DOLCEACQUA.IT è un progetto web a cura di
Assessorato al Turismo e alla Cultura del Comune di Dolceacqua
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Dolceacqua is one of the medieval villages of the Nervia valley and it's placed along the river of the same name. Its oldest part, dominated over by the Doria's castle, is called Terra and it's situated at thefoot of Mount Rebuffao. The newest part of the village, called Borgo,is situated on the opposite bank of theriver along the road that climbs up the valley
Almost certainly the name Dolceacqua comes from the presence, in Roman times, of a countryproperty belonging to one Dulcius. The name was first changed in Duciaca (Dusaiga is the dialectform used nowadays) and finally in Dulcisaqua. According to another interpretation, the origin of thevillage name is due to the Celts that called it Dus-Saga, changed first in Dusaga and then inDolceacqua.The oldest testimonies of the population of the place are represented by the castellari of the Iron Age,rough fortifications made up of dry-stone wall rings, that were situated on the heights of D'AurinPeak, Tramontina Peak and Mount Abellio, along the watershed of the Nervia and the Roya valleys,and of Mount Morgi and the Alpicella tower, on the opposite versant.The archaeological findings confirm that these strongholds of territorial defence were garrisoned bythe Intemeli from the Vth century B.C. till the IVth century A.D. (in full Roman age) to protectvillages, pastures and fields.The first document that mentions Dolceacqua dates back to 1151:actuallyit was just in the XIIth century that the Counts of Ventimiglia built the first core of the castle on thetop of the rocky spur that dominates strategically both the first bottleneck and the valley fork towardsRocchetta Nervina and the Roya valley on one side, and the middle and upper Nervia valley on theother, controlling all the accesses.The castle was bought in 1270 by Oberto Doria, the Captain of the Genoese, the winner of the Pisaniat Meloria. Afterwards the building was widened by his successors and the built-up area called Terraraised at the foot of the castle following the level lines of concentric circles around the fort, connectedby steep slopes. The waters of river Nervia were carried to feed the fountains and to irrigate thecountryside fields.
The Doria castle underwent many transformations. The original feudal plant, protected at the end ofthe XIIth century by the circular tower, was enlarged and incorporated in a larger ring of walls in theXIVth century. In the Renaissance the castle became an imposing, elegant fortified residence, withnew rooms, rich in frescoes and furnishings, that were arranged around the central court; the residencewas then completed by impressive defensive devices.The castle, that had withstood many sieges, could not oppose the French-Spanish heavy artillery andwas partially destroyed on 27th July 1744 during an event of the Austrian succession war. The Doriasabandoned the castle and moved to the XVIth century palace near the parish church, and the buildingunderwent its last damage with the earthquake of 1887. The castle became a property of themunicipality of Dolceacqua and, already seat of summer performances, is undergoing restoration works and will be assigned to cultural functions.When there was not anymore place left for its expansion, the Terra quarter grew in height by theraising of the houses that reached as many as six floors. Even nowadays the quarter maintains itsmedieval atmosphere intact and offers many picturesque spots, where time seems to have stopped.Since then the story of Dolceacqua is linked to the events of its castle and to the Signory of the Doriasthat numbers, among the others, Caracosa, the mother of Admiral Andrea Doria.This dinasty, that was under the Savoyan protection, was at the head of the Marquisate of Dolceacquafrom 1652.
