Its a good bet you haven’t heard of the family called Fieschi. You might be surprised at their vaunted place in history. I was. I mean the family supplied to the world two popes and 72 cardinals!
So Mike and Martha of A Path to Lunch loaded us into the car and we went merrily towards lunch in Lavagna, as we covered in our last post, Eating Lavagna. Mike is interesting in odd stuff and crumbly history like me, but just to warm up he led us to Santo Stephano, where we peeked into the church on a Sunday morning. Light was streaming in. The mass was in full swing. There was a golden glow:
But the surprise was just up the hill in the Cimitero Monumentale. The dead got the good view.
But then we headed down and looked at the boats bobbing in the harbor, returning to Panificio Vaccarezza across from the open air mini market because Mike saw a sign. They had a famous cake. The celebrated wedding cake of the Fieschi clan.
Of course we had to try it, so after purchasing the bit you see in the picture we turned into an alleyway lined with all manner of overflowing trash containers and each of us solemnly chomped down as the cake was offered us. Mike played the part of Sinibaldo Fieschi, who became Pope Innocenzo IV in 1244, offering the cake to the peasants in their traditional environment.
It was ok if you were hungry.
But there’s the thing. Come here during the dog days of August and you can celebrate this sweet, um, delight. The festival Torta Fieschi commemorates Count Opizzo Fieschi and Bianca de Bianchi’s wedding day in 1230, when Opizzo invited nearly everyone to share a cake that that spiraled to a height of 30 feet until someone could figure out how to cut the darned thing down to manageable size.
During the festival everyone dresses up in medieval garb who’s got that kinda thing hanging in the back of the closet. Everyone else buys a ticket. And now, if I am reading the Internet tea leaves right, here’s the part where the lovelorn amongst you can have a medieval field day.
The traditional cake is offered only to those who, in possession of a ticket, find his or her soul mate (anima gemella) in possession of the matching ticket. The aim is to find the person of the opposite sex with an identical ticket so you can romantically receive your slice of Fieschi cake together. ~ Beautiful Liguria
But before you get all involved in rehearsing what you’re going to whisper in your anima gamella’s ear after you’ve devoured your cake, you’ll want to follow along, because there’s something quite special just down the road. The quiet little Borgo of San Salvatore di Cogorno awaits. The whole deal was built by the Fieschis, of course.
Anchoring the little piazza is the Basilica di San Salvatore dei Fieschi, begun by Sinibaldo Fieschi and finished by Ottobono Fieschi, who became Pope Adriano V in 1276. In front is the typical pebble mosaic you find in Liguria. Marble and slate make the stripes in the facade. It’s Romanesque, so there are some carvings as well. Cats will likely be everywhere.
And the rose window is nice.
You can’t imagine the peacefulness of the place. You and your anima gamella would find it perfect, I’m sure. If not, there’s always the cake.
For more information on Liguria, see our Liguria Map and Guide