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Have you planned a visit to Cervo, one of the most enchanting villages in Liguria, and don’t know what to see if you only have one day to spare? Looking for beaches where you can relax, restaurants from which to enjoy the breathtaking views, or hotels where you can stay to fully experience this magical village?

You are in the right place. We are Andrea & Marta from Discover Genoa, and in this post we take you on a tour of one of Liguria’s most beautiful seaside villages.

You’ll find out what to do, what attractions not to miss, the most enchanting beaches and the most romantic restaurants in Cervo (Imperia).

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

What to see in Cervo Liguria in one day

We begin our exploration from the charming Castle Square, the highest square in Cervo, which provides pedestrian access to the medieval village, giving us the atmosphere of a fairy tale.

piazza al castello cervo

Next, we embark on a discovery of the Church Square, where we admire the majestic Church of St. John the Baptist, the Romanesque oratory with its characteristic bell tower and the striking Bastion of the Mezzodì.

Finally, we are transported to the heart of the town, strolling through the picturesque carruggi lined with ancient cobblestones and flanked by charming pastel-colored houses.

Castello dei Clavesana (Clavesana Castle)

cavesana castle cervo italy

At the highest point of the village, right at the entrance to Cervo, you can admire the famous Clavesana Castle, an imposing fortress that stands majestically on the rock. Built around the 13th century, this castle has seen past eras, from being a Roman tower to the fortified residence of the Marquis of Clavesana.

During World War I, the site functioned as a military hospital (if you enter you have a chance to see the room divisions, which represented the hospital wards). Later, the municipality granted it to two needy families, who lived there until the mid-20th century. Later, it was renovated and turned into a cultural and tourist center.

Here you can discover two very interesting exhibitions:

Donne di Liguria. Un secolo di storia (“Women of Liguria. A century of history”)

cervo italy exhibition

The exhibition “Women of Liguria” depicts women through different historical periods, with dolls wearing typical clothes and set in settings that tell the life of Ligurian women from 1850 to 1950 in a fascinating and unique way.

Ethnographic Museum of Western Liguria

cervo italy museum

The Ethnographic Museum of Western Liguria tells the story of Cervo and its inhabitants, displaying traditional fishermen’s clothing, children’s report cards, work tools and more, all in three small exhibition rooms.

cervo liguria italy

After visiting the Castle, I recommend you follow one of the streets downhill, such as Via Cavour.

cervo liguria

Through charming narrow streets with pastel-colored houses, you will reach a terrace overlooking the sea with a breathtaking visual impact, from which you can admire the striking Church of St. John the Baptist.

cervo liguria panorama

San Giovanni Battista Church (dei Corallini)

church of cervo italy

Admire the sumptuousness of the Parish Church of San Giovanni, also known as the Church of the Corallini, because of the funds from coral fishing.

The coral fishermen of Cervo, active since the 15th century, plied the sea to harvest the precious material between Corsica and Sardinia. Thanks to their contributions and labor, they built the majestic church of St. John the Baptist on the rock outcrop called “Balzo”, dedicating it to God as a sign of gratitude for prosperity.

A Baroque jewel of the Ligurian Riviera, the Church of Cervo tells the story of this magical village and its inhabitants. Its construction, begun in 1686 and completed in 1778, reflects the prosperity of the seventeenth century and the commitment of the “Cervesi”, sustained by faith, in building a sacred place of great importance.

The work, designed by architect Giovanni Battista Marvaldi and completed by his son Giacomo Filippo, took about fifty years to complete, testifying to the challenges faced by parishioners in financing and carrying out the project. The consecration took place in 1736, celebrated by the Bishop of Aleria in Corsica, Monsignor Camillo De Mari.

chiesa di san giovanni battista cervo

Over the centuries, the church has undergone several restorations, including the post-earthquake restoration in 1887 and the more recent interventions in 2000-2006, which involved the bell tower, facade, roof, interior and church furnishings.

On the outside, the church is rich in stucco and polychrome decorations, while the interior features frescoes by Francesco Carrega and Graffigna, as well as valuable works of art, altars and sculptures by local and Genoese artists. The high altar, the statue of St. John the Baptist and the altar of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, witnesses to the art and devotion of the Cervesi over the centuries, deserve special attention.

Bastion of Mezzodì

The Bastion of Mezzodì is a defensive structure built in the 14th century to protect the coast of Cervo Ligure from Turkish threats.

