Andora is located in the far western part of the province of Savona between Laigueglia and Cervo, and its many hamlets are dotted along the lower valley of the river Merula and on the coast between Capo Mele and Capo Cervo; it has a population of almost 7,000. From an economy mainly focused on agriculture (peach orchards, olive groves and various crops) developed in its large inland areas, the town has gradually assumed its own tourist identity, developing a new economy in the sixties.
The medieval hamlet of Castello, which includes the castle-fortress built under the orders of the Marquises of the Clavesana family in the 12th century and the Church of Saints Philip and James in late Romanesque-Gothic style, is one of the most important, stunning and best preserved collection of monuments in the whole of Liguria.
Andora has a continuously expanding port located in the East, at the entrance to the city; the bay has a low and sandy bed (also rich in ancient artefacts, as well as a splendid variety of underwater environments, visited under the guidance of diving experts), close to the beaches. Among the products par excellence of this zone, we have the wonderfully fragrant basil, the main ingredient of Ligurian “pesto”, olive oil and wine.
History tells that Andora was founded by the Phoenicians in the seventh-eighth century BC, to create a safe haven and a base for the transportation of salt harvested in the salt fields in Corsica. In the fifth century B.C., Andora and the Merula Valley formed a separate community. Invaded by hordes of barbarians and the Goths in 951, in 1091 it became the territory of the Marquis of Vasco and in 1125 it was taken over by the Clavesana family, who built a defence fortification, the Andora Castle, in a privileged position on top of a hill that dominated (and dominates) the valley and also allowed them to control who travelled along the Roman road. The castle, sold to Genoa in 1252, acquired even more importance for several centuries but was then abandoned.
The Church of Saints Philip and James, a remarkable architectural work of the late Romanesque era (slightly gothic), was built around the second half of the thirteenth century. It is likely that the same architects worked on both the Albenga Cathedral (built between 1255 and 1289) and the Andora Church as the shape and a number of details are extremely similar. It has a façade with a single portal and three windows, and has three apses at the rear surmounted by small arches. The three internal aisles have pointed arches supported by massive carved columns. The castle Tower alongside the church, which also dates back to the thirteenth century (built by the Clavesana family in around 1230, was restored in the nineteenth century). In this same area, on top of the hill where the village is located, you can find other excellent architectural works such as the “Paraxu” (full of charm though now completely in ruins), which was initially used as the palace of the Clavesana family and then became the residence of the Genoese governor, the remains of a tower perhaps dating back prior to the year one thousand, and the Church of St. Nicholas, rebuilt in the Baroque era, where part of the walls highlight traces of works from the twelfth century. Andorra Castle (which now houses a restaurant and a piano bar) is a fortification dating back to the twelfth century. In 1252 it fell under Genoa rule, together with Albenga. There is also another defence structure, the Saracen tower, which is in excellent condition and overlooks Via Aurelia; it is a bastion built in the early 1500s as a defence system against the invasion of Barbarians from the sea, and now houses a stunning restaurant.
Colla Micheri and hinterland. The ancient village of Colla Micheri (partly owned and residence of the famous Norwegian navigator and ethnologist Thor Heyerdhal) dominates Andora and Alassio from its position on ths hill. This picturesque hamlet, which comes under the Municipality of Andora, was built on the crossing point Via Julia Augusta. In the area between the monumental Castle complex and the Genoa-Ventimiglia motorway, you can also find a Roman fountain which is in excellent condition and an example of the minor architectural works scattered along the communication routes. It is probably of medieval origin like the Roman bridge, with its three humpback arches, that can be seen as you travel along the left bank of the Merula River. Not far away we can find the Church of St. John, perhaps the oldest ecclesiastical example, around which the first settlement arose in the valley. As we move towards the centre of the Merula Valley we come to the small municipality of Stellanello. The cemetery of St. George boasts some masonry works that date back to the 1100-1200 period. An eighteenth century parish church dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul can be found in the main square of the equally small municipality of Testico, in a hilly area between Andora and Alassio. Finally, the village of Rolla is also particularly stunning with its Holy Trinity Church and the fifteenth-century castle. The former was originally a chapel, rebuilt in Baroque style between 1616 and 1634. The latter was the former seat of the local Court and is currently the local Rectory: yet another fine example of the defence structures visible along the Ligurian coast.