Imperia is Liguria's westernmost province. It borders on Piedmont to the north, the Province of Savona to the east, and 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 is San Remo (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 united 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 Imperia Province is also known as the Riviera dei Fiori, the Flower Riviera, characterized by bays, ports and coves that become valleys, creeks and peaks standing above 984 ft. The sea of the Riviera is known for a mild climate, even in winter.
At a short distance from the coast, behind the hills are valleys and pristine woods.
Imperia is well-known for its many agro-alimentary firms that produce oil and pasta (although in time its economy has shifted towards services and tourism), and olive groves are still widespread throughout the territory.
Visit the Provincial Capital's central Via Bonfante with its arcades, and Galleria Isnardi and Galleria degli Orti with the most exclusive boutiques. Along the marina and behind the harbor is old Oneglia, with the old fishermen’s houses and the Palazzo dei Doria, the former lords of the town. Imperia's eastern border reveals the remnants of the 17th-Century walls, originally commissioned by the Savoia family.
Nearby lies the Church of the Annunziata with its neoclassical façade, and the 18th-Century Scolopi Complex. The Duomo di San Maurizio, also in the Neoclassical style, is just outside the historic center. The Naval Museum is also in Piazza del Duomo.
The most popular beach along the Province's Riviera is Spiaggia d’Oro, or Golden Beach, in the port area of Borgo Marina, yet every community - from Imperia, Bordighera, and Arma di Taggia to Diano Marina and Ospedaletti - offers gorgeous and sunny beaches.
Noteworthy among the best inland destinations are Dolceacqua (with the overlooking Doria Castle, which can be reached through a scenic bridge over the Nervia River), Pigna (an art and spa hub), Rocchetta Nervina (with its many small lakes, the best initiation point for a hike), Perinaldo (famous for the Cassini Observatory) and Pieve di Teco (with its characteristic arcades).
San Remo, the "city of flowers," is home to the 1905 Casino, where every year the Festival della Canzone Italiana (Italian song festival) is held. Ventimiglia is the town nearest to the border with France, and to the visitor it reveals its dual personalities: the archaeological town from the Roman period, an open-air museum with a theatre still in pristine conditions, the Provenza Portal, the thermal baths and mosaics; and the Medieval town, on the Roia River's right bank, characterized by 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.
Imperia Province displays extraordinary flora: from the world-famous palms of Bordighera to the terraces covered with vineyards and olive groves, that lend their incredible colors to the Nervia Valley. Similarly, the trees on the Olivo Hills alternate with homes and villages. Finally, the valleys between Liguria and Piedmont - such as Argentina, Armea and Arroscia - boast plenty of natural resources that decorate the remains of ancient settlements.
The Province's diverse terrain, encompassing sea, mountains and hills, offers the visitor the possibility for numerous, varied activities.
The coast of Sanremo is rather lively, with not only its Casino, but numerous opportunities for shopping, many restaurants and clubs open until late at night. The area is also popular for adventure itineraries through the wilderness that lead from the Medieval villages to the sea. A network of trekking trails is diffused throughout the Province, with some hikes requiring up to a whole day to complete.
The maritime Alps are ideal for biking; for this reason, many mountain-biking trails have been built to meet the demands of more intrepid tourists. And nature and photography enthusiasts can enjoy the changing seasonal blossoms in the Ligurian Alps.
Here the Garden Trail has recently been established to bring together the individual elements of nature, art and culture from areas that share a similar history, although separated by national boundaries.
In Imperia, the Cascine Hills host Villa Grock, which once hosted the acclaimed Swiss clown Adrien Wettach, and whence one can hike up to the small Church of San Luca, where the view over the Mongioje Mountains is spectacular.
Finally, the Olive Museum narrates the history of olive oil and its production.
The local products and their derivatives constitute the delicacies typical of Imperia Province's cuisine. Olive oil lends the focaccia ligure its unmistakable, genuine flavor; Vessalico 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, a celebration to present the garlic reste, braided by hand by the farmers, takes place every July 2nd.
This product is essential for the preparation of two other traditional dishes: Ligurian pesto and the aje’, an egg and olive oil sauce recipe of Medieval origins similar to the famous aioli, widespread in France.
Other traditional products include the Triora bread, baked in large batters with a mixture of soft wheat and buckwheat. It remains fresh for long periods of time and can be served with fermented sheep ricotta - il bruzzu - or with local malga goat cheese. Val Roja honey is unique in its kind due to the climate, influenced by both the Alps and the Mediterranean; the terroir thus confers a special, rare flavor to the honey. Finally, the area is also famous for its wine, with each valley boasting its own production: Vermentino, Pigato, and Rossese are delectable and all quality-certified.