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Home » La Francesca: a 60-year (or maybe 1000?) Story

La Francesca: a 60-year (or maybe 1000?) Story

The La Francesca Resort is located in Eastern Liguria, between Portovenere and Portofino. It is a land of contrasts, colours, and scents that gives the landscape a particular charm. In any season, La Francesca is a small oasis away from the noise, concrete and pollution, ideal for those who want to spend their time pleasantly, without haste, in close contact with nature. A beloved place, perhaps unique in the world, where on clear winter days the gaze sweeps from Corsica to Monviso. An indomitable, enchanting nature, gives the landscape a particular charm. La Francesca is a toponym already present in the chronicles of 1584 and in the cartography of Matteo Vinzoni of 1722.

The origin of this female name for a garden in the rock, a forest of fragrant pines that unfolds in crags towards the sea that laps it, a strip of land exposed to the sun and the south wind… is unknown. In the summer of 1953, a young Milanese lady-Gloria Bortolotti De Poli, my mother-not yet thirty, who had lived intensely the years of the Resistance and the difficult post-war period and worked in the nascent advertising industry, was looking for in the last strip of the Riviera di Levante a “place” where the greatest of his many dreams could come true. In Riomaggiore, she met a nonconformist priest, who directed her to Bonassola. That was how Gloria discovered La Francesca. The owners and co-owners of the estate were 32 in all. Some of them emigrated to Chile! It took four years to buy it.

Levanto (Cinque Terre)
Levanto (Cinque Terre)

How the idea of the Resort was born

Certainly, for this reason, there is a rose in the coat of arms. For this purpose, the “high plain” and the three crags, today occupied by the management building and the garden of the citrus, were separated from the soccer field and tennis courts; for irrigating the crops, the “pond” was dug, the basin where the swimming pool is today. But the difficulties in communicating and transporting the flowers slowed down the project too much. In the meantime, a Dutch tourist agency contacted my mother looking for holiday homes in Liguria. So the new idea of building 34 “suspended” villas on pillars started, so as not to excavate and flatten, as was the custom then, while the wooden veranda of the old Hotel Union in Courmayeur was being demolished, the initial nucleus of the first restaurant.

In the spring of 1961, La Francesca, a historic place, a copper mine from the Middle Ages to the Second World War, then abandoned land, was reborn as one of the first tourist villages in Italy. The 55 houses (villas and apartments) have a sea view and are facing south, scattered in a park of 15 hectares (an average of 800 square metres per person). The microclimate, dry and sunny for most of the year, is cool and breezy in summer.

Cinque Terre - View

Rustic "hotel galleries"

Scattered throughout the park, as if to underline the beauty of the surrounding landscape, in a kind of rustic “hotel gallery”, we find sculptures, panels, bas-reliefs, statues, and various “artistic” traces. The most impressive sculpture is undoubtedly “La Deposizione”, from 1947. It is in white Carrara marble, housed in the “chapel”, where we also find a youthful bronze portrait of Gloria. The sculptor, Timo Bortolotti, Gloria’s father, had great fame in the Thirties. He won, among other things, the Grand Prize for sculpture at the Paris International Exhibition in 1937. Many of his works are present in museums and private collections. Some of his monuments are also visible in Italian squares. By the same author: Nike (1938), a large female head in red por fido; at the reception entrance; and in the restaurant La Canzone Marinara, a bronze female half bust from 1936.

Outside the Baretto, the Mani tiles that work are by Dodi Bortolotti Rezzoli, daughter of art and sister of Gloria, original sculptress and portrait painter of exquisite precision. His are also the bas-reliefs in polychrome ceramic that adorn the outdoor terrace of the restaurant: “Il bevitore e Fiaschi”, exhibited at the X Triennale d’Arte in Milan in 1954. The sculptures-again by Dodi-in olive wood, a playful intertwining of animals and humans, placed in the dining room, are also enriched by themed paintings (among others, The Colours of Francesca di Migneco) dating back to the early 1980s. The anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures in Pietra Serena (one of the best-known limestone varieties), cheerful and winking in the playground area, are by the nave sculptor Maddaleni, from Garfagnana.

A beautiful view from one of La Francesca Resort villa/apartment
A beautiful view from one of La Francesca Resort villa/apartment

Cinque Terre

La Francesca is also the ideal starting point for exploring the “mythical” Cinque Terre – reachable in a few minutes by train from the nearby Levanto station. The farmers who built the Cinque Terre over the centuries have created a landscape that is unique in the world; thanks to the strength of the arms alone, which followed one another for generations, the characteristic terraces that descend from the top of the hills to the sea have taken shape and developed. The terraces or “fasce-bands” are supported by a network of 4,000 km of dry stone walls, only stones and earth; the first cleverly wedged together, the second-placed above the walls to make it possible to grow vines and gardens.

 In addition, the vineyards gilded by the sun, and scented with salt, are a surprising spectacle that one can only discover by walking along the tiny paths and steep stairways carved into the rock, the only form of communication between the cultivated land and the villages. “Certainly, the entire Ligurian coastal region in the Cinque Terre area is a high-value landscape and cultural heritage. The layout and conformation of the small villages and terraces on the surrounding hills, built overcoming the difficulties of steep and steep terrain, clearly embodies the history and culture of the settlements of this region over the course of a millennium … “.

La Francesca Resort
One of several villas/apartments at La Francesca Resort

Conclusion

UNESCO, which designated the Cinque Terre as a World Heritage Site in 1997, provides a brief description of the region’s 4,200 hectares and 5,000 residents. The five villages, for those coming from Francesca, are in order: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Portovenere closes the coastline, another jewel at the mouth of the Gulf of Poets (so-called because it was already frequented 200 years ago by Byron, Shelley and Keats).

in short, if you want to know more about Cinque Terre or the story of La Francesca Resort, click here. 

However, look at our Blog, if you want to know more about the culture of any other country.

Author: Marco De Poli (La Francesca Resort)

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