One of the first literary testimonies from the sulfur springs of Val Nervia, located in Liguria region, near French border, is found in the book “Voyage aux Alpes Maritimes” written in 1821 by Emile Fodéré, professor of physics and chemistry at the University of Nice, despite the fact that, according to local history, the thermal waters were already known in 1200.
It was 1839 when the chemical analysis of water was carried out. They contain sulfur and probably hydrosulfides, carbonic acid, soda sulphate, soda carbonate, sodium chloride, traces of magnesium carbonate, and an organic nitrogenous substance).
In fact, around this period and already at the end of the nineteenth century, the beneficial properties of the sulphurous water baths, unique in Liguria, had begun to be exploited: a concentrate of minerals that flow from the ancient Madonna Assunta spring, at a temperature between 28 and 32 °C.
But the history of the thermal baths is even older, and it can also be understood from the toponyms, given that Lake Pigo, which after the works in 2000 has lowered by at least two meters, takes its name from “lake putridus” (due to the smell emanating from sulphurous waters) and has inside a cave full of thermal mud.
A legend that is lost in the mists of time, in fact, tells that a farmer who passed there with his donkey suffering from eczema, cured his animal thanks to the beneficial effect of the waters.
In any case, the area was visited by first tourists in the second half of the nineteenth century and, to meet their needs, rooms were created in the rural buildings and oil mills where tubs were kept in which it was possible to bathe with the sulphurous water.
It seems that a very first real bathhouse was opened here in 1903.
Originally the water was taken from a well presumably with buckets which, tied to a rope, were lowered along a natural cavity reinforced inside by bricks and raised to a height of about twenty meters.
However, in the 1920s, the lower part of the mill complexes was almost destroyed.
Only after the Second World War, Giovanni Battista Manesero, owner of the spring, resumed the idea of adequately exploiting the sulphurous waters of the area.
His efforts were crowned with a great success, and the sulphurous water baths worked at full capacity, even if only in the summer months, until 1989.
Between May and September, there were about 3000 Italian and foreign tourists, mostly French, and among the famous customers were the tenor Di Stefano and Princess Grace.
After 11 years of studies and works on the shores of Lake Pigo, a first-rate thermal establishment was inaugurated on 25 June 2000, as well as the Grand Hotel Antiche Terme di Pigna, equipped with all the most modern technologies.
Sadly, the history of the imposing structure, with its 90 rooms and six suites, the restaurant and its swimming pools, ends in 2015, when the “Grand Hotel” closed and was put up for auction.
After five years, the structure found a new owner: a Russian entrepreneurial group that bought it for just over 4 million euros from an initial price of more than 22 million.
But, for the moment, everything remain closed (and abandoned)….
Article in collaboration, Anya and Danijel