There’s much more than Cinque Terre on your Italy Tours.
The Italian Riviera is one of the best places to visit in Italy.
It’s a place that you can’t miss during your Italy tours, nevertheless, maybe you don’t know exactly where it is and which are the best places to visit.
Probably you know Cinque Terre, a little stretch of the Riviera towards Tuscany that in recent years became very famous for their natural beauty but there’s much more than Cinque Terre.
That’s why we want to make you discover the part of the Riviera on the other side of Cinque Terre, the one that stretches from Genoa to the French border.
This territory is geographically divided into two parts: The Riviera dei Fiori (Flower’s Riviera) and the Riviera delle Palme (Palm’s Riviera), and this already sounds good about the lush vegetation and mild climate of the area.
But let’s start our journey from the French border and, as we are locals we’ll make you travel like a local, getting into the heart of the Italian Riviera, seeing things that most tourists simply don’t see.
To travel like a local you have to go deeper and slower so we split our tale into two parts: today we’ll take you to explore the Riviera dei Fiori and the next week, we’ll follow on the Riviera delle Palme.
From the French Border to Capo Mele: the Riviera dei Fiori
This is the original, authentic Italian Riviera, discovered and so-called by noble tourists from northern Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Noble families spent winters here to enjoy the mild climate of Mediterranean winters.
That’s why here you can find ancient villas and beautiful exotic gardens scattered along the coast. But let’s start driving from the French border, towards Genoa.
Ventimiglia and Hambury Gardens: exotic beauty
Driving just a few miles from Monaco you’ll find Villa Hanbury with its amazing botanical gardens, among the most famous in the world.
Here you’ll be fascinated by the mix of lush Mediterranean vegetation with exotic plants that have magically acclimatized from all over the world (by the way, if you love gardens you cant’ miss our Villas and Gardens of the West Riviera private tour).
Following the coastal road, you’ll arrive in Ventimiglia, an ancient Roman town.
Leave the modern part of the city and climb the hill of the historical center till the castle-stronghold of the Dukes of Ventimiglia, the beautiful Romanesque cathedral, and the baptistery.
If you arrive in Ventimiglia on Friday, don’t miss the colored, great Friday market.
Dolceacqua e Apricale: a step back in time
To fully appreciate the Liguria Region or Italian Riviera you also have to go towards the inland.
From Ventimiglia, following the Nervia River, you reach Dolceacqua, a picturesque village on the river, immortalized by Monet.
The stone humpback bridge, the houses built on the steep slope of the hill, dominated by the ruins of the Doria Family castle, create an extraordinary architectural composition. Here you can’t miss tasting the Rossese wine too.
Going ahead you’ll find Apricale, the village of the sun, with its stone, scenic architecture, unchanged from Middleages.
The center of the village is on the top of the hill and the houses descend from the center in concentric circles creating a maze of narrow alleys.
This is the ideal scenery where summer open-air plays take place every year.
Bordighera and Vallebona: noble villas and exotic gardens
Returning to the coast, Bordighera is an elegant city, the center of the elite tourism of the mid-1800s.
Royals, writers and artists from all over Europe but especially English, built here their gorgeous villas and planted exotic gardens.
Don’t miss the splendid villa of Queen Margherita di Savoia, the Villa Garnier, built by the famous architect of the Paris Opera House and the Giardino Pallanca.
But take a walk in Bordighera historical center too: a maze of narrow alleys surrounded by massive walls.
Just behind Bordighera don’t miss Vallebona with the Vecchia Distilleria (old distillery) where they produce the orange blossom water that is a Slow Food Presidia whose production follows an ancient, traditional method.
Sanremo: a double soul
Here is another center of elite tourism of past times as the hotels and villas in Art Nuveau or eclectic style testify.
Sanremo was frequented by Russian aristocracy and here you can see the Russian church with its onion dome.
Beside these elegant neighborhoods, if you want to find the authentic, popular soul of this village, you have to walk among the little squares and narrow alleys of the Pigna, the city’s medieval nucleus. This is the perfect place to find traditional shops and taste local street food.
If you like outdoor activities, here you can enjoy a beautiful coastal cycling path that takes you to Ospedaletti or San Lorenzo, on the other side.
Bussana vecchia: the artists’ town
On a hill, next to Sanremo, Bussana Vecchia is a lovely little village with boutiques and ateliers.
The village was destroyed by an earthquake in 1887 and rediscovered by artists in the sixties.
It has a magic atmosphere and there are a lot of music events during the summer.
Cervo: a gorgeous baroque church
Following the coast, passed Imperia, the Ligurian Capital of extra virgin olive oil, you’ll see in the distance a village perched high above a steep slope on the sea and dominated by the eye-catching concave façade of the magnificent baroque San Giovanni Battista church.
The village has a medieval urban structure still intact.
In summer, Cervo hosts the famous International Festival of Chamber Music that every year takes place in the scenic, little square in front of the church with a panoramic view of the whole coastline.
We want to stop in Cervo to enjoy the sunset drinking an aperitivo next to the perched church.
We’ll soon be back on the road in the sunny Riviera delle Palme.
In the meantime, you can find more inspirations about things to see and do in the Riviera dei Fiori.
More Tips and ideas?