We feel lucky to now live in Switzerland, surrounded by endless scenery and natural beauty. And a stone’s throw from neighboring countries that are equally beautiful, and have the seaside to boot. Our family takes advantage of this closeness on a regular basis. One of our favorite destinations is Italy. And the region of Liguria is one of the closest to where we live. And that’s why we didn’t hesitate to head here on the Ascension long weekend in late May/June. Our base was the town of San Remo.
San Remo (can be written as San Remo or Sanremo) is a beautiful city on the west coast of Italy. It is located in the province of Liguria. San Remo is the capital of the Riviera dei Fiori or Riviera of Flowers. Its casino also makes it a sort of Italian version of Monte Carlo. San Remo is home to the famous annual music festival Festival della canzone italiana (Festival of Italian Song), which inspired the Eurovision Song Contest. The annual Milan-San Remo bicycle race is held in the second half of March.
How to get to San Remo
The nearest airport is Nice International Airport, 50 km from San Remo. From Nice Airport, take the line 98 bus to the train station, from where you can take the train to San Remo. The journey (with a train change in Ventimiglia) takes an hour and a half. The second nearest airport is Genoa Airport, 144 km away. From Piazza Principe Station you are then in San Remo in 1 hour 44 minutes.
Where to stay in San Remo
There are plenty of hotels and Airbnb accommodations in San Remo. We found accommodation about 4 kilometers from the center at Camping Villaggio dei Fiori. This is because it also offers accommodation in nice fully equipped cabins. A big plus was the campground’s location right on the beach, in addition to its own pool and restaurant.
What to see in San Remo
As I mentioned above, we didn’t have completely central accommodation. But that didn’t bother us at all, because I knew that the Pista Ciclabile – a 24 km long bike path that runs along the coast along the route of the former railway line – runs along the sea. It was completed in 2014 and is used by both pedestrians and cyclists. There are also several bike rental shops along the route. We took the kids’ scooters, and it was no problem getting to the center of San Remo. For us adults, it was a pleasant walk.
Russian Orthodox Church
Not far from the former railway station is the Russian Orthodox Church of Christ the Saviour, whose five onion-shaped domes are very reminiscent of the famous Church of Vasil the Blessed in Moscow. It is certainly an attractive building, worth seeing even from the outside. And what makes a Russian church in Catholic Italy? The Russian Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna spent winters here to improve her failing health. After her first visit, many Russian nobles (including members of the Tsar’s family) followed her example and began spending their winters in Sanremo. As a result of the arrival of Russian nobility in the area, the tsarina wished to have a Russian church built there. In the crypt beneath the church, the last king of Montenegro, Nicholas I, is buried with his wife Milena.
Casinò di Sanremo
Not far from the church you will find a large white building in Art Nouveau style, built in 1905. In the early years, the casino was only open for a few months of the year, from October to April. The casino began operating year-round in 1927, when Italy, influenced by nearby casinos on the French Riviera, decided to legalize hazard gambling. In January 1951, the Winter Garden of the Casino of Sanremo hosted the first edition of the Festival of Italian Song. In just a few years, the festival became an event that attracted the attention of the entire country and the music world. The Italian Song Festival was held at the Sanremo Casino until 1976 when it was moved to the Ariston Theatre.
On the main tourist and shopping pedestrian street, Via Giacomo Matteotti, you’ll find a 1960s theatre that seats 2,000 spectators, and it’s here that the week-long Festival of Italian Song is held every February.
Mercato Annonario di Sanremo
If you are looking for local food, Mercato Annonario is a great place to include in your itinerary. This large indoor market can be found on Via Martiri della Libertà.
No visit to Sanremo is complete without a stroll through the labyrinth of the old town with its narrow, cobblestoned, often vaulted alleyways – naturally for pedestrians only. The old town of San Remo was founded around the 11th century and was called Pigna because of the design of its roads and fortifications, which resemble pinecones. Based on this specific shape, the village was expanded and fortified until the 16th century so that the inhabitants could defend themselves against raids by Moorish pirates. Be prepared to find the walk through the narrow streets up the steep slope quite challenging, but well worth it.
Giardini Regina Elena – Queen Elena Gardens
Just up the hill you’ll find a spot to sit in the shade with a great view of San Remo. It’s worth the climb, and the kids will be rewarded with a small playground.t
Porto vecchio di Sanremo – Old Port of San Remo
This port, full of pleasure and fishing boats, is a beautiful sight to behold from the countless restaurants and cafes along the port.
Forte di Santa Tecla – Fort of St. Tecla
This ancient fortress next to the port was built in the 18th century. Not so much to protect the town from possible invasions from the sea, but to intimidate the rebellious inhabitants of Sanremo who wanted to join the town to the Kingdom of Sardinia and not be part of the Republic of Genoa. After the Napoleonic Wars, the fortress served as a barracks and then as a prison until 1997. It has now been converted into a museum and is also used for cultural events.
San Remo Beaches
There is a mix of public and paid beaches along the coast. The water is crystal clear and the shores are shallower. The beaches also include restaurants and bars that invite you to sit back and relax.
Tip for a day trip to Monaco
While you’re in San Remo, it’s definitely worth taking a trip to Monaco. The elegant Principality of Monaco, world-famous for its prestigious casino and Grand Prix, is one of the most glamorous places in Europe. We drove from San Remo to the town of Ventimiglia, 16km away, and parked in the free car park just behind the train station (Parking Stazione San Secondo). Here we bought our tickets to Monaco (one-way ticket 4.70 euros/adult, 2.40 euros/child) and boarded the SNCF train. If you want to have great views of the sea on the way to Monaco, I recommend sitting at the window on the left side of the train.
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