Dolceacqua – 12 mins drive, 1 hr walk
People say that in Dolceacqua you can’t discuss Rossese (the red wine made from the rossese grape, unique to our valley) or michette (the local, delicious buns) because everyone claims they know better. So just indulge in them, whether in a little winery in the old town or fresh from one of the bakeries on San Sebastiano square. We recommend walking up to the stunning Doria castle, crossing the old Roman bridge and through the carrugi (the quaint little pedestrian streets typical of Ligurian old towns). Don’t miss the Visionarium theatre if you love nature and you want to see a 3d screening of the rich and diverse Nervia valley.
Rocchetta Nervina – 12 mins drive
Rocchetta is often forgotten in tourist guides and we think it’s a big mistake. The village is warm and welcoming, and when our guests discover it they often compare it to a life size nativity setting. In the summer it hosts several food fairs, and you can refresh yourself – weather permitting – in the bucolic ponds, natural pools of clear water immersed in the green surroundings of river Nervia.
Apricale – 20 mins drive
One of the most beautiful villages in Liguria (we think!) and nested on a rocky cliff, it’s startling to imagine how our ancestors managed to build a village in such a location. But don’t be put off by the walk uphill, it will be worth it once you get to the Lucertola castle (lizard’s castle) and you lose yourself in the maze of carrugi and discover beautiful stone buildings and unexpected little squares. In August you should visit the Teatro della Tosse (‘cough theatre’), which turns the village into the perfect setting for its productions.
Bordighera – 25 mins drive
Bordighera is rather posh. If you go along the Via Romana you can admire the grand Liberty style hotels and the elegant villas immersed in green (don’t miss Villa Garnier just off the main road!). The old town is packed with fantastic restaurants and so is the promenade, which also offers great bars, live music and views that span from Sanremo to the Côte d’Azur. Treat yourselves to a romantic sunset at Capo Sant’Ampelio (right at the end of the promenade towards Sanremo) and don’t forget a slice of the typical pastecca (watermelon) from Mambrin, just before the harbour.
Ventimiglia – 25 mins drive
Right on the border with France, Ventimiglia isn’t quite as glamorous as Bordighera but has a character of its own. On Fridays you can test your negotiating skills at its market, one of the biggest in Europe (though beware, finding a parking spot is a nightmare!), whilst if you’re interested in architecture and history visit the Roman theatre, built in the 2nd century BC, and the Romanic cathedral in the old town. For a relaxing coffee or gelato by the sea go to Marina San Giuseppe.
There are also a couple of beautiful spots just out of the town (although still part of Ventimiglia):
Balzi Rossi pre-historic museum: just a few minutes walk from the French border, it’s renowned for the adjacent caves. And if it’s warm enough you should enjoy a swim in the crystal clear water of the beach nearby.
Hanbury botanic gardens: not far from Balzi Rossi, these gardens boast an incredible variety of plants from all over the world as well as jaw-dropping views of the coast.
Sanremo – 40 mins drive
It’s considered the capital of the Western Riviera and became the setting for films such as The talented Mr Ripley and I am love. After you’ve visited the Russian church and dropped in the casino, walk up Corso Matteotti by the lovely shops and busy bars until you reach the Ariston theatre, home to the biggest music festival in the whole country. For a taste of the nightlife go to Piazza Bresca, where you’ll find lovely restaurants and bars with live music. We recommend a visit to the nearby Bussana, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1887 and resurged in the 70s attracting artists and hippies.
Monaco – 40 mins drive
Hard to pick our favourites here, there’s so much to see! The casino, the harbour, the Grand Prix track and the Prince’s Palace…But also the less famous Fontvieille port, the aquarium with its incredible views of the sea and the coast, and the Café de Paris, where you can try your luck on the slot machines – even if you’re wearing shorts. If you want to relax and go back to the time when Prince Ranieri was courting Grace Kelly in the 50s, just take a stroll around the quaint cobbled streets on ‘The Rock’.
Nice – 45 mins drive
Nice is a buzzing city of almost 1 million people. Its big university makes it multi-cultural and vibrant. Walk down the famous Promenade des Anglais, starting from the old port and down to the luxurious Negresco hotel. For a fun night out head to the Vieux Nice (Old Nice), where you’ll find everything from food and drinks to music and entertainment.