About 20 miles East of Nice ends the French Riviera and begins the Italian Riviera or like we also call it the Flower Riviera. On the highway a big board greets the visitors with “Benvenuti in Italia” which means Welcome to Italy.
Once you pass the border, it is amazing how the landscape changes. While on the French side everything is very manicured, the Italian side is much more authentic. You can see lots of greenhouses and olive tree plantations on terraces. While the main source of income on both sides is tourism, in Liguria a lot of the income is also generated from agricultural activities.
One of the nicest towns along the coast is Sanremo. It is the capital of the Flower Riviera. Before the lockdown, I used to go there at least once a month, but now, it must be over a year that I last came to visit. Today it is more than a visit though. I have come to Sanremo with a mission, I want to set up a new tour. A tour which will include lots of tastings of the local specialities.
It is 10am in the morning, the streets are quite animated with pedestrians. You can hear a concert of “Ciaos” and “Buongiorno” echoing through the streets. Here everybody knows everybody and everyone greets everyone. While I am sipping a delicious Italian Capuccino and enjoying a tasty cornetto (a kind of Croissant), I am entertained by the “Divina Comedia” that the Italians know so wonderfully to perform every day.
My next stop is at the Panificcio (bakery) where I want to taste the specialty of the house. The Signorina behind the counter tells me that everything in their shop is a specialty and she keeps serving me biscuits, cake, bread and cookies. I better leave, this place is dangerous….
Just across the street, I enter my favorite place: the huge market hall. A temple of food and specialties. Mario wants me to try his newest goat cheese spread and the olives from his grand father’s farm. 2 stalls further they sell the famous Pesto from Liguria. A piece of buffalo mozzarella here, a focaccia there. At the exit, a vendor offers a homemade sweet roll and I cannot resist.
I decide to make a break and to take a walk through the medieval part of Sanremo: the Pigna. What a contrast, here, just across the street from the buzzling city center, time stands still. A great place to take some unique photographs and to walk off the calories of the past hour.
Back in the new part of town, I search for the place with the best Sardinaira and the Torta Verda. They are both local specialties. I am very happy with the shop I find, served fresh out of the oven by a charming young man… absolutely delicious. A stroll down the main street, the famous Corso Matteotti for some people watching in my favorite Café while drinking an aperitivo.
It’s already 12h30, that means time for lunch in Italy. I am not really hungry, but like they say “when in Rome, then do like the Romans do”. Among the many local Restaurants, I have a few favorites and today I choose the one serving ‘light’. Burrata, fresh tomatoes and egg plant beignets. While enjoying my meal, I really enjoy the beautiful setting of the square and I already see myself sitting here with my future tour guests. I am sure they will enjoy this too. Maybe they will even have some space left for a great Italian gelato. I will pass today, maybe next time.
Maybe next time could be with you. If you think this sounds tempting, then check out my new tour: The Italian Market and Food Tour
Every year in the month of February the biggest Italian Song Contest takes place in Sanremo. The “Festival della Canzone” is held since 1956 in the Ariston Theater right in the city center. Many Italian singers have begun their big careers here. For instance Domenico Modugno who in 1958 won the festival with his world famous song “Volare”. Along the big pedestrian street in town, you can read all the winners from 1956 until today.
Next to the lively Matteotti Street opens a gate towards the “Pigna”, the medieval part of town. In the labyrinth of its narrow alleys and picturesque squares time stands still. If you love taking photographs, then this is the best place to go.
A reason why many French people pass the border during the week are the colorful Italian markets. On Tuesdays and Saturdays Sanremo gets very crowded because those are the big market days here. Unfortunately, nowadays you have to search a bit longer for the unique piece since there is a lot of “Made in Elsewhere”. But you can definitely find some leather bags, belts and table cloths of a certain quality.
What I personally most enjoy in Sanremo is the local food. Whether in the beautiful market hall or in one of the many little shops, delicious specialties are sold everywhere. Pesto, pasta, focaccia, pansoti, sardenaira followed by gelato and of course an authentic Capuccino. All this served by lovely sympathetic local people in an always festive atmosphere. Since I so much enjoy Sanremo, I have decided to share my favorite places for the time of a tour with all those who want to join me. Check out my “Italian Market and Food Tour” and follow me for a taste of Italy: