Places of interest16 August 2019

Badalucco, art and gastronomy on the banks of the Argentina stream [Video & photo gallery]

Through the beauty of the Argentina Valley, revealing some secrets about the village, including fortresses, churches, "fugazza de Baauccu" and stockfish "aa Baücogna".

Credit Alessandro Vecchi

Credit Alessandro Vecchi

Going up the Argentina Valley, Badalucco appears to us suddenly with its severe appearance that makes it seem almost like a fortress. It once guaranteed the control of the middle valley, which here narrows around a bend in the Argentina stream. Even today the character of a medieval village has remained very marked. Do not worry, however, the Badalucchesi have lost the habit of shooting arrows or boiling pitch on those coming from the sea ... Today the only danger we can encounter is to indigestion a succulent typical dish that we will discuss later.

The first reason why we need to visit Badalucco is its historic center. It developed from the top of the hill where the church of San Nicolò is located, to the place of which, in the Middle Ages, we would have found the castle of the counts of Ventimiglia. As the population increased, houses were built in a semicircle. The new circle of dwellings attached to each other formed an additional defensive barrier to the outside. The various rings were connected by vaults, covered passages, small alleys: in short, a masterpiece of ancient engineering. The charm of an authentic medieval village, and among other things very well maintained, Badalucco has been adding an extra touch for about thirty years. Walking through the historic center we admire a large number of murals and ceramics, made by important contemporary artists. We immediately notice how they fit perfectly into the ancient context that hosts them. In the Palazzo del Comune (City Hall) you can also visit an art gallery dedicated above all to ceramics, where a workshop is also installed. Speaking instead of ancient art, on the main square of the town we are struck by the Boeri palace, with its elegant loggia, and above all by the imposing façade of the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta and San Giorgio.

This splendid Baroque building is only the latest version of a series of transformations of a very ancient sacred place, as the title perhaps of Byzantine derivation denounces. The interior is rich both in decoration and in works of art, also coming from Roman and Milanese environments. Near the parish, sober and severe, we find the Oratory of San Francesco. Continuing along the main road towards the south, we discover another unexpected jewel, the magnificent façade, once again Baroque, of the Church of Our Lady of Mercy. Since a bit of motion never hurts, especially if we want to taste the specialties of the place, we start the steep climb that leads to the church of San Nicolò, at the top of the village. The view of the valley and of Montalto amply repays us for the effort.

[Credit Jürgen Kehrberger]

Another strong point of Badalucco is its "fluvial" character. In its development the country has in fact ended up lying on a spectacular double loop formed by the Argentina stream. There are no rivers without bridges: here in Badalucco we find two ancient and absolutely interesting ones that we are going to visit. One is the bridge of the Madonna degli Angeli which closes the village to the north. It is a beautiful late medieval structure, solid but extremely slender. It was the key passage of the mule track that led to Montalto. The bridge of Santa Lucia is instead located in the southern part of the town. Once it was the real entrance to the village. A very elegant calling card, thanks to the covered passage that contains the small chapel dedicated to the saint.

[Credit Facebook site]

In recent years, Badalucco has also become a very lively village, perhaps because of the energy carried by the flow of the stream, who knows ... Both the pro loco and several associations organize different events, especially in the summer. Musical, cultural, festivals, sporting events: there is something for everyone. Many Badalucchesi work on the coast, but have decided not to leave the city: this helps a lot. It also appears immediately clear to the tourist that there are all the services to spend a high-level stay. Several restaurants offering more or less revisited typical cuisine, shops, bars, an excellent ice cream parlor, farmhouses to sleep in the midst of silence, even a beautiful wellness center.

[Credit Facebook site]

Talking about the restaurants gives you a certain appetite ... let's see what delights we discovered in Badalucco. Of course, even here it is the Taggiasca extra virgin olive oil that dominates. We can buy it in stores or in oil mills, which in some cases can be visited. Another highlight is the rundin, the typical white bean of Badalucco and other villages in the area. It is a very refined legume that boasts the title of slow food presidium. His death is in zemin, a tasty soup of vegetables and meat which I definitely recommend to try. Among the desserts we fell in love with the fugazza de Baauccu (recipe Sunday), the Badalucco focaccia. Its characteristic is a strong taste of brewer's yeast and pine nuts, sweetened by raisins and granulated sugar on the surface. The main protagonist of the Badalucchese gastronomy, however, is a fish ... of the sea! Yeah, we're talking about cod, in its dried version. The stockfish "aa Baücogna" is a moist succulent that requires a long preparation respecting the tradition. Every year, on the third Sunday of September, a big festival is organized in his honor that brings lots of people even from far away. It is said that in the Middle Ages it was thanks to the stocks of stockfish that the village was saved from the siege of the omnipresent Saracens. In the past this food played a fundamental role in a diet low in proteins, also for the convenience of being able to preserve it for a long time. He was transported here from the port of Porto Maurizio and sorted in all the countries of the upper valley.

[Credit Facebook site]

To digest all these welcome calories there is nothing better than a nice walk in nature. The municipality of Badalucco offers a wild and uncontaminated territory, where it is also possible to experience the thrill of a cool bath in the Argentina stream. For some time now the Amici dei Sentieri Association has been organizing the ancient connecting mule tracks, which are becoming a paradise for hikers and bikers. Try the walk from the church of San Nicolò to the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Neve.

So, in summary, what did we find in Badalucco? Let's see: art, culture, hospitality, good food, sport, nature ... do we forget something? Well Badalucco is also twenty minutes from the sea: think how nice to sleep in a quiet farmhouse up here and alternate beach to hinterland ...

Judit Neuberger

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