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Cervo, Music by the Sea

The piazza is a stage, the baroque church its backdrop. Here, during the balmy summer evenings, high enough above the beach resorts and restaurants that the sound of bustling tourists does not carry, the conductor raises his baton, taps the lectern lightly, and the delicate sound of a violin soars high into the night sky.

The link with Cervo and music dates from the 1960s, the high tide of tourism along the Italian Riviera. Visiting Cervo in 1964, the Hungarian violinist Sandor Vegh heard the excellent acoustics of that church square high above the sea. So moved was he by the crystal clarity of the reflected sound, the International Chamber Music Festival was the result. Now an appreciative audience is moved by both his vision and the beauty of classical music that is heard in Cervo every summer.

Cervo is so associated with music, that since those firat days the town has become a veritable insitution on the international circuit. Famous musicians play here; there are masterclasses for young violinists, pianist and guitarists in season and out of season. The streets often echo to the sounds of music.

The town breathes art and artistry, narrow lanes bright with the work of artisans and the rose red coral that used to be the original source of income for the fishermen’s families. Cafés and restaurants occupy open spaces from which you can enjoy the view of the Mediterranean below while eating some really good seafood.

The winters are relatively mild and summers are hot – but there’s the beach and sea right in front of you, so its perfect. The Festival Internazionale di Musica da Camera goes on through July and August. World famous musicians play, so its a must. The Festival Mediterraneo della Chitarra takes place in late June. Its actually a masterclass for guitarrists, but they put on concerts in the evenings. The Accademia Internazionale Estiva provides masterclasses for pianists and choirs; they perform for the public during the “Festival di Giovani Artisti” that takes place in the first half of September.

If you pass along the coast of Liguria, maybe rushing from Nice to Genova or Milan, get off teh freeway, go down to sea and wander around Cervo. If you can, then stay over and enjoy world class music in one of Italy’s most splendid settings. It will do you a world of good.

A little bit of history

Cervo has a fine location overlooking the sea. The Ligurians likely had a settlement here, some aspiring landowner built a Roman villa alongside the Via Julia Augusta – the Roman road leading to Monaco. Its know history begins with a note telling us it belonged to the Clavesana family, warlords who controlled this stretch of coastline for several centuries. It was the Clavesana who built the walls and small fort that protected the town from pirates. Eventually Cervo passed into the control of Genova, its history linked to that state until the Genovese Republic was handed over to the Dukes of Savoy, who eventually became the Kings of a united Italy.

In more recent times, the cascade of houses have been transformed into weekend seaside villas and apartments, many for rent in the high tourist season.

Article, photograph and video © Carl Ottersen