Liguria. Italian Marinas.
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Liguria, the extreme south-western part of Northern Italy, lies on the Ligurian Sea. It is therefore the natural outlet to the sea for the upper and middle Po Valley, from which it is separated by the outlying crests of the Alps and the beginning of the Apennines. Although Liguria is the smallest Italian region after Valle d'Aosta and Molise, it has the highest density of population in Italy after Campania and Lombardy. It borders with France to the west, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna to the north and Tuscany to the east.
Liguria spreads in an arch from the mouth of Roia
to that of the Magra rivers, embracing the south side of the Ligurian Alps and
Apennines (separated by Colle di Cadibona) as well as a large part of the Po
Valley flanks. Most of the territory is mountainous or hilly with narrow strips
of fairly low terrain along tracts of the coast or near several low alluvial
valleys. The highest mountains rise in the west of the region (Mount Saccarello,
2,200 m.) where the landscape becomes decidedly mountainous: to the east, the
mountains are lower and the landscape becomes much gentler, broken at intervals
by rocky spurs. Numerous valleys penetrate the mountains: those to the south cut
mainly across the lie of the mountains, and their rivers are generally
fast-flowing torrents; however, the most important valleys (of the Arroscia,
Lavagna and Vara rivers) lie longitudinally. To the north of the watershed, the
mountains are broken high in the valleys by tributaries of the Po, principally
the Tanaro, Bormida di Millesimo, Bormida di Spigno, Scrivia, Trebbia and the
The southerly exposition of most of the region, the lie of the mountains providing protection against continental influxes from the Po Valley and the long stretch of coastline are the principal factors making for the particularly mild climate of most of Liguria. On the southern side, the climate is typically Mediterranean with limited variations in temperature, mild winters and cool ventilated summers; in the higher inland areas and the Po Valley side it becomes increasingly continental. The precipitations are more abundant in autumn and winter, increasing from west to east; in the high basins of the Trebbia and Aveto rivers, they exceed 2,000 mm./year, reaching as much as 3,000 mm. in some areas.
Woodlands cover an area of 283,256 hectares, equal to 52.3% of the territory (Liguria is the most heavily wooded region in Italy). The vegetation of the area is distinctly Mediterranean up to a height of 500 m. with evergreen scrub and vast woods of Aleppo and maritime pines. Beyond this lies the chestnut belt, up to approximately 800 m., with some black hornbeams, flowering ash, elm, ash and oaks. From 800 m. to 1,500 m. there are beechwoods and larch and fir from 1,500 m. to 2,000 m. The indigenous vegetation of Liguria, has however, been partly transformed by man, with the introduction of various cultivations and plants from other countries, which have found an environment favourable to growth.
From a botanical point of view, the famous Portofino promontory is particularly interesting; here, two completely different species of vegetation, Mediterranean and middle European-mountain, grow in close proximity.
It is here that the scrub reaches its highest point and the chestnut woods extend so far down as almost to touch the sea: the thermal inversion phenomenon, causing plant life to exchange roles and environment for climatic and ecological reasons is singularly frequent. Sofar, more than 700 different species of plants have been listed, on the limited terrain of this promontory. On the southern slopes, facing the sea, the Mediterranean scrub consists of underwood, thick bushes, tangled brushwood, stands of evergreen oak, beautiful Aleppo and maritime pinewoods, strips of fragmented meadow and long-tufted grasses. The northern side, on the other hand, is predominantly chestnut woods and mixed woodland, with flowering ash, oak, hazel and black hornbeam; spectacular plants such as the large Mediterranean spurge stand out at intervals and there are interesting indigenous plants, including Saxifraga cochlearis and Centaurea aplolepa lunensis. There is still some wildlife, though sorely depleted: vertebrates include squirrels and woodpeckers and there are many indigenous invertebrates, some of them rarities.
Another typically Ligurian environment is the Cinque Terre where vines are grown on artificial terracing, an unusual method of cultivation. The vegetation is largely Aleppo and maritime pinewoods, with the interesting association of evergreen oak and cork trees enlivened by large Mediterranean spurge, fleecy cistus and groundsels.
The fauna includes the rare red partridge in its original native Ligurian state, the small European gecko and the magnificent butterfly known locally as the `ninfa del corbezzolo' (nymph of the strawberry-tree).
Mount Beigua in the Ligurian Apennines (1,287 m.) has a particularly interesting ecosystem. The vegetation on its south side is woodland (partly planted) with maritime, black, and Scots pines, while the north side is mainly mixed woodland with oak, beech and chestnut trees, mountain meadows and wet peatbogs. An indigenous flower is the Bertoloni columbine.
It would appear that the fauna, though depleted, still includes the rare otter, the short-toed eagle (which nests only in this part of Liguria) and the large speckled lizard, one of the most interesting examples of the local wildlife.
Here, more than in any other
Italian region, the distribution of the population has been conditioned by the
morphology of the territory. In fact, 90% of the inhabitants live in the coastal
towns which, especially on the Riviera di Ponente (western part), line the coast
almost without interruption. The hilly and mountainous inland area contrasts
sharply with the populous littoral, and is characterized by progressive
abandonment of agricultural activities, with consequent depopulation, especially
at altitudes above 1,000 m.
In recent decades, there has been continuous infraregional migration towards the coasts, where industry and in particular the service industries (tourism, transport and other services) have provided scope for increased earnings.