After careful restoration, this bastion has been restored to its former glory and is now a place dedicated to culture and tourism.

During winter you can only admire it from the outside, but in summer it becomes the perfect place for yoga classes and other cultural events. Practicing yoga on the bastion with the breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea is a truly magnificent experience.

Oratory of St. Catherine

oratory of cervo liguria

The history of the Church of St. John the Baptist is shrouded in fascination and mystery. Commissioned by the Knights Hierosolimitans in 1198, it was dedicated to their patron saint, St. John the Baptist.

Over the centuries, it has undergone many transformations: from an urban church to a parish church in 1641, until it became the seat of the confraternity of St. Catherine in 1762, assuming the new title of St. Catherine’s Oratory.

Built by Antelamico-Genovese craftsmen, it has a stone face that reflects the precision and regularity of the ashlar cuts, joined by thin layers of mortar.

Inside, a 1632 fresco depicting St. George stands out, while on the high altar is a majestic 1762 altarpiece by Francesco Carrega.

cervo italy oratory

Within its walls, 15th- and 16th-century frescoes tell stories of the period, while the right portal features a small human protome, a symbol of protection against evil forces.

oratory of cervo liguria

Now transformed into a space for art exhibitions and cultural events, the Oratory houses a permanent collection of sacred images, giving you a compelling experience in the historic heart of Cervo.

St. Nicholas Church and Viale Palace

Before returning to Castle Square, visit the Church of St. Nicholas, an architectural gem dating back to the 14th century, rich in history and legends.

Stroll along the village streets and discover Palazzo Viale, a sumptuous 18th-century residence that was the hub of Cervo’s social and cultural life.

Admire the frescoes that decorate its walls, and be transported by the rich cultural heritage of this charming Ligurian village.

The history of Cervo, Liguria

Imagine traveling back in time to when the ancient Roman mansio stood on the promontory overlooking the sea, controlling the Via Julia Augusta, the ancient road that united the Ligurian lands. Here, around this Roman core, arose what we know today as the picturesque village of Cervo.

During the early Middle Ages, at a time marked by raids by barbarians and Saracens, Cervo’s strategic and easily defensible position favored its development. Imagine the village, isolated on a rocky outcrop, resistant to outside attacks.

But it was in the 12th century that Cervo’s history became most interesting. It was then under the rule of the marquises of Clavesana, but in 1172 it came under the control of Diano, enjoying a kind of autonomy.

Later, in 1198, it was bought by the Knights of Jerusalem, only to rebel in 1204 and declare itself a free commune under the protection of the Republic of Genoa, which ruled the area through the Marquises of Clavesana throughout the Middle Ages.

The following period was no less turbulent. In the seventeenth century, Cervo was the scene of conflicts between Genoa and the Savoy, suffering looting and devastation. The next century also brought no peace, with the Republic of Genoa constantly threatened by shifting alliances.

The real turning point came with the arrival of Napoleon and the annexation to the Kingdom of Savoy. Cervo, along with the rest of Liguria, seemed to finally find some stability. However, in 1923, it was merged with Diano Marina, only to regain its autonomy as a municipality in 1947, after World War II.

Since then, Cervo has undergone another transformation: from a quiet coastal village it has become a renowned tourist destination. In the last years of the nineteenth century, the first seaside tourists began to flock to its beaches, fascinated by the beauty of the coastline. Since then, tourism has become the area’s main economic resource, helping to shape the modern identity of this charming Ligurian village.

The myths and legends of Cervo

Since ancient times, Cervo fishermen have distinguished themselves by finding and selling coral, a fascinating material harvested from the seabed and admired for its beauty. As early as 1499, a few boats from Cervo, called “coral boats“, plied the waters along the Tunisian coast, but the coral sold and processed between the 16th and 19th centuries came mainly from Sardinia and Corsica.

Coral fishermen would go out to sea between May and September in their fast boats to collect coral twigs in the vicinity of the islet of Mezzombre, between Corsica and Sardinia. The seventeenth century was a golden age for Cervo, with many families becoming rich through the maritime trade.

To thank God for their prosperity, the fishermen decided to build a large church dedicated to St. John. They contributed their labor and financial contributions, transporting building materials to the beach in the winter months and hauling them by hand to the place where the church would be built, the “Balzo”, a rock outcrop.

