The Ligurian seaside city of Sanremo is synonymous with luxury, opulence, and high culture. Part of the Italian Riviera, almost to the French border, it has been drawing admirers for centuries. In the 20th century, its casinos and international music festival would forever ingrain it into the hearts of Italians everywhere. Let’s find out what to see and do when you visit Sanremo!
Italy’s biggest and most historic music festival takes place every year in Sanremo. It was held in the Sanremo Casino until the year 1976 and then in the Ariston Theater thereafter. The festival has grown into both a showcase and a competition of Italian talent kickstarting numerous careers as well as bringing international guest artists year after year.
In order to compete with nearby Monte Carlo on the prestigious French Riviera, Liguria created its own version of high-class gambling with its Sanremo Casino. This is no Las Vegas as there is only one casino but it is tres chic. The Art Nouveau building opened in 1905 and in addition to its multiple game rooms, it also hosts a beautiful 400-seat theater.
Among its many names, it’s often referred to as the “city of flowers” for its floriculture. Even to this day, Sanremo’s flowers are exported all over Europe and when you visit, you’ll immediately notice that the city is meticulous about its green spaces, flowerbeds, and gardens throughout the historic center. The climate here (which almost never dips below 6C even in the dead of winter) is perfect for growing all kinds of species, including tropical varieties. Much of what visitors see today dates to Sanremo’s “golden age” of the late 1800s and early 1900s when illustrious guests made it their home.
Some of the most stunning gardens that you won’t want to miss are those of Marsaglia, Piazza Colombo, Corso Mombello, and Corso Imperatrice which is one of the most famous promenades in all of Europe.
Don’t miss a leisurely stroll along the Corso degli Inglesi (literally, the “Avenue of the English”) where most of the luxury villas of the city’s heyday still stand today: Villa Bel Respiro (now houses the Experimental Institute of Horticulture), Castle Devachan, Villa Virginia and Villa Fiorentina. Another avenue is Corso Felice Cavallotti which boasts the Villas Ormond, Nobel, and Sirio.
The Sea and the Sun
With over 10 km of gorgeous coastline, Sanremo offers both sandy beaches as well as rocky shores. It also has multiple Blue Flag beaches all equipped with bathing establishments and “free” beaches as well. Some of the most famous spots are Bussana, Capo Verdi, Tre Ponti, and Arenella.
Being outdoors is a favorite pastime here and whether it’s simply strolling along the promenade or enjoying any of the numerous sports, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect way to soak up the sun. From Ospedaletti to San Lorenzo al Mare, you can enjoy the 24 km long bike path along the sea! Or perhaps, you’d like to try windsurfing, surfing, sailing, canoeing, or diving- it’s all here. If you prefer to stay on dry land then there are internationally renowned golf courses, horseback riding, tennis courts, as well as mountain climbing and paragliding in the nearby hills.
It would be impossible to miss one of the most iconic buildings in Sanremo, the Russian Orthodox Church along Via Nuvoloni. The wife of Russian tsar Alexander II, Maria Aleksandrovna spent time in the city in the late 1800s and hence opened up the gateway between Russia and Sanremo. It became a favorite spot to escape the frigid Russian winters, especially for those suffering from ailments such as tuberculosis. The church was built in 1913 to serve the growing community of Russians.
La Pigna is the ancient Sanremo that very few visitors get to see. If you can go, do it! Depart from Porta Santo Stefano on foot all the way to the Madonna della Costa Sanctuary. It is a fantastic journey through medieval Sanremo that originally dated to the year 1000.