Imperia - Porto Maurizio
Imperia is Liguria's westernmost province. It borders on Piemonte to the north, on the Savona province to the east and on France to the west. To the south, it is lapped by the Ligurian Sea. The provincial capital is Imperia (41,500 residents) but the most populated town Sanremo (56,000 residents). The sea and the mountains are so close that the area hosts four mountain communities: Comunità dell'Olivo, Alta Valle Arroscia, Argentina Armea and Montana Intemelia.
The name Imperia stems from the Impero River, which divides the former opposing villages of Porto Maurizio and Oneglia, now blended into one town.
In May 1945, the territory was occupied for a month by de Gaulle’s French army, the so-called Tirailleurs.
The stretch of coast belonging to the Imperia province is also known as ‘Riviera dei Fiori’, the Flower Riviera, characterized by bays, ports and coves that become valleys, creeks and peaks above 300 meters. The sea of the Riviera is known for maintaining a mild climate even in winter throughout the area.
At a short distance from the coast, behind the hills, there are valleys and pristine woods.
Imperia is famous for the many food industries that produce oil and pasta, although through time its economy has shifted toward services and tourism. Olive groves, however, are still widespread throughout the territory. In town, recommended are the central Via Bonfante with its arcades, Galleria Isnardi and Galleria degli Orti with the most exclusive boutiques. Along the marina, behind the harbor, there is the old Oneglia, with the old fishermen’s houses and the Palazzo dei Doria, the former lords of the town. On the eastern border there still are the remnants of the 17th century walls commissioned by the Savoia family. Nearby lies the Church of the Annunziata with its neoclassic façade, and the 18th century Scolopi complex. The Duomo di San Maurizio, also neoclassic, is just outside the historic centre. the Naval Museum is also in Piazza del Duomo.
The most popular beach of the Riviera is Spiaggia d’Oro, the golden beach, in the port area of Borgo Marina. However, each coastal town of the province, from Imperia to Bordighera, from Arma di Taggia to Diano Marina, to Ospedaletti, offers gorgeous and sunny beaches.
Among the best inland destinations, noteworthy are Dolceacqua (with the overlooking Doria Castle, which can be reached through a scenic bridge over the Nervia River), Pigna (art and spa centre), Rocchetta Nervina (the best place to start hikes thanks to the many small lakes of the area), Perinaldo (famous for the ‘Cassini’ observatory) and Pieve di Teco (with the characteristic arcades).
Sanremo, the city of flowers, hosts the 1905 Casino, the most prominent building where every year the Festival della Canzone italiana (Italian song festival) is held. Ventimiglia is the closest town to the border with France, and it shows the visitor two sides: the archaeological town of the Roman period, an open-air museum with a theatre still in pristine conditions, the Provenza portal, the thermal baths and mosaics. Then there's the medieval town, on the right bank of the Roia River, characterized by the monumental walls, the Cathedral of the Assunta, the octagonal-plan Baptistery and the Convent of the Canonichesse Lateranensi.
Worth visiting is also the Salvini di Pieve di Teco Theater, the world’s smallest theatre.
The Imperia province displays an extraordinary flora: from the world-famous palms in Bordighera to the terraces covered with vineyards and olive groves of the Nervia Valley, which confer the landscape incredible colours. Similarly, the trees on the Olivo Hills alternate with houses and villages. Finally, the valleys between Liguria and Piedmont such as Argentina, Armea and Arroscia have plenty of natural resources that balance the remains of ancient settlements.
The great variety of sea, mountains and hills gives the visitor the possibility to take on several activities. The coast of Sanremo is very lively: besides the Casino, there are numerous opportunities for shopping, many restaurants and clubs open until late night. The area, however, is popular for the adventurous itineraries in the wilderness that, through the woods, lead from the medieval villages to the sea. A network of trekking trails spreads throughout the province. Some hikes can take up to a whole day to complete. The mountains are known as the ‘Alps of the sea’ and are ideal for biking; for this reason, many mountain bike trails have been built to meet the demand of the more intrepid tourists. In addition, nature and photography enthusiasts can enjoy the different seasonal blossoms in the Ligurian Alps.
Here the Trail of Gardens has recently been established to bring together the individual elements of nature, art and culture from areas that shared a similar history, although separated by national boundaries.
In Imperia, the Cascine Hill hosts Villa Grock, which once received the acclaimed Swiss clown Adrien Wettach; from there, one can hike up to the small Church of S. Luca, where the view over the Mongioje Mountains is spectacular.
Finally, the Museo dell’Olivo narrates its guests the centennial history of olive oil and its production.
The local products and their derivatives constitute the delicacies typical of the cuisine. Olive oil gives the ‘focaccia ligure’ its unmistakable genuine flavor; Vessalico’s garlic, with its pinkish color, is a rare and prized variety that can only be found in the Valle Arroscia area. In Vessalico, in fact, on July 2nd there is a celebration to present the garlic ‘reste’, braided by hand by the farmers.
This product is essential for the preparation of two other traditional dishes: the pesto and the aje’, an egg and olive oil sauce of medieval origin similar to the famous aioli, widespread in France.
Other traditional products include the Triora bread, baked in large doughs with a mixture of soft wheat and buckwheat. It remains fresh for a long time and can be served with fermented sheep ricotta, the ‘bruzzu’, or with a local ‘malga’ goat cheese.
The Val Roja honey is unique in its kind because of the climate, which is influenced by the Alps and the Mediterranean at the same time. The territory funnels an array of scents that confer the honey a special flavor hard to find elsewhere.
The area is also famous for the wine. Each valley has its own production: the Vermentino, the Pigato, the Rossese are guarantee of certified quality and pleasure for the taste buds.
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