Legend has it that a fleet of more than a hundred men set out for Corsica but was hit by a deadly storm on the way back. All the ships sank, causing the death of all the sailors and giving Cervo the nickname “the land of a hundred widows“.

With the decline of coral in the late 17th century, its collection declined, but the memory of those times is preserved in the majestic church of St. John the Baptist, built through the labor and donations of coral fishermen.

How to get there and where to park in Cervo

Cervo is located less than 10km from the center of Imperia, on the coast between San Bartolomeo al Mare and Andora.

You can reach the town of Cervo in this way:

  • By car: Austrada a 10, exit at the San Bartolomeo al Mare toll booth (about 100km from Genoa).
  • By train: Genoa-Ventimiglia line, Diano station (about 3km from Cervo). Once at the station, it is possible to take a bus or cab to the village.
  • By train: there is the possibility of taking a small train from San Bartolomeo al Mare to the entrance of Cervo.
  • By boat: you can dock at the marinas of San Bartolomeo al Mare (500m from Cervo), Diano Marina (3km), Andora (4km), Imperia (10km), and Alassio (23km).
  • By plane: the nearest airports are Nice (95km) and Genoa (108km).
parking in cervo liguria

Although parking in Liguria is very difficult, we must say that there is no shortage of parking spaces in Cervo, but finding them free depends on the turnout in the village. Here is a list of parking lots in Cervo Ligure:

  • At Bellavista restaurant: Piazza Al Castello, 2, 18010 Cervo IM (free)
  • Via Solitario delle Alpi: last street on the right before Piazza Al Castello (free)
  • Piazza Castello: continuing after Piazza Castello, you will find either paid parking (on the right before the traffic circle) or free parking (just after the traffic circle)

Where to eat: the best restaurants in Cervo Ligure

where to eat in cervo italy

The traditional cuisine of Cervo Liguria respects the Mediterranean Diet, using high-quality ingredients such as fresh catch, local vegetables and herbs.

Extra virgin olive oil and Taggiasca olive juice add flavor to the dishes. Pesto and pestun du Servu are distinctive sauces, while local wines such as Ormeasco and Rossese accompany the culinary specialties of this coastal region.

Here are the best restaurants where you can taste true Ligurian cuisine in Cervo, Italy:

Cafè Ariel

Best for breakfast or appetizers

Cafe Ariel is a wonderful little place with a terrace overlooking the sea. Recommended for both breakfast and aperitifs, it is also a great option for lunches and dinners. Located right in the heart of the historic center of Cervo, it is the perfect venue for a romantic meal with a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea.

Ristorante Bar San Giorgio Cervo

Fine dining venue for lunches and dinners

If you’re looking for an extraordinary dining experience in Cervo, you can’t miss this fine dining venue, which perfectly complements the enchanting atmosphere of this medieval village in western Liguria. Here you will find exceptional dishes, masterfully created by chef Caterina Lanteri Cravet, who offers an innovative reinterpretation of traditional Ligurian cuisine. Prices are not cheap, but it is all in proportion to the quality of the dishes on offer.

Antico Frantoio Mediterraneo

Bread and oil snack

During our visit to Cervo, we snacked at a beautiful olive oil mill, enjoying homemade bread and oil of the most intense flavors: from basil-flavored oil to lemon-flavored to ginger-flavored extra virgin olive oil. Don’t forget to take home a souvenir, you’ll make a great impression!

Where to sleep: the best B&Bs and hotels in Cervo Liguria

 

If you are planning to stay in Cervo for a romantic night or for a few days in the company of your sweetheart or family, you should know that you can find several accommodations in this little paradise village. Below you will find our favorites:

Eco del Mare

The best B&B in Cervo for couples

The Eco del Mare, located in the upper part of Cervo (right next to the Castle), offers rooms with private terraces and sea views, plus an included continental breakfast. It is a favorite among couples (who rated it with a 9.9 out of 10 on Booking).

Florinda Lemon’s Suite

The best vacation home in Cervo with free private parking

Florinda Lemon’s Suite, located in Cervo, offers an air-conditioned vacation home with a garden, terrace, barbecue and free WiFi, with views of the town. The property has private parking and is 400 meters from Cervo Beach. The vacation home includes one bedroom, a living room, a well-equipped kitchenette and a bathroom complete with shower and bidet, providing towels and bed linen. A bicycle rental service is also available at Florinda Lemon’s Suite, which is 500 meters from Marina De Re Beach and 600 meters from Le Ciapellette Beach, respectively.

