Pietra Ligure is a nice city in the Ligurian Riviera di Ponente (western coast), near to the town where I and my wife spend our summer vacation.
Its name comes from the ancient stone castle that rises on a rocky ledge (in Latin: Castrum et Oppidum Petrae; in Italian: La Pietra, in Ligurian dialect: A Prïa). The famous italian romantic poet Ugo Foscolo, setting for in Pietra Ligure, a part of his novel “The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis”.
A peculiarity of this city, is to have its own parish church, dedicated to a saint from Apulia: San Nicola of Bari – which, as anyone knows, is the inspiration behind the character of Santa Claus -.
The reason would be this: the construction of the church was determined by citizenship following the miracle of deliverance from the Plague made, according to legend, by St. Nicola of Bari in 1525. However, people could not decide where to build the church, up to half of the eighteenth century, when the Republic of Genoa sent a cartographer, who established that the site would be on the beach in front of the village.
The project was designed by the Genoese architect Giovanni Battista Montaldo, who imagined a single-nave church with a domical vaulted roof, six side chapels and two bell towers.
Like many churches, the construction went on for centuries: they began in 1750 and stopped in 1791 when, though unfinished, and with only one tower, the church was dedicated. In 1792 was installed the chorus made in brown walnut wood, originally in the cathedral of Marseille, survived the fire hung over the revolutionary events and bought by the captain of a Pietra Ligure’s ship .
In 1814, at the end of Napoleonic domination, the work resumed and continued until 1992, exactly two hundred years after the start. That same year, the Church of San Nicolò, was elevated the rank of Basilica (that’s of major church).
Today, the Basilica overlooking a beautiful and sunny square, planted with laurel trees.