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San Michele di Pagana

Located along the road that connects Rapallo to Santa Margherita Ligure, beyond the tourist port, the hamlet of San Michele di Pagana is one of the most beautiful corners of Liguria. The crystal clear sea, the pine tree canopies reflecting in the water, the villas scattered on the hillside and the old fishermen’s houses on the beach give it a unique image that enchants San Michele di Pagana visitors.

The bays of Pomaro, Travello (Trelo) and Prelo, with their small beaches and all the cliffs that connect them, are a favourite spot for Rapallo and foreign bathers in summer.

The attractiveness of the hamlet is not only paesaggiastica, as San Michele boasts an ancient parish church inside which valuable paintings are housed, including ‘The Crucifixion’ by Anton Van Dyck.

The hamlet’s cemetery also has a number of historically and artistically valuable monuments in its upper part, and is a particularly attractive place, surrounded by the Parco della Rimembranza, overlooking the sea among centuries-old maritime pines.

The village probably dates back to Roman times, as would appear from the recent discovery on the seabed of an ancient and primitive harbour and precious artefacts such as ancient vases and amphorae.

On Punta Pagana stands the Saracen tower, whose construction was decided in 1562 by the Senate of the Republic of Genoa, to defend the creeks from pirate raids. The decision was made following the pirate Dragut’s assault on the village of Rapallo and the tower was, like the Antico Castello, part of the Tigullio Gulf defence complex. Today, the Saracen tower is owned by the FAI, Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano, which has been restoring and preserving it since the 1980s and organises visits on certain occasions.

On the same promontory is also the Castle of Punta Pagana, built in 1625 as a defence against possible attacks by French-Piedmontese troops during the period of hostilities between the Genoese Republic and Charles Emmanuel I of Savoy. The castle, with the villa and the park surrounding it, is now owned by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and cannot be visited.

St Michael’s ChurchThe patron saint is St Michael Archangel, who is celebrated on 29 September. In the days leading up to the festivities, a popular patron saint’s festival is organised on the beach, with gastronomic stands and a rowing race between Ligurian gozzo boats.

Patronal Festival Dates 2016:


The church of San Michele di Pagana

The church was built, probably on the remains of a pre-existing pagan building, in 1133, as shown by two inscriptions near the main door. It underwent subsequent alterations in the early 17th century, then in the second half of the 18th century and in 1872, when a terrible fire caused severe damage to the sacristy and sacred furnishings. The interior has a single nave. with three altars on each side, each enriched by a large pictorial image; among these is a particularly valuable canvas, painted by the painter Van Dyck, during his stay in San Michele di Pagana between 1621 and 1624. The painting depicts the Crucifixion of Jesus between Saints Francis and Bernard and Francesco Orero (a local nobleman and donor of the painting to the church). Also preserved, thanks to a spontaneous donation by the Genoese Spinola family, are two Flemish tablets from the 15th century and paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries attributed to the painters Guido Reni, Luca Giordano and Guercino. The apse is adorned with two large canvases: ‘Noli me tangere’ by Santino Fortunato Nave Chiesa San MicheleTagliafichi, ‘San Michele psicopompo’ by Bernardo Castello. The high altar, by Francesco Baracca, in white Carrara marble, inlaid with polychrome marble, is surmounted by a splendid crucifix by Anton Maria Maragliano, behind which is a splendid carved walnut choir dating back to the second half of the 18th century. The rose window, donated by the Figari family in the 1950s, depicts the Apparition of Our Lady of Montallegro.

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