Marina di Varazze, buen retiro

A place to relax and feel at ease. Like coming home to family

by Niccolò Volpati – photo by Andrea Muscatello

«I HAVE BEEN HERE FOR TEN YEARS, EXACTLY SINCE JULY 1ST, 2011, – and I have held different positions at the Azimut group, ranging from commercial to production». Casareto has not always and only been a harbourmaster, and exactly this experience has been decisive for him in managing the marina. Furthermore, this is not merely a tourist port.

Marina di Varazze
Marina di Varazze

Recently the shipbuilding site was expanded. In the area historically occupied by the Baglietto shipyards, you can now find Lusben Varazze, specialising in refitting operations. This is a well-studied strategy followed by the Azimut group, in fact, the Lusben shipyard is also present in Livorno and Viareggio. «Many shipyards have chosen Varazze as their fitting center before delivery».

Marina di Varazze

Since its earliest stages, Marina di Varazze has represented a modern model of a tourist port. It features a large residential part, very well integrated with the actual port. Like the space divided by sliding doors between the dinette and the cockpit on yachts. Once you reach Varazze, there are no barriers. Access is easy and the port is not a separate entity, far from everything else.

Marina di Varazze

The sea keeps getting bluer
With this year’s, they add up to thirteen. For the thirteenth year in a row Marina di Varazze wins the “blue flag”. It is an international acknowledgment awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) that acknowledges the environmental quality and responsible tourism. The commission assessed key issues like management, services, safety, water quality, and commitment to environmental education and training. No less important to obtain the acknowledgment is the functionality of the water purification plants and waste management.

You can move around easily, without any obstacles. Like when you have wide side decks and a high side rail. The only difference is that instead of going from stern to bow, here you walk along the coast from west to east. It has almost natural planning. When viewed from above, the breakwater appears as a sort of continuous line with the coast that encloses and protects the moorings. In recent years, Marina di Varazze has also tried to innovate its management. Many cultural initiatives take place here intending to build a community. And although today many initiatives cannot take place for health and safety reasons, the sense of community remains.

Marina di Varazze is a sort of big family, a “buen retiro” where you come to seek peace and relaxation. This is what shipowners who frequent the docks are looking for. And it is also the secret of the success of this facility. Living proof of this success is the as many as 11 bars and restaurants working non-stop. The offer is very wide and varied and, despite this, businesses are not suffering, on the contrary. This is clear proof of the fact that the community of shipowners and patrons of the port exists, but it also shows that the architecture of the marina has reaped the desired results, no separation between the town of Varazze and its tourist port.

Like in the past, more than in the past
Last year, Marina di Varazze turned 15, and as a gift, it obtained a renovation of all the parts of the marina that were most exposed to atmospheric agents. Most of the structure – both residential, commercial, and offices – is covered with Iroko wood. But like all wood exposed to salt and sunlight, time will make it age. For this reason, the remodeling had already been planned in the initial project. It was decided that 15 years would be a turning point, precisely to avoid degradation and more expensive interventions in the future. Today the port looks brand new – as if it had just been inaugurated.

Marina di Varazze is an infrastructure open all year round. The tourist port is part of the Azimut Benetti Group, which is also a partner of the Valletta marina in Malta and the owner of the Moscow port. New projects involve Livorno with the construction of a tourist walk on the docks of the commercial port and Sanremo with the current study for a remodeling of the city’s old port.

We asked Giorgio Casareto how he sees the future of the marina, and he replied: «Since 2015 we have seen a trend inversion, the demand for berths has started to rise again. Today there is a saturation of berths for yachts from 15 meters in length and up. It is a sign that reflects the trend in the yachting market itself. Soon, I expect steady growth because there is a great desire for boats and, in addition to those who have never stopped being owners, many others are becoming owners now. As usual, we are getting ready to respond to this demand. The port is constantly evolving to meet the needs of the yachtsman».

The Marina di Varazze is coming of age, but there are still many years before the concession expires. Despite this, the maintenance and modernization works have already been completed. This was a wise decision made by the management. Unfortunately, among the many troubles affecting state-owned concessions today, there is also a clear break between the before and after 1994. From that date on, the European Union came into play, and with it the famous Bolkestein directive imposing that any concession must be called on a tender. This means that the marinas established before 1994 can contract with the municipality for an extension of the concession, while all the others can’t. The extension is usually requested in exchange for extraordinary maintenance and modernization works.

Marina di Varazze

The marina offers approximately 800 berths for boats, from 5 to 50 meters in length, 900 parking spaces, 11 bars, and restaurants, and 4 shops, two of which sell technical apparel. Furthermore, it has recently acquired eight charging stations for electric cars.

Concessions often last 50 years, but it is not easy for a designer to imagine so far in advance what the boats of the future will be like. Who could have predicted the success of catamarans a few years ago? Fifty years ago, the average size of a boat, which an architect would be working within his designs for a marina was probably a dozen meters. Today, sizes have grown, in length, but also width. If you want to adapt, you have to invest. To always offer a service in line with the times, you have to invest. And that is what Marina di Varazze is doing, even if, thirty years from now, it won’t be able to ask for an extension of the concession because of what it is doing now.

(Marina di Varazze, buen retiro – – July 2021)