We stumbled upon this fascinating village a few years ago and have been in love with it ever since. Bussana Vecchia is a little Italian perched village inland from San Remo, roughly an hour’s drive from Nice.
The French Riviera and Italian Riviera are at the junction of south-western Alps and the Liguria basin, a region of moderate seismicity. One of the most violent earthquakes to hit the area destroyed Bussana Vecchia village in 1887. The medieval buildings were so badly damaged that, after years of living in temporary accommodation, the inhabitants abandoned the village altogether, to build Bussana Nuova on lower ground.
Bussana Vecchia became a Ghost Town until the 1960’s when and Italian artist named Mario Giani visited the ruins and first imagined creating an artistic community.
The pioneers who moved in during the 1960’s, shared a desire to create a somewhat utopic international artistic community in which nothing was bought, sold or owned, but simply shared and enjoyed. These idealists breathed life back into the beautiful old stones as they set to work on the mamouth renovation project, using only the tiles, stone and wood found in the rubble of the original village.
Running water was not installed in Bussana Vecchia until 1974 and electricity only arrived in 1978. These modern comforts brought an influx of new artists drawn by the concept of an artistic community composed of like-minded free spirits. However, this transition also marked the end of a chapter for most of the original bunch of hippy residents.
Over the past 5 decades, local authorities have attempted to evict the squatting artists on many occasions, even resorting to destroying the staircases of every house. Despite these unpleasant confrontations, the artists have made the village their home, workshop and inspiration.
Today most of the old buildings have been at least partially renovated, while others have been left in their beautifully ruined state. The streets are full of art galleries, workshops, boutiques, family-run restaurants and B&B’s. No visit has ever been the same and each time we discover new and enchanting angles.
If you would like to explore Bussana Vecchia with Friend in France contact us to arrange a half day excursion from Nice or any other Riviera departure point. A 5 hour outing would offer enough time to get there and back, wander the streets, browse the art galleries and enjoy an Italian lunch at one of the village restaurants.
There are four restaurants to choose from within the village, although their opening hours have, in the past, proven a little erratic.
La Casaccia – A little restaurant overlooking the valley, specialising in grilled and spit-roast meats.
Osteria artistes de David – A restaurant with a lovely terrace offering sea and valley views. Good quality local food and live music in the evenings.
Piazzetta gourmands par Luca – Very sweet little place, perfect for coffee and a snack or homemade cake.
Open Sesame – A vegetarian restaurant serving fresh organic food with a courtyard terrace in the ruins for summer alfresco dining and an open fire for winter dinners.
Artists currently exhibiting, working or living in the village include :
For those wanting to extend the sightseeing tour, other interesting towns and villages along the way include, Seborga, Dolceacqua, Ventimiglia, Menton, Eze village and Monaco.