Discovering Bordighera Alta and the story of Magiargé

Lucia Gaggero | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Bordighera is the town where my grandparents live, and where I've spend part of my childhood. It’s a really lovely Ligurian city on the Liguria Ponente seaside not far from the France border. During the 1800 Bordighera knew it’s golden period and was loved by many international artists, writers, poets, painters the most part of them were English, but the village attracted also artists from elsewhere in Europe like Claude Monet who represented Bordighera in some of his works. As it was common in the past time in Liguria Ponente, the first town were erected in the upper part far from the sea and so, more protected up the hill from Pirates attacks.

This is how Edmondo de Amicis, an Italian writer describes Bordighera Alta or also called Centro Storico di Bordighera, in one if his books.

One hundreds years may have passed since that book but Bordighera alta didn’t really changed. The small carrugi “narrow streets typical of L[iguria’s villages](” turn around the narrow buildings creating nice shadows and shapes.

As I wrote here above, the villages were constructed in the old times up on the hill to be protected by pirates attacks, and here in Bordighera and Bordighera alta there is a legend who talks about one of them and a beautiful princess named Magiargé.

There are more than one versions of this legend, and probably we never known the real one, if a real one really exist. The beginning of the story it’s always the same, in the old times when Bordighera was under pirates attacks, the Bordigotti (people from Bordighera) had never feared the terrible well known Pirate Boabil, also known as the last Arabic Sultan of Granada before the Spanish revolution. That day Bordighera was under heavy attacks and they were about to capitulate, when suddenly the invaders stopped and retreated towards the beach from which they had landed, taking away both the dead and the wounded. The besieged, still intent to count the losses and to treat the wounded, had not paid much attention to what was happening on the sea, until when a messenger came running to warn the Count of Bordighera, informing him that all the Boabil's regal flags had disappeared from the mast of the ship, but only a large white flag was waving. The Count thought that that Boabil probably wanted to negotiate, so, escorted, he walked toward the beach to meet him. But when the pirates came, the Count realised that it was not a war embassy, ​​but a completely different thing. In fact, lying on cushions and precious fabrics embellished with precious stones, looked after by two handmaids, there was a young and beautiful woman; pale and suffering. The women of Bordighera were immediately notified, and they rushed in to offer help, the count’s wife called her personal doctor and all the village tried to heal the suffering beautiful Lady. This last one was Magiargé, a slave that Boabil had kidnapped in Spain but deeply felt in love with and made her his wife. Magiargé who also finally felt in Love with the Pirate, followed him in his adventures on the sea, however, her love for him was not enough and she became sick of nostalgia for her homeland, getting worse every day until that day in Bordighera. Unfortunately the Bordigotti coulnd’t help her and she died fast. Boabil was so desperate and sad that asked the Count of Bordighera for a favour. He asked if his princess Magiargé could be buried there looking the sea that she loved so much and if they could plant next to her grave a plant, a black jasmine, that came from her loved home in Spain. Boabil also left a statue representing his beloved wife, with a prayer that was placed next to the burial. In exchange he promised to never assault Bordighera ever again.

The other end of the story I know is that, Boabil left the poor sick Magiargé to Bordighera inhabitants asking them to take care of her, and that when she was recovered they would had planted a Black Jasmine next to the sea, so that every time he was sailing in front of Bordighera he would have known that his wife was safe and feeling better and he would have never attacked the city ever again. Finally, in honour to Magiargé the Bordigotti erected a statue representing her to thank her of having saved the city from the Pirates attacks.

I do not know wich happy end you prefer, I like them both, and if you are in Bordighera alta, you can still see the statue that actually is in front of the City hall.

Moreover, if you want to spend a nice relax charming evening you can have dinner or a nice aperitif at the Magiargé restaurant, in Bordighera alta, who takes the name from the famous Legend.

I love coming here during spring and summer because they open such a quiet and romantic terrace in one of the places of the old town, where you can sit down surrounded by carrugi and narrow houses enjoying the absolutely delicious food that let you discover our savoury Liguria Ponente's recipes combined with a good glass of wine. All this in the memory of the Pirate and the Princess.

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