Croce. It stands just outside the town on the ancient Roman road. It was built on the edge of a cliff around the year 1000. The small church was at that time part of the abbey of the Isle of Gallinara and served as a hostel for the pilgrims coming from France and heading for Rome or the Holy Land via the sea ports in Puglia on the Adriatic Sea. Only the original apse and parts of the walls have survived. The foundations of an earlier windmill are also visible.
Another place worth visiting is the Santuario della Madonna della Guardia, a shrine built in the XVII century on a splendid site from where you can have an enchanting view of the sea and the Maritime Alps. Yo can easily get here by car from the rail station.

From the promenade you can have a beautiful view of the whole bay and the Isle of Gallinara. The island was once inhabited by monks, but now it is an interesting natural park. It can be easily reached by boat from the small harbor.

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