Terra and Borgo
In the second half of the XVth century the inhabited place grew along via Castello, the main urbanroad axis, and a new quarter called Borgo was built beyond the Nervia river; the two cores of the townwere connected by an elegant cambered bridge with only one arc-span, of 33 metres. The bridge, thatClaude Monet had painted in 1884 (defining it "a jewel of lightness"), together with the cluster ofhouses of Terra and the overwhelming castle, is one of the most picturesque and famous views of theLigurian inland.At the foot of the Terra quarter the XVth century parish church of Saint Antonio abatewhich incorporates a square angular tower of the ancient walls, that had become the base of the belltower. The sacred building was rebuilt in Baroque style and it is painted with rich decorations inside; itkeeps the precious and refined polyptych of Santa Devota, painted in 1515 by Ludovico Brea, theleader of the Ligurian-Nice pictorial trend.At the entrance of the village, near the graveyard, the San Giorgio's church that was built inRomanesque style, still visible in the facade and in the inferior part of the bell-tower. Then the churchwas rebuilt in Gothic and Baroque times. In the crypt, which had become the Marquis family-vault,there are the tombs of Stefano Doria (1589) and of Giulio Doria (l608), portrayed on the coveringslabs in armours of the time. The wooden ceiling keeps some rare trusses painted in the XVth century.The ruins of the Agostinian Father's monastery facing south of the village in a panoramic position,remind us that this religious centre was an annex of the Piedmontese Abbey of Novalesa near Susa (inPiedmont) and also that this was the first stage of a historical run which connected the Lygurian seabank to the Alpine passes.East of the village, in the area called Morghe, there is the sanctuary of l'Addolorata, built in 1890;every year it is the destination of a pious pilgrimage which is also an occasion of convivial meetings,repeated for some days, after a solid local tradition. On the surrounding hills there are many ruralchapels, surrounded by secular vineyards and olive groves; among them we remember San Bernardo's,which keeps some frescoes of the XVth century by the painterEmanuele Maccari from Pigna. Near the confluence of the Barbaira stream with the Nervia torrentthere is San Martino's chapel, characterised by the unusual dome-sloped roof. Among the most ancientchapels we can remember also those of San Rocco and of San Cristoforo.In the Borgo quarter there is the oratory of San Sebastiano, where we can admire a valuable wooden sculpture ascribed to Maragliano; it is the seat of a Confraternity that celebrates the martyrdom of theSaint on the Sunday that is closer to 20th January with a solemn procession. In this occasion they carrya big laurel tree decorated with multicoloured hosts, that is a symbol of plenty in agricultural crops: aclear heritage of a pagan ceremony connected to the cycle of the death and of the resurrection of thevegetation.Dolceacqua is a faithful keeper of other traditions; the most important of them is the Festa dellaMichetta (the michetta is a typical local cake), which takes place on the l6th August to remind thepeople of the end of the infamous jus primae noctis that the tyrant Imperiale Doria claimed from theyoung brides of the village. This was cancelled, together with some other injustices, by a popularrebellion. Since then the simple cake, a kind of brioche with a particular shape, is asked by the boys tothe girls that give it in sign of liking during a merry musical raid along the streets of the village. AtChristmas, in the two principal squares of Borgo and Terra quarters some big bonfires are lighted.They are a symbol of participation to the cosiest holiday of the year.The terraced hills, supported by drystone walls, are a witness of the secular toils and of the tenacity ofthe Lygurian countrymen to get a little land to till. The village is famous also for the production of theRossese di Dolceacqua, a DOC ruby red wine with a typical soft, aromatic and sweet taste that has analcoholic strength of 12.5 degrees at least (when the alcoholic strength reaches 13 degrees or more, itis called Superiore).The Rossese is obtained from a unique vine and it has a limited production.
The products of the country
The silver olive groves produce the olives which are picked after being beaten down (abbacchiatura):the men get on the trees, strike the branches, laden with fruits, again and again with a long rod.Afterwards, in the oil-presses, there is the crashing in the gombi of stone (a gombo is a kind of bigcointainer) where the olives are smash ed; then this pulp is put in layers and squeezed: the final resultis the extra-virgin olive oil, an excellent local product that is quite demanded.Near the village there are many greenhouses and growings of flowers in the open air, thanks to themildness of the climate. They represent the primary economic activity of the place with the productionof roses, mimosas, brooms and decorative green plants that are picked up daily and sent to the flowermarket of Sanremo.Dolceacqua is not only the most important medieval village in the Nervia valley, for its monuments,works of art, history and traditions; it is a village where life goes on serenely according to the rhythmsand habits of a rustic civilisation that is part of the modern world; a world that has not forgotten eitherits cultural identity or the human values of existence.Here men and their feelings remain the true protagonists of a real and industrious world that is still farfrom the anxieties and frenzy of our times. Here is, perhaps, the secret of Dolceacqua, of itsunforgettable charm and sincere hospitality