Tellaro in the province of La Spezia is one of the most poetic villages in Liguria in Northern Italy and certainly one of the most beautiful villages in Europe. It is a fishing village overlooking the sea, and in reality, it is a fraction of the largest Lerici village. Its small port has always remained the same over the centuries.
The village of pastel-colored buildings is perched on the rocks, so much so that to reach it one needs to overcome numerous obstacles and navigate a winding road that passes along the rocky coves. Alternatively, there are the downhill paths from Lerici cross terraces and vineyards that reach the marina.
The origins of Tellaro in Liguria are buried in the olive groves behind what remains of the villages of Barbazzano and Portesone. These are two ancient villages (at least as much as Lerici) hidden in the hill at a safe distance from the sea from which in ancient times it was wise to keep away from.
Barbazzano was an important fortified village intended to protect the landing place in Tellaro and the Curtis. That is, it was the place for collecting local products located in Portesone. But its settlements never lived completely calm.
In those days, in fact, the villages by the sea were exposed to the continuous danger of incursions by pirates. They sailed the sea with light fast ships equipped with huge sails and would suddenly disembark, choosing above all the coasts the most isolated, smallest, and most defenseless villages, just as Tellaro was.
There was only one way to defend from pirates: always keep a good guard, keep sentries on guard that watched over the top of specially-built towers or from the windows of taller houses. Legend has it that Barbazzano was destroyed by a pirate raid on the night of Christmas Eve, and the transfer of his parish to Tellaro has a precise date, that of April 9, 1574.
The twentieth century was the century that consecrated the beauty of Tellaro and its coast, chosen as a residence by David Herbert Lawrence and then by Mario Soldati (an Italian book writer). On the threshold of the new millennium came the seal of approval. The village of Tellaro was included among the hundred most beautiful villages in Italy.
The legend of the octopus
The story goes that as soon as the pirate ships were seen, the inhabitants of Tellaro gave the alarm. They ran towards the church and rang the bells. It happened that a furious storm arose one winter evening. The sea thundered and beat against the cliff. The high waves crashed on the rocks and reached the upper floors of the houses.
Around midnight, when everyone was sleeping despite the thunder and the lightning, suddenly the bells of the church on the promontory begin to ring. In a few seconds, the Tellaresi were awake. The younger ones were already out. They ran to the church. It thundered, flashed, and the rain fell sideways seeming like it was the end of the world.
They arrived at the bell tower and opened the small doors. The bells continued to ring desperately. But an incredible thing happened. There was no sexton and no one playing them. There wasn’t even bell ropes. In the brightness of the lightning, they saw the ropes of the bells hanging outside the window of the bell tower.
A huge octopus had entangled itself and pulled the ropes with desperate force from its 8 tentacles. This also helped with the violence of the waves that seemed to tear it away from time to time.
In the meantime, a short distance away in the light of the flashes, the pirates were approaching. There was no time to seek help from nearby villages. The moment was terrible. Samuel, the oldest in the village, remembered the abundance of oil in reserve and had an idea.
Quickly, a large number of jars were transported to the sub-porticoes. The oil was poured into the copper cauldrons and arranged in a row, and then a large fire was quickly lit under each one. The pirates were approaching.
When the pirates finally disembarked and began suspiciously and cautiously to climb the harbor chute, the villagers turned all the cauldrons of boiling oil on them.
The facade of the church of Tellaro carved in slate reminds the Tellarese of their octopus savior.
Recurring events in 2020
Among the events in the Tellaro 2020 calendar is the Octopus Festival which recalls the famous popular legend and takes place every year on the second Sunday of August organized by the local Sports Union.
To get to Tellaro, drive up to Serzana and from here follow the signs for Lerici and then Tellaro. By train, get off at Sarzana or La Spezia connected to Lerici by a regular bus service. From here depart the shuttles that reach Tellaro in 15 minutes or else take the paths that go down to the port.
If the COVID-19 will grant it, I will participate. Will you?