The name “Sassello” first appeared on an official document in the year 967, when Emperor Otto II made the city and its territory, located not far from Savona in the Ligurian Apennines, a fief of the marquis Aleramo, along with other lands. Fifty-three years later, the first Italian Cistercian abbey was founded in Tiglieto, then within the territory and purview of Sassello. As time went by, the conflicting economic interests of the Principality of Piedmont and the Republic of Genoa led to fighting which did not leave Sassello unscathed. In 1672, the city suffered its last sack and destruction, at the hands of the House of Savoy. One hundred and twenty-five years later, in 1796, Napoleon trounced the Austrians at Montenotte, only a few kilometres from Sassello, and people are still looking around for old weapons and mementoes of the battle. Napoleon also put Claude Chabrol in charge of the area, and in 1824 Chabrol published a report with statistics that was to be, for posterity, the most complete work on the economic life and social fabric of Sassello and its region at the beginning of the 19th century. Iron smelting took place from the 17th up to the beginning of the 19th century, and cotton was spun and silk worms bred well into the 20th century. Although agricultural and industrial activities have tapered away, they have not disappeared altogether. Sassello still lives off its forests by producing timber and firewood. And the city has carved a little niche for itself in the culinary industry. Since 1860, Sassello has been exporting worldwide its amaretti teneri, delightful little macaroons invented and perfected by the locals. The amaretti have given life to a local industry which has been a mainstay of Sassello’s economy and, in one way or another, the bread and butter of a majority of families in the area. But pastry-making in Sassello is more than about amaretti: canestrelli, baci di dama, panettoni, all take on a special local flavour.
The art tourist knows very well that no Italian city, no matter how small, should be taken lightly when it comes to artistic treasures. Sassello does not break that rule, and its offerings date back to the early times. The Museo Perrando takes visitors back to prehistoric times, and then through the middle ages up to the last century, showing them, among other things, items as diverse as neolithic weapons and old papal bullae. The ruins of two old castles will transport them to the 13th and 15th centuries, and several old churches, the last of which was completed in 1725, well into the baroque era, will guide them through the evolution of religious art as it was expressed in a city which, in the past, was of no mean importance.
Nature and the Beigua Natural Park
All told, the municipality of Sassello covers an area of over 100 km2 and is one of the largest in Liguria. A large portion – mostly wooded expanses – of this area also belongs to the Beigua Natural Park. Owing to the authentic beauty of its territory and the wealth of its historical and artistic legacy, Sassello was the first community to be awarded the Orange Flag, a token of the quality of a touristic and natural site in the hinterland. Located on the northern side of the Ligurian Apennines, Sassello stands at 380 m above sea level. Nearby Mount Beigua towers at 1287 m and, from its summit, one has a clear view on Corsica, most of Liguria, Monte Rosa and the Maritime Alps. The relief is diverse, and so is the flora, ranging from evergreens to chestnuts to magnificent beech groves, grasslands and bare rock. Roe deer, foxes, badgers, jays, hoopoes, falcons, and herons are part of the living fauna of the area; numerous fossils are a reminder of an earlier fauna, which caters to the tastes of zoologists and various specialists of times past. Being close to both mountains and the sea, Sassello enjoys a bit of both climates, and winds blow both warm and cold. The weather is decidedly cooler than on the nearby Flower Riviera, but winter snow often yields to balmy breezes within a few days.
Belonging neither to the Alps nor to the coast, Mount Beigua smacks a bit of both owing to the beautiful views it gives on the mountains and on the sea and to the characteristic way its vegetation is distributed on its northern and southern slopes. Beigua Natural Park is a place for all seasons:
- Winter is an artist. By opposing the cold gales from the North and the damp, rising breezes from the South, it shapes strangely beautiful ice figures, which the locals call galaverna.
- Spring is the bearer of life renewed. It greens pastures and reaches high to adorn bare ground with beautiful but short-lived flowers and to summon impetuous streams through the clefts they themselves have wrought in rock over centuries.
- Summer is the master of the Park’s fauna. Deer, birds, and all other wood and mountain species flock to a lush feast of vegetation and warm sunshine.
- Last but not least, autumn gently crowns the year in a splash of colour, in abundance of fruit, and, after a gentle rain, in a wealth of mushrooms. And, on clear days, under that particular, indescribable fall illumination, Mount Beigua offers breathtaking vistas on a region whose reputation still lags, undeservedly, far behind its exceptional natural beauty.
Thanks to its central position in the Ligurian Apennines, Sassello offers visitors many opportunities for rewarding excursions into the natural and artistic treasures of Liguria.
The sea from mount Rama Sassello is an excellent starting point for leisurely walks or more demanding day trips – or anything in-between – in the heart of the Beigua Natural Park. There is something for the stroller and something for the more experienced hiker. Pinewoods, chestnut groves, and fossils are only a few minutes away. Beech groves, streams, and small lakes await those who are willing to walk for an hour or two. And those who will not be daunted by a four-hour walk will be rewarded with breathtaking prospects from the “Alta Via dei Monti Liguri” and the top of Mount Beigua. If you don’t care to walk long distances, driving will bring you within reach of all these attractions. You will find more information about the Beigua Natural Park in the little library of the apartment or you can simply ask us.
the Ligurian sea from mount Beigua The Giro d’Italia went through Sassello in 1999 and 2002, and so did the Classicissima Milano-Sanremo in 2001. With such credentials, the area can claim to be a cyclist’s paradise – with paths for the ordinary cyclist, for mountainbikers as well as for the professional. If you are not quite in shape, there are easier outings that will take you up and down no more than a few meters for a few hours at a time. If you are brimming with energy, there are more demanding one-day treks that will take you from 400 m (Sassello) up to about 1300 m (the top of Mount Beigua), then down to sea level at Varazze, up through the Giovo pass (700 m) and back home. Remember, we are there to help you find the best solution for you!
The view from Portofino mountain From Sassello, use your motorcar to become acquainted with the many natural, artistic and historical treasures of Liguria. Within a few minutes you can reach the highest peaks of Beigua Natural Park. From there, choose your destination. Go south to Genoa and the jewels of the Ligurian Riviera – Portofino, Cinque Terre, the island of Gallinara – or toward the Côte d’Azur for a short break in France. Or, for more rustic destinations, head north towards the Alps. Or visit the protected areas of Bric Tana Park and its karstic formations, Piana Crixia Park and its rocky inlets, and the “Fungo di roccia” – a strange mushroom-shaped rock. The region boasts many historic and artistic sites: Genoa, with its immense heritage; towns like Albenga with its roman ruins and impressive medieval monuments, Toirano with its historical centre and famous caves, the deserted town of Balestrino, the masterfully restored Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena… All these and other unforgettable sites are only a short distance from Sassello and more than worthy of a visit.