Ventimiglia and Bordighera

The last strip of Western Liguria is renowned for the mildness of its climate: this was well known by the English who, from the second half of the nineteenth century onwards, began choosing Bordighera and Sanremo as their holiday destinations.

This was partly thanks to Giovanni Ruffini, a writer and patriot from Taggia, who lived in exile in Britain and published “Doctor Antonio” in English in 1855. The novel, set on the Riviera, was a huge success at the time and Queen Victoria’s subjects were quick to flock to the area.

The last western strip of Liguria is renowned for the mildness of its climate: the English knew this well and, from the second half of the nineteenth century onwards, began to choose Bordighera and Sanremo as their holiday destinations.
This was partly thanks to Giovanni Ruffini, a writer and patriot from Taggia, who lived in exile in Britain and published “Doctor Antonio” in English in 1855. The novel, set on the Riviera, was a huge success at the time and Queen Victoria’s subjects were quick to flock to the area.

We start at the border with Ventimiglia,a town with the all the pros and cons of a border town, with no less than seven different historical periods to visit: the Balzi Rossi site, with its caves and Palaeolithic Museum, where there are Cro-Magnon skeletons (20,000 years old); the Castellari, dating back to the Iron Age (4-5 centuries BC), a system of primitive fortifications on the mountain tops and coastal hills; a Roman period with a Theatre, the Thermal Baths and many Insulæ di Albintimilium, bearing witness to the Roman imperial age; the upper part of the town, or old town, where the largest Medieval City in Western Liguria and the Côte d’Azur is clearly visible, affirming the golden age of the Free Commune, where the ancient connecting road passed through its centre (the Republic of Genoa went so far as to alter the course of the River Roya, in order to subjugate the town of Ventimiglia in 1221); a 19th century period documented by the houses of the Bastia in the Vallone district, the Fort of the Annunziata, the arrival of the railway linking the town to the world and the marvellous Hanbury Gardens; the modern and commercial part of the town centre, symbol of the economic miracle, with the International Railway Station; and last but not least, the Ventimiglia of the future, represented by the area of the new Port “Cala del Forte”, now owned by the Principality of Monaco, and the investments in the upper part of the town, in the new sports facilities and the future Roya Park.

Leaving Ventimiglia for Bordighera, we pass through Vallecrosia, which is very popular with families and has a special Song Museum, created by Erio Tripodi to delight his guests and celebrate his passion for singing.

If you want to fall in love with these places, you have to visit Bordighera.This quiet and elegant seaside town leapt to the forefront of European interest at the time thanks to Ruffini’s novel, and the Moreno garden, one of the most beautiful in Europe in the first half of the 1800s, when it covered an area of eight hectares with plants from all over the world, including the gardens of Josephine Bonaparte’s Malmaison Castle. The urge for a change of climate, the desire to pamper themselves and the simple curiosity about these places led many English people, and others, to come to Bordighera. Charles Bicknell, who discovered the petroglyphs in the Valle delle Meraviglie, and Queen Margherita of Savoy, who stayed here for long periods and died here in 1926, also played an important role in boosting the life of the town.

Bordighera offers truly special walks and paths, such as the Roman promenade, designed by Charles Garnier, who also designed the Paris Opera, the shopping street in the town centre on Via Aurelia and the seafront promenade on Lungomare Argentina, dedicated to Evita Peron. This is the longest pedestrian promenade on the Riviera dei Fiori, from which you can admire the open sea and breathtaking sunsets. It would be impossible not to mention the Monet path which links all the places on our Riviera where the great Impressionist painted more than fifty works.

Don’t miss the Bicknell Museum, the Civic Library, Villa Mariani, the gardens and the walks.