Sanremo and beyond in the riviera dei fiori

28 June 2024
Written by
Marta Ghelma

Alluring discoveries with The Mall Luxury Outlets

To celebrate its 5th birthday, The Mall Sanremo organised a fantastic event on June 20th in the Riviera dei Fiori, although its storied reputation dates back to its first opening in Florence in 2001. The Mall Luxury Outlet showcases some of the most prestigious luxury brands. You can stroll among over 25 boutiques including their recent Joe Malone pop-up, and, if you wish, hire a personal shopper. The Mall Luxury Outlets has always aimed to go beyond the shopping experience, offering visitors engaging and memorable experiences. From Vespa tours along the coast to discovering Taggia and its Moscatello, a sweet wine produced since the 15th century, to enjoying an aperitif aboard a traditional boat, there’s never a dull moment. With the summer season now in full swing, the opportunity to explore this lesser-known part of Liguria is more enticing than ever.

Sea, nature, art, history, culture, shopping, and Mediterranean cuisine. A handful of kilometers from the French border, on the Riviera dei Fiori, Sanremo encapsulates the best of Italy for a discerning connoisseur. Known for its elegant villas lined with palm trees, its flowers, the Casino, and the Festival of Italian Song; it feels like one of the fantastical invisible cities described in the namesake novel by Sanremo-born Italo Calvino, one of the greatest Italian writers and intellectuals of the 20th century. From Ponente to Levante, with a mild climate for almost 365 days a year, it is a pleasant bike ride along the bike path that stitches together its coastline from the Lungomare delle Nazioni to the beaches of Tre Ponti and Bussana. And then you’ll discover that, beyond the sea, there is much, much more.


Indeed, since the dawn of tourism, Sanremo has been a destination for both national and international jet-setters, and today it still exudes an air of sophistication. The Oscar-winning actor and director Vittorio De Sica, a pioneer of Italian neorealism, and the royal couple Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco were regulars in the red and gold halls of the Casino, where, in the 1930s, the artistic direction was entrusted to Luigi Pirandello, another genius of Italian literature from the last century. In those same years, the “literary salons” began, a tradition that continues to this day (every Tuesday), and the prestigious Sanremo Symphony Orchestra frequently performs on the Casino Theater stage. It was here in 1951 that the famous Festival of Italian Song was born, before moving in 1977 to the Ariston Theater, still in the city. The Ariston, which also functions as a cinema, is one of the most iconic venues in Sanremo and illuminates Corso Matteotti every night with its unmistakable red neon sign.

Wandering through the city center, Sanremo’s architectures compete in a continuous ping-pong between the sacred and the profane. In just a few streets, you can go from the late Romanesque facade of the Co-Cathedral of San Siro, the oldest religious building, to the five onion domes of the Russian Church, which unexpectedly rise on the Passeggiata dell’Imperatrice (the Empress Maria Alexandrovna). And from the mighty walls of the Forte Santa Tecla, which in its nearly 270-year history has been a fortress, barracks, prison, and now a museum, to the 19th-century villas. There are many to visit, but three are absolute must-sees: Villa Angerer, a masterpiece of Art Nouveau and Liberty style with magical bow windows and delicate floral motifs in glass and wrought iron; Villa Ormond, with its park of exotic and rare plants that have enchanted the European aristocracy for centuries; Villa Nobel, where the Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel established, in 1895, the most prestigious award for scientific and literary research.

Often, the villas are surrounded by wonderful gardens. But Sanremo’s flower power doesn’t end there. Expanses of yellow, pink, fuchsia, and purple dot the entire area and especially Sanremo, where at the end of the 19th century, some perfumeries opened selling essences of local flowers. And it was in Sanremo in 1914 that the first flower market was organized. The mild climate, the sun, and the characteristics of the soil have always favored the growth of plants, shrubs, and flowers, from wild species to small botanical masterpieces, creating a true flower system. This is why it’s also known as the city of flowers.


The exploration continues with your gaze turned upwards towards the old Pigna neighborhood, a labyrinth of narrow streets (caruggi) clustered like the scales of a pinecone in a strategic position overlooking the sea and the city. The most spectacular view is enjoyed from the 17th-century Sanctuary Madonna della Costa, while the maze of ancient bastions, towers, gates, arcades, small squares, chapels, medieval buildings, Renaissance palaces, votive niches, and secret gardens invites you to get lost in a world of timeless charm. Italo Calvino often came here, and it was in these alleys that he set his debut novel, “The Path to the Nest of Spiders.” The nearby Regina Elena Gardens are home to an enormous ficus tree, likely an inspiration for the adventures of Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò in Ombrosa, the eccentric character from the cult book “The Baron in the Trees.”

After all this wandering up and down Pigna, you’ll build up an appetite, and the local cuisine knows how to tantalize it with some unmissable specialties. There’s the red shrimp of Sanremo and the delicious “sardenaira” focaccia, topped with tomato, olives, anchovies, and some garlic cloves. “Brandacujun” is a popular recipe made from dried cod and potatoes, while “cappon magro” is a dish of fish and vegetables seasoned with green sauce and served on sailor’s biscuits, a type of hard bread taken on boat trips. The typical sweet is the “Bacio di Sanremo,” two hazelnut and cocoa cookies held together by a cream of chocolate and boiled cream. They’re irresistible and go perfectly with local wines such as Pigato, Vermentino, Rossese di Dolceacqua, or Ormeasco di Pornassio.

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