The Val di Vara: Discovering Liguria’s Green Lungs

The Val di Vara, located along the course of the river of the same name in La Spezia, is often referred to as the “green lung” of Liguria because its forests make up 80% of the region’s total forested area. Flowers, woods, pristine nature, and the Vara River define this valley, which has been dedicated to reclaiming its territory for organic production and high-quality residential settlements. Over the years, the Val di Vara has become known for its organic production of meat, milk, yogurt, cheese, vegetables, and fruits, earning it a significant designation as the “Valley of Organic.”

It is here that Pietro Picetti works, the artisan who shapes and carves wooden molds for stamping croxetti: small pasta discs to be dressed with pesto or oil and cheese, featuring simple decorations, initials, or heraldic crests, demonstrating that even home cooking here is noble.

Varese Ligure, with its medieval bridge at the entrance of the town, and the other two villages of Pignone and Brugnato, are the “Bandiere Arancioni” (Orange Flags) of the valley. These designations are awarded by the Touring Club to small inland localities distinguished for their excellent offerings and quality hospitality. Indeed, as you cross the valley, you realise that it is indeed “orange” throughout: environmental sustainability and organic production accompany you consistently, with increasing intensity as you ascend towards the upper valley and Varese Ligure.

Undoubtedly, when traveling through these valleys, whether on foot along their numerous trails or by car, you sense a certain serenity. It is here that you’ll also find the Valle del Lagorara in the Alta Val di Vara: ten thousand years of history surrounding a jasper quarry immersed in nature.

Perhaps it’s the layout of the villages, perhaps the winding streams… who knows if prehistoric humans who frequented the Lagorara Quarry and inhabited Monte Dragnone already felt the charm and taste of ancient Liguria back then.

Monte Dragnone, a small peak of hard ophiolitic rock rising amidst a softer clay terrain, owes its toponym (which strongly resembles “drago” or “dracon” in Greek) to ancient beliefs from the East or Middle East, dating back to a time when Christianity had not yet supplanted Earth-based cults. The dragon is a feminine sexual symbol associated with water. The slopes of Monte Dragnone are indeed rich in springs and sources, from which flows clear water with excellent organoleptic characteristics.

Monte Dragnone can be reached from Pieve di Zignago, a location inland of La Spezia. The Lagorara Quarry is accessible from Santa Maria, a small village in the municipality of Maissana, also inland of La Spezia.