Val di Vara – Vara Valley

Val di Vara - Photo © foto © Aleyakke
Val di Vara – Photo © foto © Aleyakke

A walk from La Spezia through the Vara valley to Varese Ligure evokes the charms of bygone days. In the lower valley you will come across busy little towns such as Ceparana and also see charming Calice al Cornoviglio and its impressive castle.

The middle and upper Vara Valley is a verdant oasis dotted with fields and villas, mediaeval villages and hamlets and wonderfully tranquil scenery. The River Vara traces out the course of the itinerary.

Leaving La Spezia along the Via Aurelia, you will come to Ricco’ del Golfo and a series of villages on the surrounding hillsides. Soon after this, you will come to a side road leading off the Via Aurelia.

This takes you through Pignone (a town with some very ancient remains) and up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Soviore and then on to Levanto and Monterosso. When you are back on the Via Aurelia, you will come to Padivarma and then Borghetto Vara.

Continuing in the direction of Passo del Bracco, you reach Carrodano and Mattarana after Borghetto Vara. An inland road takes you to Carro, where you can enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of the lush natural landscape. Leaving the Via Aurelia again, the road out of Borghetto takes you to Brugnato (once an Episcopal see), where you can visit the ancient twin-aisled cathedral which houses important memories.

The Diocesan Museum inside the Episcopal Palace contains an archaeological section and still preserves part of the bishop’s former residence. The museum contains a collection of votary objects, ancient missals and liturgical vestments.

The road out of Varese takes you to some charming spots in the Upper Vara Valley: Cassego, Valletti and Comuneglia safeguard some very ancient traditions – suffice it to mention the public uses to which collective properties have been put. In this area, the numerous monasteries hold works of art and religious objects that testify to the creativity of popular devotion. You can leave from Brugnato to reach Rocchetta Vara and then go up towards Veppo and take another road to Suvero, a village with a remarkable Malaspina castle.

Alta Val Vara, Zignago Photo © Mr.Pitone
Alta Val Vara, Zignago Photo © Mr.Pitone

It is now one of the popular summer spots in the area on the Passo dei Casoni side facing Mulazzo and the Massa side of the Luni region. Just after Rocchetta, another road leads you to the green valley area of Zignago, which is dotted with charming little villages. Another itinerary leaving from Brugnato takes you to Sesta Godano. The archaeological site in the Lagorara Valley is very interesting and one of the most important in the whole of Liguria: it has a massive outcrop of red jasper that was used by prehistoric man to produce tools.

Leaving Sesta Godano, you will come to Varese Ligure, where you really must see the restored Fieschi castle, the parish church and its paintings and the extremely original “Borgo Rotondo” (round district). From here the roads lead off towards Emilia through the Passo di Cento Croci and the Passo del Bocco. If you leave San Pietro Vara in the direction of Passo di Velva (with its eighteenth-century sanctuary) you will eventually come to Sestri Levante. While the Vara Valley offers plenty of hotel accommodation, it also offers you the opportunity to have a very pleasant farm holiday.

The upper valley in particular is full of woods and country paths that are also suitable for horse-riding. Among the sports practised in the area are horse-riding, fishing, hunting, canoeing and mountain-biking. The restaurants throughout the valley serve genuine food made from healthy local produce, including meat, cheese and mushrooms -all of which can, of course, be accompanied by Brugnato, Sesta Godano and Varese white wines.

Text courtesy of APT Cinque Terre