Finalborgo is a picturesque medieval village in western Liguria, just a couple of kilometers inland from the bustling seaside town of Finale Ligure.
Crossing the gates of Finalborgo you feel like you are stepping into another world. The centre of the village is wrapped up in perfectly preserved ancient walls that seem to hide and protect a beautiful atmosphere of past times.
This adorable hamlet dates back to the XII century and has a long history that saw it as the capital of the Marquisate of Finale, which was governed the Del Carretto family until the beginning of the XVII century, then part of the Hapsburg empire and property of the Republic of Genoa. Today Finalborgo is a delightful village of less than 1,000 residents that attracts visitors from all over Europe with its romantic atmosphere.
The thing I like the most about this place is that it has the typical charm of an historic village with a turbulent past, but it’s very lively at the same time, with colorful pedestrianized streets, lots of cool boutiques and cozy cafés.
What to see in Finalborgo
Finalborgo is home to an impressive number of elegant palaces and historic monuments, which is one of the reasons why it’s been included In the club ‘Borghi più belli d’Italia’, Italy’s most picturesque villages.
Streets and squares of this little village are lined with amazing buildings featuring beautiful frescoed facades, each with its own fascinating story. Some of the most beautiful are Palazzo Nazionale that was once the seat of the government, and Palazzo Brunengo, with a lovely medieval loggia where weights, measures and stocks of the Marquisate were kept.
I really liked also Palazzo Ricci, an aristocratic palace overlooking the pretty little Piazza Santa Caterina, and Casa Cavasola with the most romantic balcony.
Every Italian village is guarded by a church or two and Finalborgo is no exception, with the imposing Church of San Biagio standing proudly next to the main entrance gate. Do take a minute to visit this XVII-century church, because its rather plain baroque facade hides seriously amazing interiors lavishly decorated in green and golden tones.
Another important religious complex is the Convent of St Catherine, which was commissioned by the Del Carretto marquesses in 1395 to create a family mausoleum – although in reality they wanted to leverage the influence of the Dominican fathers over the population to strengthen their power. For centuries it was the cultural and spiritual heart of Finalborgo, but after the dissolution of the religious order it became a penal colony. Today the convent is home to the Public Multimedia Library and an Archaeology Museum.
The castles of Finalborgo
When approaching Finalborgo by car, the first things you’ll see are two imposing castles standing high above the village. One is the Fort of San Giovanni, built in the XVII century by the Spanish who occupied Finalborgo and transformed the Marquisate into a stronghold. Its structure is really unique since it adapts to the natural environment along a hill ridge. After being partially destroyed by the Genoese in the 19th century, it was turned into a women’s prison and now it is a public property. Today you can visit it for free, although I must admit that there is not much to see.
A 15 minute walk further up from the fort are the ruins of Castel Govone, the ancient residence of the Marquis. When the Republic of Genoa took over the Marquisate, the governor ordered to destroy it and the castle was left in ruin for centuries until in 1989, when the last owners donated it to the local municipality. The beautiful tower in the shape of a diamond, one of the castle’s most impressive features, is still visible today. The castle is not accessible and you can only see it from behind a fence.
To reach both castles you need to walk for about 15-20 minutes along a steep path and while the first part up to the Fort of San Giovanni is pretty easy, the trail to Castel Govone is definitely more challenging, with steep woodland walking (strollers are not ok here). Is it worth the effort? Yes, I recommend it for the views over the village and the sea and fora closer look to Castel Govone’s diamond tower.
Finalborgo, outdoor capital
Finalborgo is surrounded by beautiful cliffs, rocky crags and fantastic tracks that every year attract outdoor sports enthusiasts from all over Europe. What’s more, this area enjoys a particularly mild weather all year around, which means that it is possible to practice these sports even in winter.
Shops selling sports equipment abound in the streets of Finalborgo and groups of free climbers and mountain bikers enjoying a refreshing beer after a day of intense sporting activity are a popular sight.
Where to eat in Finalborgo
Being so close to the sea I should list fish restaurants, but no, guys the best restaurant in Finalborgo is specialized in meat (sorry veggie friends!). It’s called Quarto Di Bue and if you are a meat lover like me, then take note of this place because it’s seriously good. Other very good restaurants included n my list are Invexendu with a lovely veranda opening onto Piazza dei Tribunali, and Ai Cuattru Canti, tucked away in a quiet street just off the main square.
Now, let’s talk about what to order. Typical dishes include pasta with pesto, potatoes and green beans – a classic of this area – Ligurian braised rabbit and brandacujun, made with potatoes and cod. Oh and try some fragrant focaccia and freshly baked cornetti from U Panaté du Burgu, a lovely bakery in Via Nicotera – my mornings will never be the same without them!
Where to stay in Finalborgo
There are a couple of nice bed & breakfasts in Finalborgo. One is right in front of Porta Reale, the main gate to the village, and is called Alle Vecchie Mura. The other one is Antico Pozzo, which is also a great place for an aperitivo right in the heart of Finalborgo. I stayed in a lovely apartment with a super central location right above a bakery – waking up with the scent of fresh bread and croissants was priceless!
- The nearest airport is Genova Cristoforo Colombo, 49 km from the village. You can reach easily Finalborgo on foot with a pleasant 30-minute stroll from Finale Ligure. If you drive, there’s a paid parking zone just outside the walls near Porta Testa and some free spots along Via Fiume and in the school courtyard.
- Finalborgo has a full schedule of events throughout the year, starting with the antique fair that takes place on the first weekend of every month and sees lots of colorful stalls taking the village streets to sell anything from vintage furniture to second hand books. Another key date is the second to last weekend of August, when Finalborgo celebrates its medieval past with a historical re-enactment called “Viaggio nel Medioevo” (“Journey into the Middle Ages”). The village becomes the stage of medieval games, flag-wavers, fire-eaters and there are stalls cooking old recipes with Celtic music in the background.
Ciao for now,