Savona, the city of st. Valentine, the Sistine Chapel and soap!

Savona is one of the biggest and most important cities in Liguria. It is located in the western part of the region and it is completely ignored by the tourists … unfairly! There are so many things to see there that I decided to only point out the attractions of the city. In the future, I will describe them much more. Let’s know something more about this city!


How to reach Savona?

by car – if you use A10 or  A6 or A26 motorway, it is enough to exit Savona motorway exit and then follow the indications to the city centre. More here.

by train – the Savona train station is very important in Liguria and all trains from France, Turin and Genoa stops here. More here.

Savona has about 60 000 inhabitants and it is quite a big city. However, its most important monuments are located in the quite small historical, city centre. So it is very comfortable for visiting 🙂


The first proofs of a settlement in that area came from the bronze era. Then the city was allied with Carthage. After the II Punic War, Rome Empire conquered Savona. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city was conquered by Goths, Byzantines, Lombards and Frankish (!!!). Then finally, in the XII century, Savona became an independent city. Then the Middle Ages were the period of the Saracen pirates attacks. But after that, started the best period of Savona’s history.

Between the XV and the XVI century, 2 elected popes were from Savona (Sixtus IV and Julius II). Thanks to them, the city became very powerful and blooming.However, already at the beginning of the XVI century the Republic of Genoa after long, exhausting battles, conquered Savona. From that moment the city became a part of the Republic of Genoa that after lost its independence became less and less important.

In the XIX century, Savona was a part of the French Empire. After the Napoleonic fall and unification of Italy, Savona became an Italian city 😉

During II World War Savona was heavily destroyed … especially its historical centre. Fortunately, the part of the old city of Savona was rebuilt after the war and can be admired nowadays!


The origins of the Savona’s name are not sure. Exist in different versions:

-That the name comes from ancient Ligurian word saiv or sav that meaned container of water.
-Another one, claims that name Savona comes from ancient, Celtic word sovconna that was a name of the Celtic goddess of rivers.
-The last version supports that it comes from soap (savon in French) that was produced and exported abroad for ages from Savona.

Things to see & do

The historical centre of Savona is quite small and very easy to visit. I was impressed by the number of ancient entrances and Renaissance palaces … really beautiful and impressive. You will love the stroll there.

The biggest attractions are located in via Ambrogio Aonzo. They are Savona’s Cathedral and the Chapel.

Cattedrale dell’Assunta

It was built in the XVI century after the demolition of the older church from the IX century. Inside the church, you can admire marble crucified Christ and marble baptismal font. Very beautiful is also Renaissance pulpit.

On the right side, you will see the entrance to the XVI century cloister that it is a really amazing and very beautiful place.


However, the real attraction of the church are the remains of Saint Valentine! Normally they are not visible for tourists. However, during the week before Valentines Day, remains are showed to the public.

Sistine Chapel

Next to the cathedral, in front of the cloister is located the Sistine Chapel. It was built in the XV century for the order of the pope Sixtus IV (he was the same pope that ordered to built Sistine Chapel in Rome). He was one of the Savona’s popes and after being elected he decided to create a sumptuous tomb for his parents. Unfortunately, when I was in Savona, the chapel was closed. What is more, it is opened only on weekends from 10.00am-12.30pm and 4.00pm-6.00pm. The entrance costs 2€/person.

Palazzo Gavotti

When you stroll through vicoli of the Savona’s historical centre, you can visit also a local art gallery that is located in Palazzo Gavotti. Inside you can admire many, very important masterpieces, such as paintings of Fontana, Picasso, Mirò or Man Ray. Worth to be seen. Also, the whole palace that hosts Pinacoteca is extremally beautiful. It is a noble palace built in the XV century.

Opening hours:

Monday, Tuesday – closed
Wednesday – 10.00am-1.30pm
Thursday-Friday-Saturday – 10.00am-1.30pm & 3.30pm-6.30pm
Sunday- 10.00am-1.30pm

Entrance: 8€; reduce 5€


In the past, Savona as many towns in the Middle Ages was full of tower-houses. Because of the safety reasons and because of the damages that Savona suffered during the wars, nowadays we can admire less than 10 in the whole historical centre. The most famous are:

Tower Brandale

It was built in the XII century and it is the biggest and the highest one. Its name comes from the age-old tradition of hosting the municipal flag on a pole (called brandale) on the tower. The tower hosts a bell that rung to announce the most important events of the city. The tower facade is decorated with a ceramic imagine of Our Lady of Mercy and multi-coloured fascia with the main coasts of arms of the various families and dynasties that governed the city. It is opened for tourists every Saturday from 10.00 am-12.00 pm.

Tower Corsi and tower Guarnero

They rise near to Torre Brandale and they are much slimmer than the main one. In the past, that part of the city was densely built with many other towers and houses. Now apart from 2 towers, there is a large square and the sea view. The towers were cut down after the Savona’s defeat with Genoa and rebuilt after II World War.

Tower Leon Pancaldo

Close to the sea, you will see another tower. It is much lower than the towers mentioned above. In fact, locals call it “torretta” (a small tower). It is a symbol of Savona and it was built in the XIV century and it was a part of the ancient, medieval walls of the city. The tower is dedicated to Leon Pancaldo, the sailor from Savona, who accompanied Ferdinando Magellano during his journey around the world.

Priamar Fortress

It is located next to the seashore. It is an enormous construction built in the XVI century by Genoeses. During the ages was used also by Spanish and Piedmontese during the various wars. Then became a prison. The fortress, which could house up to 500 prisoners, remained Italy’s main military prison until 1903. It is visitable and I am going to describe it in one of the next posts. It is opened from Thursday to Sunday and the opening hours change according to the season; entrance costs 5€/pers ; 3€ reduced.


– Savona was called “the city of popes” cause 2 of them came from that city (Sixtus IV and Julius II),

-in 1494 the family of Christopher Columbus lived here. Unfortunately, the house doesn’t exist nowadays,

-the remains of Saint Valentine from Savona are not the only remains that you can find around the world … you can find them also in Rome and many other places in the whole of Europe 😉

-during the XV century, Savona became one of the biggest and the most important centries of soap production. The city became the symbol of soap and became even its synonym. Nowadays savon in french means soap 😉


What can I add? You absolutely shouldn’t miss it!


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2 Replies to “Savona, the city of st. Valentine, the Sistine Chapel and soap!”

  1. We had a few days in Savona 4 years ago. It was just by luck – we were on a long trip with little booked for a week or so. We loved the place. It had a feel of ‘old Italy’ and most of all about a quarter of the tourists in the other Ligurian towns we visited. Thanks for the article.

    1. That's Liguria! says: Reply

      Thank you so much for your comment!

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