It is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, and you can see why when you visit its old stone houses, baroque church, and scenic beaches. Cervo houses only 1,200 souls but still feels so grand in so many ways.
Part of the Riviere, Cervo overlooks the blue Ligurian sea. It is a member of the I Borghi più belli d'Italia, the Most Beautiful Villages of Italy association, and it's easy to see why.
With its ancient stone houses, narrow cobbled streets, colourful flowers, and stunning views, Cervo is where time seems to stand still and history comes alive.
Here are some of the must-sees in Cervo and the surrounding areas:
Centro Storico di Cervo
Cervo's historic centre is the town's heart and soul. Here, you can wander through the pedestrianized alleys and admire the architecture and atmosphere of a bygone era. You can also visit some local shops and galleries that showcase the craftsmanship and creativity of the inhabitants.
Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista
The church of Saint John the Baptist is the symbol of Cervo and one of the most beautiful examples of Ligurian baroque art. The church was built in the 18th century on the ruins of an older chapel and features a striking facade with statues, columns, and marble decorations. The interior is equally impressive, with frescoes, paintings, and a richly carved wooden choir. The church also hosts various yearly musical events, including the prestigious International Festival of Chamber Music.
Oratorio di Santa Caterina
The Oratory of Saint Catherine is another remarkable religious building in Cervo. It dates back to the 13th century and was originally part of a hospital run by the Knights of Rhodes. The oratory contains some 18th-century frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Saint Catherine and other saints.
Castello dei Clavesana
The castle of Clavesana is the oldest building in Cervo and was once the residence of the local lords, who ruled over the town from the 11th to the 16th century. The castle incorporates an ancient stone tower built in Roman times as part of the Via Aurelia, a road that connected Italy with France and Spain. Today, the castle houses the Ethnographic Museum of Western Liguria, which displays objects and documents related to the culture and traditions of the region.
If you want to enjoy the sun and sea, head to Bagni L'Angolo, one of the best beaches in Cervo. This beach club offers sunbeds, umbrellas, showers, changing rooms, and a bar-restaurant where you can taste some delicious seafood dishes. The beach is pebbly but clean and clear, and you can also rent kayaks, paddle boards, or pedal boats to explore the coast.
Porto Maurizio is a charming town about 15 kilometres west of Cervo. It's part of Imperia, the province's capital city, but it has its own identity and history. Roman settlers founded Porto Maurizio, later becoming an essential maritime centre under Genoese rule. You can visit its old town, Parasio, which is perched on a hill and surrounded by walls. Here, you can admire some medieval churches, such as Santa Maria Maggiore and San Maurizio, as well as some elegant palaces and villas.
Dolceacqua is another beautiful village that belongs to the I Borghi più belli d'Italia association. It's about 30 kilometres north of Cervo, in the Nervia valley. Dolceacqua is famous for its medieval bridge over the river Nervia and its castle that dominates from above. Claude Monet painted the bridge in 1884 and was fascinated by its graceful arches. The castle dates back to the 12th century and was once owned by the Doria family, one of the most powerful clans in Genoa. You can visit its rooms and dungeons and enjoy a panoramic view from its terrace.
How to get to Cervo
Cervo is easily accessible by car or train from major cities in Italy or France. Driving from Genoa or Nice, you can take the A10 motorway, Autostrada dei Fiori, and exit at San Bartolomeo al Mare. From there, follow the signs for Cervo along the SS1 road, Via Aurelia. The journey takes about an hour and a half, whether you drive from Genoa or Nice.
If you are travelling by train, you can take the regional or intercity trains that connect Genoa and Ventimiglia and stop at Cervo-San Bartolomeo station. You can walk or take a bus from there to the town centre. The train ride takes about an hour and 15 minutes from Genoa and 45 minutes from Ventimiglia.
When to visit Cervo
If you want to avoid the crowds and the heat, the spring, April to May, and the autumn, October to November, are good alternatives, as the weather is still mild and pleasant. If you are interested in the musical events, check the dates of the festivals, which usually take place between July and September.