The high Val di Vara is an area with a strong agricultural vocation. Farming started with the Fieschi's in the XII century and in the XIII a man called Menaloche started to grow chestnut trees, which, in the following centuries, supplanted turkey oaks.
Chestnuts trees characterised the landscape and the local culture and fostered the construction of many mills to grind chestnuts and grains.
There are ancient documents referring to the mills: the first documents on the two mills of Varese Ligure - one on the river Vara, the other one on the Crovana - date back to 1468; another one in Comuneglia already existed in 1509. Documents of the early 1500s mention mills in Rocchetta (on the creek San Biagio), Torricella, Zanega, Cassego, Chinela, Valle, Denegato, Taglieto, Trenzanasca, Caranza, Porciorasco, San Pietro, Montale, and two mills in Scurtabò and on the river Taro. In 1603 the people of Salino built one mill on their own.
Besides chestnuts, there were also beech forests located on mounts Penna, Pessino and on Mount Gottero. For centuries, the Genoese used the wood to make the rows for their galleys.
There were also many fields of hemp on the whole area, especially in Taglieto, Chinela, Valle, Valletti, Comuneglia, San Pietro, Torricella, Cavizzano, Zanega, Scioverana, Cassego and Scurtabò.
Almost all the families owned a piece of land and farmed it.
A peculiar example of farming is that of the De Paoli's family from Porciorasco. This family, that is believed to be original from Corsica, flourished in the area of Comuneglia, then moved to Porciorasco, where they owned big extensions of land. In the XVIII century the De Paoli's built a mansion where several activities found place.
Inside the mansion, in fact, there was a smith, a shoemaker, a watchmaker shop and a carpenter. Furthermore there was an oil mill and a silk factory. The De Paoli's also had a rich library and, following their love for classic culture, they chose as a family motto a line from the Latin poet Horace. You can still see the motto carved on the gate of the mansion and reading it you can understand why the family was so laborious: "Parta labore quies iterum paritura laborem" (wealth coming from hard work generates new business).
Ancient documents, dating back to the Middle Ages, describe a lively and dynamic rural world, open to contacts with other areas, with many small landlords but mainly artisans and traders. Smiths, carpenters and, most of all, shoemakers, played a relevant role.
Shoemaking was a family activity and women were in charge of sewing the outsoles. On October 24th, feast of the shoemakers' patron saint, Saint Crispin, a novena was celebrated in the church of Saint Filippo Neri in Varese Ligure. After the mass, shoemakers invited their busboys to have lunch with them and prepared for them the "stoccafisso accomodato" (stewed stockfish) and they participated to the Vespers wearing their apron.
Many activities developed also thanks to the trades with the Po Valley and the coast of Liguria: in town there were many pack-saddle makers, farriers and innkeepers.
Varese Ligure has a deeply-rooted hospitality tradition. The historian Antonio Cesena reports that even before the construction of the village, in the XIII century, a man called Vero opened an inn close to the river Vara, for the worshippers who went to the Pieve. At the end of the XV century the biggest and most famous inn of the village was owned by a man called Bartolomeo Pigati together with his wife Cattozza. In 1497 a terrible plague, brought by a Venetian trader, spread from this inn. In 1760 there was an inn called "Insegna della bottiglia", owned by Michele Marcone.
This activity passed on from father to children for two centuries and today this ancient inn is the Albergo Amici. The economic vivacity of Varese Ligure started to decrease in the XIX century. The construction of the new Via Aurelia and of the railway line on the coast attracted all trades to La Spezia, a city that had become strategic thanks to the construction of the Italian Navy base. The high Val di Vara became less important for the trades and therefore many people started migrating to America. Actually, people of Varese Ligure were accustomed to migration: many farmers used to go the Po Valley to work. Furthermore, there were also many itinerant salesmen and animal trainers, traveling all over Northern Italy and in Europe.
Starting from the XIX century, migration became important and followed the same characteristics of the migration from the Tigullio area. The area of Varese Ligure is characterized by a low population density, especially for the migration towards the coast, that affected the whole Val di Vara and other mountain areas of Liguria.
The poverty of the area and the subsequent search for a better economic and social settling could not find another solution but migration. In the last hundred years, the population constantly decreased, especially in the hamlets. An internal migration brings people towards the bigger villages, Varese Ligure and San Pietro Vara, that keep a steady population in spite of the reduction of the total population in the municipality.
The occupational trend in the service-producing sector is mainly influenced by tourism. Many people are attracted by the natural environment and by the characteristic old centers. Besides summer tourism, fostered by the presence of many vacation houses and facilities, there is also a number of week-end travelers. People who had to abandon the valley to find a steady job in town, in Genoa or in other cities of the coast, enjoy coming back in summer. This is the reason why hamlets come back to life until fall.