The magic of Bussana Vecchia: from an earthquake to a spontaneous rebirth

Art & Culture, Sea & Land, Special

February 23, 1887, 6.30 am. Time and life stops in the Western Liguria, and it’s immediately engraved in people’s memory. It’s a huge disaster – an earthquake, entire countries collapsing, many deaths and injuries. The greatest number of deaths is inside the churches, as a religious ceremony after Carnival and before Easter was underway. A repentance moment that turned into absolute tragedy.

Anyway, Liguria knows how to overcome the difficulties and live side by side with the hostile Nature. Undaunted, the reconstruction started at a time when technology was still far from the stone terracing structures. This is how stone had a new life. The perfect example is Bussana, a small inhabited town near Sanremo, or better to say a San Remo hamlet. It’s a thousand-year-old historical venue: Roman colony, multiple cultivations in a fertile and well-exposed territory. The historical town is clung on a cliff and it’s unassailable with its castle on the cliff peak.

Immediately after the earthquake, the town didn’t seem salvable. The new town was born near the sea between the XIX and XX century featuring a rational and modern structure and proximity to the sea to be included in the trade routes. Memories and charm are the pillars of Bussana, by now abandoned with its painful heart. However, its narrow streets, the “alleyways”, its stone stairs and the shaky slabs, the castle Medieval walls, and the entry gates are still alive. And some people realised it sixty years ago, such as artists, ceramists and other creative people of an anxious Europe in search for a new future. In fact, the new world reshaped Bussana Vecchia and made it inhabitable somehow, yet not too reachable. Experimentations, debates, happenings, a different Community began to rise and changed over time until enriching the “old” Bussana” with the advancing novelties, ideas and social dimension. A renovated place where it’s still possible to live on a human scale. The city is however looking for recovery plans to make it more touristic without depriving the magic of its houses which look as an “unfinished” work of the Nature, as well as the roofless religious buildings similar to silent monuments.

[Alessandro Giacobbe]