How to get there and what to do!
Sanremo, once a fishing village, lies in a lovely bay between Capo Nero and Capo Verde on a stretch known as Riviera dei Fiori (flowers).
Also called the Town of Flowers – in early summer there is a scent of fragrant climbing jasmine on the streets and lush tropical plants in well maintained town parks and luxurious gardens full of beautiful flower beds in bloom remind us why its flowers are known worldwide.
The town is not only beautiful and authentic but it has a really welcoming feel about it. Not being hit by mass tourism is another plus and the local cuisine is to die for.
Sanremo’s old part of the town is called La Pigna, an ancient walled city overlooking the town below. It is characterised by perched houses, steep narrow alleys, and little squares, perfectly preserved from the Medieval times.
The “new” town turned a fishermen’s village into a noble, world-wide famous seaside resort that was once believed to be an Italian answer to Cannes. It had its heyday between the 50’s and the 80’s and especially the older generation will remember it for its famous annual Sanremo Music Festival that inspired the Eurovision Song Contest. The festival somehow still remains very popular, especially with the Italians.
To get to Sanremo you will need to take a train from one of the Nice’s train stations to Ventimiglia first. You can find the departure times on SNCF website. In Ventimiglia you will have to change the train and take a short 15 minutes ride to Sanremo. The schedule of departures is listed on www.trenitalia.com website.
You can purchase your ticket either at the train station in Ventimiglia or on their website. Make sure you take the regional train that costs only €2.80 instead of Intercity that is €8.50. The trains leave regularly enough, but plan ahead so your connections are smartly joined.
Corso Inglesi 18, 18038 Sanremo, www.casinosanremo.it
Designed by French architect Eugène Ferret in Art Nouveau style, it opened its door for a first time in 1905 and initially held theatre programs and concerts and served as a meeting place for foreigners. For more than a hundred years some very famous people have passed through its gaming rooms and its theatre has shown some reputable plays.
This impressive building looks little more prestigious from the outside than from the inside and seems like it is trying to hold on to its glory from the 70’s. It is still worth to visit and to try your luck in a game of roulette (min bet €5), blackjack (min bet €10) or slot machines (min bet 40 cents).
The entrance is free and minimum age required is 18. Traditional rooms open from 14.30 – 2.30 (Friday and Saturday 15.00 – 3.30) and slot machines that are spread over two floors from 10.00 – 2.30 (Friday and Saturday closes at 3.30). The dress code is not strict except of Private Rooms, Roof Gardens and the Liberty Room that requires a jacket and a tie.
Via Nuvoloni 2, 18038 San Remo
Nearby the casino is the very striking Russian Orthodox Church.
The whole relationship between the Russians and Sanremo started when the Russian tsarina Maria Alexandrovna, wife of the tsar Alexander II spent the winter season (1874 -1875) in the town. It was really down her that the Russians started to travel to the Italian Riviera in the winters. On top of that, the many Russians who suffered from tuberculosis started to see the benefits of the mild winters in Sanremo and purchased villas in the town. This small Russian community wanted to have its own church and with the help of their compatriots at home were able to buy the land and build the church. For this reason Russian bakeries and shops can be still found in the town.
The church is opened every day from 9.30 till 12.30 and 15.00 till 18.30.
To experience some of local flavours, head to Mercato Annonario located on Piazza Eroi Sanremesi at the base of the old city. This spacious indoor market sells fresh fruit, vegetables, Italian cheeses, handmade pasta, aged meats and freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil for which Liguria area is famous. The neighboring fish market offers freshly caught Mediterranean fish and other seafood.
Both markets are open Monday to Friday from 6.00 to 13:30 pm and on Saturdays until 19.30.
Every Tuesday and Saturday morning the surrounding streets turn into a flea and clothes market with stalls selling all sorts of clothes, shoes, handbags, scarves and other fashion items.
The Madonna della Costa
La Pigna – whose name comes from the pinecone (the town curls up round the hill like the scales on a pinecone) was built around the year 1000 as a walled city and a fortress protecting the land from the enemies but later mostly pirates.
The stroll through the peaceful car free streets is best started through Porta di Santo Stefano (St Stephen’s Gate), near Mercato Annonario that marks the border between the old and new town.
The steep climb through cobbled streets passing squares, stone archways, churches, small grocery stores, restaurants and beautiful residential houses will eventually lead you to the summit where you find sanctuary of the Madonna della Costa (Our Lady of the Coast). The original sanctuary has been replaced by the present Baroque building erected in the seventeenth century. The funds were collected from the habitants of Sanremo by a local sailor who miraculously survived a pirate attack and wanted to build a sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna della Costa in order to protect other fellow seamen.
To return back to the sea, walk along the cobblestones in front of Madonna della Costa and down to Giardini Regina Elena (Queen Elena’s Garden), named after the queen of Montenegro, who helped rebuilding the town after the earthquake of 1887 that left nearby Bussana Vechia a ghost town for almost seventy years. The gardens are very pretty and you will be rewarded with a fantastic views of the city, port and the gulf of Sanremo.
The traditional Sanremo cuisine is based on simple ingredients, that make some really tasty and satisfying dishes.
The local cuisine in the restaurants of Sanremo is strongly based on the richness of the Mediterranean catch. The fishermen of Sanremo supply daily the restaurants with the highly prized Red shrimp of Sanremo (exclusively fished in the town Citta dei Fiori hoping to get IGP recognition) and the most appreciated fish of the Ligurian Sea: sea bass, sea bream, hake, swordfish and tuna. Ligurian fish is traditionally stewed with pine nuts, olive oil, taggiasche olives, rosemary and with potatoes or, if in season with fresh artichokes. The consumption of raw fish “Al Curdo” is very popular too.
Try Sardenaira – ancient pizza of Sanremo, with tomato sauce, capers and anchovies or Torta Verde – rice and seasonal vegetables in a thin pastry, both great as a quick snack. Tasty Buridda with octopus and squid, and the Stoccafisso brandacujun, salted cod with creamed potatoes and seasoned with olive oil, garlic, parsley and lemon are also often on the menu.
The extra-virgin olive oil, strictly local production, is simply delicious with homemade pasta, such as Borage ravioli (borage is a wild Mediterranean herb with slight cucumber flavor) wild spinach, or traditional Trofie al Pesto (trofie – short thin pasta from Liguria region).
There are plenty of good restaurants in the town so let us mention at least three. These are family run and authentic restaurants – Osterias – allowing the perfect opportunity to savour some traditional Ligurian dishes. And they will not break the bank, the food and wine is very reasonably priced and atmosphere is welcoming and warm.
Spaghetteria il Mulattiere, Via Palma 2, 18038 San Remo, located in the old town and opened every day except of Wednesday from 12.00 – 15.00 and 19.00 – 22.00. Worth to mention their amazing Ligurian Minestrone soup, fresh pasta with or without meat and a selection of local salamis and cheese.
La Ciotola, Via Santo Stefano 8, 18038 San Remo, located in the old town, opened every day except of Sunday 12.00 – 15.00 and 19.00 – 22.00. Specializing in fresh pasta such as Trofie al pesto and Borage ravioli and meat dishes.
Trattoria da Mirella, Rondo Garibaldi 9, 18038 San Remo, located in the city center, opened every day except of Wednesday 12.00 – 15.00, 19.00 – 23.00. Specializing in fish and fresh pasta, try their Fritto misto del golfo and squid salad.