Bussana Vecchia is located in the Ligurian hinterland, behind Sanremo. And it is in fact a part of Sanremo, although it’s 8 km far from the city center.
You may wonder why the adjective “vecchia”(old) next to the name of this hamlet. Well, at the end of 1800 a violent earthquake almost completely destroyed what at the time was the village of Bussana.
In reading some witnesses of the time, i felt almost horrified and my mind immediately brings memories to earthquakes closer to us, the one of L’Aquila and the one in Emilia Romagna: “It was the first day of Lent, at six twentyfive. The priest here had imposed the sacred Ashes to the last arrived … when it seemed that the balmy breezes blowing moment before had of a sudden changed into a furious wind, which grew to a scary crescendo . The earth shakes, wobbles, waves for a whilw, then whirles around; we would say the mayhem: you hear different noises of fallen walls, broken timber, the iron that twists, but suddenly the variety of din, the desperate cries are won by a dull and gloomy rumble, winning all others . “
This was only the first shake. Others followed and the residents lost their homes.
The town of Sanremo closed all access to the village and after a few months in makeshift dwellings the people here helped the rebuilding of houses southern in the valley, in what today is called Bussana Nuova (new).
But what happened in Bussana? For years it remained a ghost town. No one was authorized to officially get in, but often the children of the area organized excursions among the ruins on which shrubs and vines took over.
In the 50ies was the turning point. Italian and foreign artists, attracted by the mildness of the place, the magic and charm of this village, decided to reopen the gates, to restore homes while leaving evidence of what had happened, and to establish here a “bohemian” community.
Since then, the village came back to life: the houses have been refurbished to be able to live in, always with respect for tradition and often using recycled materials; the church described in the testimony of the time is still as remained after the carnage, with walls almost intact, and part of the dome still standing; the streets are narrow and only foot traffic is allowed.
You will meet people, open and smiling, that will invite you to enter their own atelier just to take a peek, and many, many cats perched on the ruins and the dry stone walls with climbing ivy.