The village of Millesimo is in Bormida Valley, in the hills of north-west Liguria and 25 kilometres east of Savona. A quiet town with an interesting historic centre, it is classified as one of the 'most beautiful villages in Italy'.
Although Millessimo is rather out of the way if you are visiting the Liguria coast, there are several historic sites of interest here and a visit is recommended. It is also nice to have an afternoon away from the beach from time to time!
The 'piazza' in the centre of the town is more of a broad street than what we usually think of as a piazza, and is a pleasant place to start your visit with several arcaded buildings on either side and some buildings with interesting architectural features such as arched windows.
You will soon discover the most unusual monument in Millesimo: the bridge called the Ponte della Gaietta across the river in the center of the town with its medieval defensive tower and gateway in the middle of the bridge, which once served to control access to the town. Although not unusual in some parts of Europe, fortified bridges are not very common in this part of Italy.
There is also a second medieval tower in the town, now part of the Town Hall, which has unusual red-brick crenellations around the top (which I assume are decorative rather than functional).
The Battle of Millesimo also got its name from the town, and was a 'small' battle between Napoleonic forces and Austrian forces in April 1796. Napoleon lost about 700 soldiers in the skirmish, but the Austrians were then forced to surrender because they were besieged in a castle with no supplies.
The principal church in the town itself is the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Anthony, dating from the 15th century and in baroque style. There are various artefacts of note inside the church such as a statue of Madonna del Carmine, a crucifix from the school of Maragliano and a 15th century font.
A more ancient church that was built outside the medieval city walls in the 12th century is the Church of Santa Maria Extra Muros in Piazza Santa Maria. This is a simple, sturdy church built from stone in the romanesque style with a small tower on the right side. Inside the church there is a medieval baptismal font and parts of some frescoes from the 16th century.
The most imposing church here is the Shrine of Our Lady of the Desert, slightly outside Millesimo in a village that is also called Our Lady of the Desert. Built on the site of a miracle, the shrine dates from the early 18th century although most of what you see today - including the dome and the statue of the Virgin - is more recent following substantial work at the end of the 19th century. The paintings inside the dome of events from the life of the Virgin Mary were painted as recently as the 1940's.
You can also see Millesimo castle in the town centre, built in the 13th century and a sturdy building still overlooking the town. Just below the castle walls the Villa Scarzella gardens also merit a visit. The villa itself holds the Napoleonic Museum.
The trails through the natural environment of the Regional Natural Park of Bric Tana can be explored to the south of Millesimo: the visitor centre is in Villa Scarzella.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Liguria guide.