Town in the province of Imperia located on the Riviera di Ponente, separated from the neighboring center of Riva from the river St. Catherine, is devoted primarily to tourism and floriculture.
In the main town centre features the same characteristics of the other towns of Liguria: tall and narrow houses, pastel colours on the facades, alleys, small arches that unite the buildings between themselves. At 600 meters from St. Stephen, on the limits with the town of Cipressa, lies the harbour of Marina degli Aregai, which hosts approx. 1000 yachts.
It is probable that the coast was populated since ancient times: the area was controlled first by the Romans and later it became a possession of Adelaide of Susa. Already tested by the barbarian invasions from the North, the inhabitants often had to abandon the coast to find shelter inland to avoid the continuous attacks by the Saracens. At the foot of the hill Sanstevi, at 150 meters above sea level, there was a first settlement, which was sold in the XI century to the Benedictines of Santo Stefano of Genoa. This encouraged the cultural and economic development of area. The ruins of the ancient Abbey of Saint Stevi were visible until the last century. The inhabitants, allied to those of Genoa, participated in the battle of Meloria against Pisa and then, always in support of Genoa, to conquer Cagliari. Watchtowers were built to defend the area from the frequent attacks of the Saracens; one of which, with a nonagonal shaped, dating from the second half of the XVI century, situated at the mouth of the river Rio Torre, is now the seat of the Town Hall.
Santo Stefano al Mare was invaded by the Austrian army in 1747 and fifty years later by the French. After the annexation to the Kingdom of Sardinia, and that of Italy, it was annexed in 1928 to the nearby town of Riva Ligure, and again in 1954 they were considered two separate communities.
Not to miss:
The Parish Church of St. Stephen, built in the XIII century in Romanesque style. It was embellished and restored more than once. The interior is composed of a single nave and is supported by stone columns. Inside it preserves paintings of Ligurian artists: Rodi, Carrega and Brea brothers;, the wooden statue of San Sebastian of J. Dyck and a XV century baptismal font.
The Oratory of Santo Cristo, annexed to the parish church, was built in the late XVII century. It houses a wonderful wooden cross which probably belonged to the Benedictines.