The name derives from the Latin "Gavium" , the name of the "pagus" (a rural settlement) that the Romans built here. It is a town in the province of Alexandria, located on the right bank of the river Lemme, at the point in which it meets the Rio Neirone. The old town is dominated by a massive fortress, from where it was possible to dominate and admire the whole the valley with its the forests and vineyards and the nearby Castagnola pass. Gavi preserves ancient culinary traditions and is famous for its ravioli, a delicatessen born here, back in the XII century. It is also well known for its production of fine wine, such as "il Cortese".
The presence of the first Ligurian settlements in the area is proven by the discovery of artifacts dating back to 2000 B.C., the Romans later built a village and a road along the river Lemme, which was connected to the important Via Emilia. After the fall of the Roman Empire the area was occupied by the Saracens. At the time of the Marquis of Orbetenghi Alberto Gavi the town was equipped with a mighty wall and was for a long period contested between Tortona, Pavia and Genoa, while the latter, thanks to a clever and consistent policy, managed to turn it into its outpost between imperial fiefs, offered also by its strategic trading position. After a period under the dominion of the Visconti and a brief period under the rule of the French and the Guasco of Alexandria, in the early XVI century it returned to Genoa.
Not to miss:
- the Church of San Giacomo Maggiore, built in Romanesque style, in local sandstone. It is mentioned for the first time in a document dating back to 1172. It was restored during the XVII and XVIII centuries. The façade is embellished with a series of double mullioned windows, a rose window and in the bezel that overcomes the lintel is depicted the Last Supper. It features a one larger central nave, flanked by two smaller aisles, separated by columns;
- the Franciscan Monastery di Valle, built in the XVIII century on the remains of an existing building, which was a hospice for pilgrims and dedicated to San Bernardino. It preserves inside a wooden statue depicting the ecstasy of St. Francis, a marble statue dating from the early XVIII century, attributed to Bovo, a statue representing San Bernardino and a painting depicting the Virgin, both dating from the XV century. It also features a valuable cloister and XVIII century collection of pieces of furniture;
- the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Guardia, a Greek cross plan building, erected in 1861 on a hill in a dominant position. It keeps within a wooden statue depicting Our Lady of the Guardia, an artwork of 1746;
- the Church of Santa Maria, built around year 1000, where probably once stood an earlier pagan temple near the Lemme. Originally it featured three naves, of which, today, it preserves only one;
- the Fortress, an imposing building overlooking the ancient village built on a design of the Friar Gaspare Maculano and the architect Bianco; the building, already mentioned in a document of the year 1000, was enlarged with six mighty ramparts and a series of fortifications began in 1540;
- the Town Hall, a fine old building with medieval arches.