Located just a short drive from Sanremo, in the region of Liguria, Bussana Vecchia is a tiny village with a unique history and a hippy vibe – a place unlike anything you’ve seen before!

Liguria is synonymous with Italian Riviera and is best known among travelers for the picturesque villages of Cinque Terre and the glamorous resort town of Portofino. But there are a number of beautiful hidden gems that you should see. One of these is Bussana Vecchia, a tiny village located about 15 minutes from Sanremo, near the border with France.

Bussana Vecchia has never received the attention it deserves and I’m sure only very few of you have heard about it. That’s a shame because it’s a place with a peculiar history, a special atmosphere and an arty soul that make it a fantastic spot to explore.

Bussana Vecchia

History of Bussana Vecchia

In 1887 Bussana Vecchia was hit by an earthquake that destroyed most of the village and killed about 2,000 people. The local authorities decided to rebuild the town down the hill, calling it Bussana Nuova (literally New Bussana). They declared Bussana Vecchia dangerous and ignored the pleas for reconstruction from its inhabitants.

Bussana Vecchia laid abandoned for almost a hundred years, until various artists started to move there in the 1960’s, bringing new life to the village. They resisted various eviction attempts by the police and stayed despite not having access to electricity nor tap water. They created a community, transformed the ruins into liveable homes and opened a series of workshops and ateliers to live of their art. And most of them still live there to these days. Pretty interesting, isn’t it?

What to see in Bussana Vecchia

Don’t expect a traditional Italian quaint village. Bussana Vecchia is an extraordinary mix of collapsed houses, abandoned areas, artisanal workshops and pretty cafes that make the village so unconventionally beautiful.

Bussana Vecchia is tiny but if you are into photography like me, you could literally spend hours there. My suggestion is to walk down every small alley because pretty much every corner is decorated with some kind of artwork and everywhere you look you’ll see quaint old doors, decadent buildings and enchanting scenes.

There are many workshops scattered around the village, selling anything from ceramic decorations to exclusive pieces of jewelry and beautiful paintings. 

The old church of Sant’Egidio up the hill is the one place where you feel all the history of Bussana Vecchia. Many of its inhabitants took shelter here during the earthquake and died when the heavy roof collapsed. Today only the walls and the bell tower are still standing. For security reasons you can see the church from the outside, since it’s never been restored.

Bussana Vecchia_Il Giardino tra i Ruderi

Among the many jewels that you’ll find amidst the ruins is the Giardino tra i Ruderi, a green oasis of flowers and plants created by Luisa Bistolfi who moved to Bussana Vecchia in 1972. Today the garden is one of the most popular attractions of Bussana Vecchia and  presents visitors with romantic corners and breathtaking views.

If you are looking for the ultimate hippy adventure, then visit La Barca, a real commune where everything belongs to everyone. Basically you just show up, and stay for as long as you want. You are welcome to grab something from the fridge and a bed is always available. No need for money. The owner Ronald, a Dutch expat, lives mostly off what past guests regularly bring to him and donations. 

Look for the building that houses the biggest model railways in Italy, with over 350 meters of tracks winding through tiny stations, tunnels and bridges. It was put together by four friends, who spent months to carefully recreate real-life scenes and sounds (check out their Facebook page).   

Bussana Vecchia 

USEFUL TIPS

  • The easiest way to reach Bussana Vecchia is by car. The road that leads to the village is very narrow and steep (be careful if you have a big car) and you’ll have to leave the car somewhere on the access road because the village is fully pedestrianized. Alternatively, you can catch a bus from Sanremo to Bussana Nuova and then walk about 40 minutes to Bussana Vecchia (see the timetable here)
  • Forget baby strollers, it would be impossible to use them here due to the uneven cobblestone paving
  • Many events, art exhibitions and live music take place in the summer, which is perhaps the best time to visit it in addition to spring

 

If you are in the area, do pay a visit to Bussana Vecchia and lose yourself in its labyrinth of cobblestone streets and alleys. It’s a truly magical experience. Also, don’t be shy and approach the locals. Most can speak English and can say a lot about Bussana Vecchia and its fantastic story!

 

Until next time,

14 replies
  1. Dada
    Dada says:

    Bussana Vecchia is an Italian hidden gem for sure! What a courageous people fighting for what they belive in and in this case to rebuild the Bussana Vecchia! I hope to get there this summer but it does sound complicated to reach! Would a campervan be able to pass that narrow road you think?

    Reply
    • admin
      admin says:

      Mmm I see it difficult with a campervan, but you could reach Bussana NUova and walk up Bussana Vecchia, I think it’s about 2-3km 🙂

      Reply
  2. prabhu
    prabhu says:

    i read the article, its very nice and quite interesting. Love your blog only for the reason you explained everything very beautifully. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Reply
  3. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    You’ve sold me on wanting to see Bussana Vecchia! I can totally see the hippy vibe there, and would love to walk those cobblestone roads. I’m sure there’s plenty of charm here, especially with those collapsed houses and many exhibitions in the summer!

    Reply
  4. Ha
    Ha says:

    I’ve never heard of Bussana Vecchia but it looks really lovely. The city is charming with decorated artwork in every corner. Also, I’d love to wander around the city and discover cute workshops with paintings and jewelry.

    Reply
  5. Dann Castillo
    Dann Castillo says:

    Such an intersting place! I had never heard of it and I regret it, because I would have LOVED to visit it when I was around the area. It reminds me a bit of Christiania, in Denmark, another free, sort of hippie community where people just cohabit in peace. However, I loved the story of this place! so inspiring to have a re-birth from destruction!

    Reply
  6. Nisha
    Nisha says:

    Never heard of it. But looking at the first photo it somehow reminds me of Christiania in Copenhagen. I think I will love this place. 🙂 🙂

    Reply
  7. Manjulika
    Manjulika says:

    I didn’t know anything about Bussana vecchia but this is so interesting. In fact anything and everything related to art gets my attention and eye. The village with artsy soul has to be on my list. The history is very attractive. I would love this place and I can easily walk for hours. La Barca looks fun.

    Reply
  8. Keri|FlipFlopWeekend
    Keri|FlipFlopWeekend says:

    I love these photos! We are going to Italy in July, but only for 10 days to spend time in the major cities. I know I will need another trip back to see all of the special places like this!

    Reply

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