Cluxury-Torre dei Saraceni

The boutique apartment overlooking the sea

Torre dei Saraceni BOUTIQUE APT BY THE SEA Beach, Pool, Parking, located in Cervo, offers a seasonal outdoor pool, a garden and a private beach. The air-conditioned, free WiFi accommodation has two bedrooms, a kitchen complete with dishwasher and microwave, a washing machine, and a bathroom with bidet and hairdryer. Bed linen and towels are included. In addition, the vacation home offers a terrace for guests to relax.

Weather, climate and temperatures in Cervo Ligure

Located in Liguria, halfway between San Remo and Alassio along the Riviera, Cervo is right on the sea in the Gulf of Diano Marina. It is surrounded by hills of olive trees and mountains covered with Mediterranean vegetation.

cervo ligure

The climate here is very healthy thanks to air rich in marine iodine from the sea and oxygen from the mountains, with pleasant temperatures that allow bathing until October. The stable temperatures, abundant sunshine, low humidity and absence of industry and traffic make Cervo a perfect place for a healthy vacation, ideal not only in summer but throughout the year.

Here is what is the average temperature in Cervo and rainy days by season:

MonthHigh / Low(°C)Rain
January13° / 8°4 days
February13° / 8°3 days
March15° / 9°3 days
April16° / 11°5 days
May21° / 15°4 days
June24° / 18°1 day
July26° / 21°1 day
August27° / 21°1 day
September24° / 18°2 days
October21° / 15°5 days
November16° / 11°5 days
December13° / 8°4 days

Cervo village Liguria: Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the medieval village of Cervo located?

The village of Cervo is located in Liguria, 10 km from the center of Imperia. In the northeastern part of Italy. About 1.30h by car from Milan and 1 hour from the French border.

How is the Cervo beach?

Cervo Ligure beach is loved by adults and children alike, with its sand mixed with light-colored pebbles. The numerous services and impeccable cleanliness of the sea and beach make it a popular beach destination. The beach consists of pebble and fine sand, and the water quality has been rated “excellent.”

What are the best beaches in Cervo?

Among the beaches in the area, Capo Cervo is renowned for its rocky shoreline and the majestic Saracen Tower that dominates the landscape, while Le Ciappellette is characterized by its rocky seabed and rich vegetation, earning the prestigious Blue Flag award.

How far is Cervo from the sea?

From Cervo you can reach the beach of Capo Cervo by a walk of about 15 to 20 minutes through the most beautiful streets of the old town and along the shoreline for about 800m.

What to eat in Cervo Liguria?

The traditional cuisine of Cervo Liguria is renowned for fully respecting the rules of the Mediterranean Diet, using high-quality ingredients such as the catch of the day, vegetable pies, artichokes, fresh pasta, stockfish buridda, ravioli di magro, pasta with borage and rabbit Ligurian style.
Dishes are enriched with aromatic Mediterranean herbs such as basil, thyme, marjoram, oregano, sage and rosemary, and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, a real added value for any meal by the sea, under the moon or at a picnic in the meadows. The fragrant juice of Taggiasca olives, harvested and pressed in local mills, adds additional flavor.
Local cuisine offers many herb-based sauces, with pesto, made with basil, standing out as the star. Another traditional sauce is pestun du Servu, awarded De.Co. status in 2011, made with fresh broad beans, perfect to accompany bread, bruschetta, cod, meats and boiled vegetables.
The culinary specialties are paired with excellent local wines such as Ormeasco, Rossese, Red and the great whites of western Liguria, including Vermentino D.O.C. and Pigato, produced on the hills of the area.

Village of Cervo in Liguria: conclusions

what to see in cervo liguria in one day

Here we come to the end of this article on Cervo. Listed among the “Most Beautiful Villages of Italy” and the “Plus Beaux Villages de France“, it is a charming medieval seaside village, protected by 16th-century towers and walls and surrounded by hills.

Its carruggi lead to glimpses of the sea and shady gardens, while the historic center, accessible only on foot, preserves centuries-old buildings, small squares and cobblestone alleys.

Here time flows more slowly, offering relaxed rhythms and stays that are an ideal recharge and a return to quiet living.

Andrea Semonella

Hey! I'm Andrea and I am a little bit obsessed with exploring the world and meeting people on the road. I'm in love with my city, and I'm happy to share with you all the best place and most incredible secrets of Genoa, Italy.

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