03 - Urban traits

By walking along the streets of the Borgo, you will get a clear idea of the layout of the Medieval settlement, which was built around and along a perpendicular cross-roads with the two main roads leading straight to the main gates.
The town was built around a central kernel, with houses set out according to a comb-like plan on three rows and lined up along the high street which stretches between the Carretta Gate and the Piazza del Tribunale, literally the Law Courts Square.
The centre is then framed by a chessboard-like layout of districts to the south of the carrubeus rectus, o “carruggio dritto”, literally straight alleyway, currently called Via Nicotera, which stretches out towards the West Gate.
The narrow medieval alleyways opened onto small public areas, called ‘plateas’. Besides the central squares called Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza del Grano, literally Herbs Square and Corn Square, Medieval sources mention a platea Sancte Catherine, a platea Sancti Blasii and a platea Palatii, the latter being the modern-day square in front of Law Courts.
Demolitions carried out halfway through the 15th century, later stratifications and the fact that houses have been in constant use over the centuries have gradually modified the layout of the Borgo, which now appears to be mostly affected by 19th-century changes.
Private houses, public buildings and places of worship in the town were mostly built in Finale stone quarried in Verezzi and the Aquila Valley.
From the beginning of the 16th Century, when the vaulted space beneath the Medieval houses was closed off, decorations in Finale stone were replaced by gateways and overdoors made of slate, which were often embellished with religious or classical motifs, such as heads of Roman emperors. These decorative elements are typical of Ligurian sculpture, and came from the workshops of local artists and craftsmen, who worked in larger and smaller towns alike.
Painted facades are another typical feature of Liguria, whence the definition of ‘painted village’. Up until the last century, the front of most houses, both wealthy and not, were decorated with colourful painted-on architecture. A charming example of this is the so-called ‘house of the dwarfs’ in Via Torcelli, with its fairy-tale style decoration of alternating chequered squares and impressively realistic floral paintings.