In the nineteen fifties and sixties Genoa, in particular, attracted an influx of workers from the bordering regions and from the south. Apart from the chief provincial towns (Genoa has two fifths of the region's population), the important towns are Sanremo, Ventimiglia and Albenga on the Riviera di Ponente (the western Riviera) and Sestri Levante, Rapallo and Chiavari on the Riviera di Levante (the eastern).
The Ligurian dialect, common to the whole region though with differing shades of meaning near the Piedmont and Tuscany boundaries, belongs to the Italo-Celtic dialects of Northern Italy.
With Piedmont and Lombardy, Liguria is a pole of the industrial triangle which led expansion of the whole Italian economy after the war, and still enjoys a characteristically high standard of living, confirmed by statistics; however, a certain deterioration of the environment has been caused by abandonment of the mountain areas, as well as by excessive concentration of industrial plants in certain districts. Badly planned urban growth, and construction for the tourist industry, frequently motivated by speculation, have had a negative effect on the environment.
Agriculture is of scant importance to the regional economy, a result of the lack of arable land. Nevertheless, some specialized crops are important: floriculture, for instance, is exclusive to the Riviera di Ponente (50% of national production). Fruit is also important (peaches, apricots, hazelnuts, figs) and vegetables (on the Albenga plain). Inland there is limited cultivation of vines and olives, though the wines and oil produced are of excellent quality. At a national level, Ligurian livestock rearing is irrelevant, and considering that the whole length of the region lies on the sea, fishing is a minor activity.
The most important Ligurian industries, concentrated round the main ports are: steel, engineering, petrochemicals and ship-building. This latter, faced with international competition in the construction of large vessels, is now concentrating on small coastal boats and leisure craft. The food and textile industries are also present. There is a vigorous building industry, linked especially with tourism. Electricity comes almost exclusively from thermal power stations, due to the scarcity of water resources, and in fact, Liguria is second to Lombardy (1984) in the production of thermoelectric power.
The service sector is highly developed and employs two thirds of the active population, as a result of commerce linked with the ports which incentivates other service industries (shipping, insurance, finance, road and rail transport). Traditional tourist activities are very important.
In the past, development of road and rail communications in Liguria was obstructed by the nature of the terrain, and only in the last 20 years, with improvement of the motorway, has it been possible to ease congestion of commercial and tourist traffic.
Maritime communications are largely based on the port of Genoa (the major freight port in Italy) and at the ports of La Spezia and Savona. There is an international airport (Cristoforo Colombo) at Genoa.
Liguria's geographical position, mild climate and
pleasant landscapes have made it a successful traditional pole of attraction for
national and international seaside tourism since the middle of last century. All
along the coast, from Ventimiglia to Lerici, there are small holiday resorts
which, though themselves endowed with works of art, have only developed
alongside the famous holiday resorts: Bordighera, Sanremo, Alassio, Finale
Ligure, Nervi, Portofino, Santa Margherita and Rapallo. The development of
tourism has improved amenities and infrastructures but not without damage to the
environment, only now the object of energetic measures of conservation. The
authentic character of the region can still be found in the quiet corners of
certain seaside villages or in the rare coves still unaltered by the hands of
man. In the Cinque Terre, for instance, a group of picturesque fishing villages
clinging to a rocky coastline, cars are banned. The beautiful inland area,
bypassed by the tourist hordes, is surprisingly and unexpectedly fascinating and
deserves greater attention. Behind Sanremo alternative itineraries touch the
medieval villages of Taggia and Triora; Pigna with its characteristic chibi
(alleys) surrounded by olive groves; Apricale, a medieval village magnificently
facing south; Dolceacqua, with the Doria castle and vineyards. Farther north, on
the slopes of Mount Saccarello (2,200 m.) lies Monesi, a winter sports resort.
The inland areas round Savona with their picturesque villages, Calizzano, Millesimo and Pontinvrea deserve a visit; in the Province of Genoa, Uscio has the Romanesque church of Sant'Ambrogio; Torriglia, near Lake Brugneto and Fontanigorda, amongst woods and meadows, in an area of considerable mycological interest (mushrooms). On the slopes of Mount Maggiorasca (1,799 m.) lies Santo Stefano d'Aveto, an Apennine winter sports resort. Far inland, behind the Riviera di Levante, lies Varese Ligure (interesting urban plan) and, on the Tuscan boundary, stands Sarzana, a small town with a wealth of history and interesting church buildings, the majestic Cittadella and the Fort of Sarzanello.
Other parts of Liguria have extremely interesting grottoes and archeological features. These include the Balzi Rossi (prehistory museum), near Ventimiglia, characterized by the presence of human settlements dating from the Paleolithic to the Meso lithic periods, then the popular Grotte di Toirano (grottoes), inland from Loano, which can be visited, following a planned route, for more than a kilometre amidst spectacular mineral deposits and evidence of man's life twelve thousand years ago; lastly Luni, an ancient Roman town near the mouth of the Magra, which conserves splendid traces of its past, such as the `Grande Tempio', `Campidoglio', the Forum and the Amphitheatre (Museo Archeologico Nazionale-national archeological museum). Other Roman monuments can be seen at Ventimiglia (theatre, 2nd century BC.), Albenga, Albisola Superiore, Bocca di Magra etc. Traces of prehistoric civilization are also to be seen at Finale Ligure, inland from Varazze, and at Chiavari.