What to do in Zoagli
In Zoagli, the sea is so close and the dialogue between the deep blue and the green of lush vegetation is palpable. Calm and tranquillity, an absolute reign of nature, a far-reaching view of the entire Tigullio Gulf and Portofino, constitute the charm of this small centre, located a few kilometres from Rapallo, on the Riviera Ligure di Levante.
Already a settlement of the Tigullio Ligurians in prehistoric times, it then became in 1158 a feud of the Fieschi family of Lavagna and, from the 13th century onwards, a dominion of the Republic of Genoa.
Over the centuries, in addition to fishing, the local people developed a form of craftsmanship that made the village’s commercial fortune: silk weaving.
Zoagli experienced dramatic moments during the Second World War: On the morning of 27 December 1943, the town was fiercely bombed and almost completely razed to the ground.
A visit of Zoagli starts from its Piazzetta characterised by an interesting ‘labyrinth’ fountain. The Piazzetta is the starting point for Zoagli’s two stunning promenades, the Eastern and Western ones. Built in the 1930s thanks to funds collected by some local families to connect the different coves and in this way boost tourism, today they represent an itinerary of particular beauty that winds along the cliffs, in close contact with the sea. During the day, they offer a gorgeous panorama, while at night, thanks to the lighting from below, they provide a romantic and evocative path.
On either side of Zoagli’s central beach, characterised by the arches of the railway bridge, stand two Saracen Towers, built in the 16th century, when the Ligurian coast was repeatedly attacked by the legendary pirate Dragut, as guard and defence posts. Recently restored, the Eastern Saracen Tower is municipal property, while the Western Tower is incorporated into the Canevaro Castle.
The Canevaro Castle is an ancient residence included in the circuit of the ancient patrician villas of the Genoese area. Established and developed over the centuries around the Western Tower, today it is an elegant location for events and receptions.
Situata a nel cuore del borgo di Zoagli, la Chiesa di San Martino fu eretta tra il 1726 e il 1728 su progetto dell’architetto Antonio Maria Ricca.
Significantly damaged by Allied aerial bombing in 1943, at the end of the conflict it underwent reconstruction that brought it back to its full splendour. All’interno sono conservate due statue in legno raffiguranti la Madonna del Rosario con Gesù Bambino e il Cristo morto attribuite allo scultore Anton Maria Maragliano. It also contains a panel painting by the artist Teramo Piaggio depicting the Madonna and Saints Erasmus and Leonard.
In Zoagli, along the Via Aurelia, is the Castle of Sam Benelli, the famous playwright and author of ‘La cena delle Beffe’ made famous by Amedeo Nazzari’s film interpretation and for the famous line ‘E chi non beve me con me peste lo colga’ (And whoever does not drink me with me may the plague seize him)
It is a very special residence, which this imaginative Italian playwright had built at the height of his popularity by the stage designer Mancini, who embellished it with marble, sculptures and precious woods.
When Sam Benelli saw the hefty fee and could not pay it, he sold the castle and retired to the small house originally intended for the guardians, where he lived peacefully until the end of his days.
In Zoagli, you can visit the famous silk mills, which still carry on the traditional processing of silks and velvets.