Etymology and the name Chiavari

About the etymology of Chiavari, there have been various proposals in the past which have caused some confusion. In the 1980s however there was an important study, which still enjoys general consideration, by the scholar T. Franceschi, who established:

“[…] a connection between ‘Klava’ and ‘grava’, which is probably a Celtic or Mediterranean term, which seems to mean ‘pebbles produced and conveyed from the water,’ ‘gravel’, ‘pebbles of the stream’) […].” [1].

Another etymology that seems reasonable is one by which Chiavari would have its root in the word "key" (Latin "Clavis"), for its  "key" position at the confluence of four valleys, the “Val Fontanabuona”, “Val Sturla”,  “Val Graveglia” and “Val Aveto.”

Ancient History of Chiavari

The foundation of the city dates back to ancient times, probably between the 8th and 7th centuries BC, as testified by the remains of a necropolis found in the city center. In Roman times it assumed the name of “Tigullia”. The village first appeared under the name "Chiavari" in two documents of 980 and 1031.

The expansion of Genoa led to the conquest of the city, the construction of the wall (1167), the Castle and the clash with the Counts of Lavagna, the Fieschi. These, accompanied by the Malaspina, lords of Bobbio, attempted unsuccessfully to conquer the Castle (12th century).

Under Genoa, Chiavari had a period of urban and economic development and it became a free Municipality (1242), but the Fieschi managed to regain political control of Chiavari. They exercised it until 1332, when the Republic of Genoa recaptured the village, making it the seat of the captaincy of the territory of Tigullio.

There was a last attempt of the Fieschi to conquer the city in 1393, then Chiavari remained for centuries alongside Genoa, and it obtained the title of Town in 1646.

In 1797 Napoleon ended the secular life of the Republic, and annexed it in the territory of the Ligurian Republic (1797-1805) and then into the French Empire (1805-1814).

The city was the chief town of the Apennines until 1815, the year of the Restoration made by the Congress of Vienna (1815), which annexed it to the Kingdom of Sardinia (1815-1861). In 1861 Chiavari and  Liguria became part of the Kingdom of Italy.

See also Chiavari for a visitor travel guide


1. See T. Franceschi, “Sull’ etimologia di Chiavari e dintorni, in “Atti del convegno di studi internazionali per l'VIII centenario dell'urbanizzazione di Chiavari”