Before the year 1000, the area on which the village of Chiavari was built in the 12th century was crossed by the ancient coastal road. This went from Eastern to Western Liguria and ran along the hills of Bacezza, delle Grazie and Rovereto (the coastline was further inland than now), where the oldest settlements developed.
The possessions donated by Emperor Otto I to the monastery of Bobbio with the diploma of 25 July 972 include the villas of Caperana – Capellana – and Rì -Ripus, on which both the coastal road and the direct road to Piacenza through Sturla Valley and the Passo del Bocco (Bocco Pass) converged. The latter, in particular, is dotted with Longobard posts and Bobbio possessions, while Longobard settlements can be seen along a second road that went from the Chiavarese area to Emilia through the Fontanabuona and Aveto Valleys too.
There was also a court belonging to the Church of Genoa in the Rì area next to the settlement of Bobbio derivation, while other ecclesiastical properties were located in the Caperana area. On the heights of Maxena, there lay a substantial area of land belonging to the Genoese Church. The first reference to Sanguineto dates back to 1059. At the foot of the Maxena territory was the San Pietro Church, mentioned in documents from 1164. The foundation of the church with the Hospitalet di San Giacomo overlooking the sea is dated around the 11th century.
The place name Chiavari appears for the first time in a document dated 980 and returns in a deed dated 1031. According to this, Tedisio Count of Lavagna rented several properties from the Bishop of Genoa Landolfo, including some in the Clavari Valley, properties that would remain in the hands of his descendants for centuries.
The Municipality of Genoa, in its expansion towards the Riviera, found strong resistance in the territory belonging to the Counts of Lavagna, subdued only in the mid-12th century. Yet this was not enough to defeat their power in the Tigullio area, where they had a strong foothold and enjoyed a large following. In 1167, the Genoese consuls decreed the erection of the castle of Chiavari, which was to stand as a Genoese garrison in the area.
Given the unyielding resistance from the Counts of Lavagna, in 1178 it was decided to create a village, based on a precise urban plan that included the creation of four building zones bordered by roads, which are still visible today in the old town. However, the Counts of Lavagna found a way to creep into Chiavari through civil settlements and ecclesiastical establishments.
The Fieschis and the Ravaschieri, the most important families who descended from the “Lavagnese Committee”, remained a reference in Chiavari throughout the Middle Ages and in modern times, in conflict with the Rivarolas, who were always aligned on the opposite political front. During the 18th century, Chiavari, like all the villages of the Ligurian Riviera, developed increasingly in terms of economic well-being and social and cultural growth, with the formation of a new and powerful bourgeoisie.
In April 1791, the Economic Society was born in Chiavari. This Society was sponsored by the Marquis Stefano Rivarola, governor of the city and founded by leading personalities of the entrepreneurial class, the intellectual circle of the city, the nobility and the more open clergy on the model of the Società Patria per le Arti e le Manifatture (entrepreneurial initiative to promote arts and crafts) founded in Genoa in 1786 on the initiative of a group of enlightened aristocrats, including Duke Gerolamo Grimaldi.
Chiavari experienced a moment of particular splendour in the Napoleonic period, when it was chosen as the capital of the Department of the Apennines and elevated by Napoleon Bonaparte to the rank of city.
The rooting of Enlightenment ideas created the social and intellectual terrain on which the Risorgimento thought was grafted, which found influential representatives in Chiavari.
It is important to note that Chiavari was the homeland of the advocates of the national Risorgimento – Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872), Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882), the brothers Nino (1821-1873) and Alessandro Bixio (1808-1865) – and that the Economic Society contributed to creating an effective unitary culture. This institution was in fact the centre of a long and passionate debate during the Italian unification process, during which all the currents of thought were present, with their fruitful contribution.
It was in Chiavari that Vincenzo Gioberti received, for his merits as a writer and political animator, a medal from the Economic Society.