Western Liguria: The Stunning Riviera of Ponente Ligure
The border territories between Italy and Southwest France is something that fascinated me since I was a little girl and my parents took me there, on Italian Riviera of Western Liguria, every year for our vacanze ( vacation) in July and early August.
I was literally longing for the summer to come and going al mare ( to the sea), leaving Milano behind. Destination the tiny village of Ospedaletti, on Riviera Ligure, nearby Sanremo. The famous term Riviera derives precisely from Liguria and means simply coastline which in case of this Italian region is simply stunning and unspoilt, leaving the nature in charge of the beauty of those shores. Liguria di Ponente stretches between Ventimiglia and Genova and it is a region very well known by the Brits that used to flock in here, attracted by coloured villages perched on the surrounding Alpine mountains against a rather exotic landscape of the coast.
It is in fact a place of tropical vegetation, overlapping mountains ( Alpi Marittime) gentle hills of olive grows, palms and exotic trees, flowers crops for which Riviera dei fiori (flowers) is well known all around the world.
Years later,after extensive travelling and with London firmly as my home, I still can’t help but returning back to those shores that were my idea of paradise when I was a child and I hadn’t been anywhere else but on those beaches of stones sand and rocks.
Today the place is changed but the cocktail of sea and combination of different landscapes of tropical gardens, Mediterranean vegetation and Mountain trees is basically preserved and amazing like it was many years ago.
Italy is a country most famous for Toscany and Rome with many breath-taking city like Firenze and Napoli but very few people know the furthermost corner of Liguria that the British used to call the The Western door of Italy. A territory concentrated around Ventimiglia and its two valleys Val Roja and Valle Nervia which separate Italy from France. Often overlooked because the vicinity with Cote d’Azure, the Italian border is unspoilt but equally beautiful with a dual soul: the Italian culture mixed with French influence.
Going toward east on Ventimiglia there are some towns that attracted tourists from all over Europe at the beginning of the tourism industry in the late '800 beginning of '900. The British quickly established their headquarter in the lovely Bordighera, an elegant town that was very popular among the high society at the very beginning of the 1900.Further on there is San Remo, a lively town, which has a famous casino, many important villas, exotic gardens and an Ortodox Russian Church left by the Russians Aristocracy that used to spend their holidays over here. The little town of Ospedaletti, is in the middle between Bordighera and San Remo and opens over a harbour that is constantly exposed to the sun. It was most probably for this reason that Ospedaletti, a quite little village of fishermen and peasants, was transformed at the end of the 1800 in a rather sophisticated place when was discovered by the personal doctor of the Russian Empress Maria Alexandrowna who thought to take advantage of the mild, almost warm mediterrenean winters (here the temperature is set around 15 degrees and rarely goes under 0 during the cold season) to heal the fragile health of the Empress. Quickly the Russian Aristocracy set up a community which left an important testimonial in the form of an Ortodox Church in the nearby and bigger town of San Remo. Empress Maria Alexandrowna was so fond of Sanremo that she donated the Palm trees that still today are abundant in the town.
Since the establishment of a high society at the beginning of the '900 the Riviera became an extension of Cote D' Azure. The entire area was transformed in a very sophisticated place for exclusive vacations. The place the most benefited from the creme de la creme was Sanremo. At the end of the first world war Sanremo was chosen to host the International peace conference about the distribution of territories belonged to the former Octoman Empire among them the Palestinian territories. The surrounding mountains around the coastline area are worth a mention too. From the ghost town of Bussana vecchia that was destroyed by an earthquake, to Apricale the lovely medieval hamlet that is one of the most important art and craft centre of the South Western Europe not to mention an award for being voted one of the best example of preserved medieval village, there are plenty of interesting villages, parks, gardens to visit.
What to do in Ospedaletti and Ponente.
The cycling route between Imperia and Sanremo.
Imperia is the biggest town of this area. A beautiful city with an history dated back to the Arabs invasion around the Medieval times.
From here starts a route dedicated only to bicycles and pedestrians that runs along the seaside coast for over 20 km! It has been just inaugurated in March 2014 and from next year it will be part of the Giro D'Italia, Tour of Italy, the most important bike competition in the country and one of the biggest in the world.
You can hire bikes at several rent- a -bike places situated on the path, and run along one of the most breathtaking routes ever, probably the best in Europe and the longest cycling route of the Mediterranean! You will enjoy past cycling little villages and natural spots and and taking a break in the local restaurants, pubs and eating places along the route.
The cycling path is divided in 5 chunks and the last one between San Lorenzo a Mare and Ospedaletti (about 5 km) will take you inside an old gallery where the train used to get across (the cycling route has been created using the old railways that was phased out about 10 years ago) . The gallery is a sort of museum dedicated to the cycling heroes and champions with photos and memorabilia. It is awesome!
To have details information about the cycling route please refer to this website http://www.pistaciclabile.com/?lang=en
Spectacular gardens right on the border between Italy and France, Villa Humbury is situated on Promontorio della Mortola ,18 acres gently descending toward the sea.
They were created in 1867 by Lord Hambury who brought here plants from all over the world with the help of English botanic scientists . From 1962 the gardens are under the Italian Protection and managed by Genoa University.
They are truly stunning example of English Gardens with many romantic spots and beautiful views on the sea. Highly recommended for a visit.
How to get there:
From motorway: A10 exit to Ventimiglia follow SS1 Aurelia direction to France.
By train: Ventimiglia station + taxi or bus to Giardini Hambury.
How to get there:
How to get there
It is very easy to visit the area. The nearest airport is Nice International Airport with intercontinental flights from U.S and all over the world. There is an excellent motorway and network transport connecting Western Liguria to Europe and Italy. The Via Aurelia it is a long road which goes across the entire region and links Liguria to Toscany and Centre Italy. It is easy to reach Genova in about 2 hours drive and Cinque Terre takes approximately less than 1 hour from Genova. Choosing this part of Italy it is like watching a different country, less crowded of foreign tourists and populated by the local. A chance to look at a nation maybe different from the Italy you would expect in Rome, Naple or Florence.
Buone vacanze! Have a nice holidays
An excellent restaurant where to taste local fish specialities:
Via Al Mare 37
Tel 0039 184 514537
An online guide to the area:http://www.sanremoguide.it/en/
Hotel Ristorante Firenze
Corso Santa Margherita 97 18014 Ospedaletti tel+ 0039
Apartments to let in Ospedaletti:
Residenza il circuito: