Saturday, 20 June 2009

Riviera dei Fiori, Italy

Why go?
This stretch of the Ligurian coast in northern Italy offers you everything from beaches, sunshine and bustling towns to mountains, castles, caves and medieval villages – plus the region is small enough to get around easily by car. Here history, art, culture and traditions blend perfectly with chic modern restaurants and bars, and various outdoor pursuits, such as sailing and climbing. And with the French border so close you can easily jump on a train or hire a car and be in Monaco in next to no time (it’s worth noting that a 35-minute taxi ride from Sanremo to Monaco costs about Euros 70). Any other reasons to go? Ah yes, there’s the food – Liguria is one of the capitals of the healthy Mediterranean diet – think delicious pasta, fresh, mouthwatering fruit, vegetables and olive oil.

What to do and where to go
One of the most charming places on the Riviera is Bordighera, the city of palms, which was greatly loved by the English, Russian and German nobility in the last century - and Italian Queen Margherita, Regina d'arte e cultura, who had a residence there. The Villa Regina is now a museum for contemporary art. It still has a very nobel spirit, with the beautiful Anglican Church, the Villa Garnier and the Bicknell Museum.

The town is an ideal family base from which to explore this lovely region. As well as boasting an attractive pebbly beach alongside a tree-lined promenade, it has great restaurants – try the modern seafront eaterie La Reserve on Via Arziglia (+39 0184 261322). And don’t forget the Pallanca Exotic Garden where more than 3,000 species of cacti thrive in a stunning setting.

Market lovers can browse stalls in the town on Thursday mornings or head to nearby San Remo (Tuesdays and Saturday mornings) or Ventimiglia (Fridays).

An absolute must is a journey into the mountains and a look around the ancient villages. If you only have time for one, head off to Dolceacqua, which has an antiquated castle (music festivals are held there in August); a single-span medieval bridge and beautiful churches – and the Visionarium, a tiny cinema showing 3D documentaries, complete with relevant odours and an amazing sound system.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, enjoy a glass of the famous Rossese and see how it’s made by taking a trip into the mountains to the vineyard Terre Bianche ( And for a real taste of old-fashioned Ligurian cuisine, drop into Osteria dell'Acqua Dolce in Dolceacqua ( for delicious vegetables, followed by home-made ravioli, meat and potatoes.

When to go
The climate is fairly mild all year round and there’s plenty of culture on offer, which means there’s something to do even on wet days. Those who don’t like very hot weather July and August may be too steamy as the temperature often soars well into the 30s. Locals suggest the best time to come is in May and June when the heat is comfortable and the region is in full, beautiful bloom.

Where to stay
Budget: Nestled among the vineyards of Arcagna, the Locanda del Bricco, a country-style inn, can accommodate up to 19 guests in comfortable rooms with a special and traditional breakfast, served among the vineyards. Feel free to ask for more
Mid-range: Highly recommended is the Victorian-style, family-run Hotel Villa Elisa (; +39 0184 261313) in Bordighera, which provides a perfect spot to explore the Riviera – and Monte Carlo – and is within walking distance of the old town and the beach. Surrounded by a grove of orange and lemon trees, this three-star hotel has a heated outdoor pool, very comfortable rooms, a restaurant, and an invigorating Thai massage service.
Luxury: The five-star Royal Hotel in San Remo (royalhotelsanremo.+39 0184 5391) has great Mediterranean views and it boasts a new, state-of-the-art wellness centre.

How to get there
By plane
: Nice is the obvious gateway to the Riviera dei Fiori.
By train: It takes just one hour to go from Nice to Bordighera by train and costs just a few Euros. Bordighera Train Station
By Car: Autostrada A10 Ventimiglia-Genoa - take the Bordighera Exit

To find out more
• Log on to to read about the town. For the Riviera, check out

Watch the video about Bordighera
Link: Video-14 min.-52 MB

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