Long a haunt of Europe’s crowned heads, nobility, wealthy and fortune-hunters, Sanremo is at the heart of the colourful and sunny Riviera dei Fiori, the Riviera of Flowers. An old-fashioned seaside resort with several interesting tourist sights, picturesque views and good travel links, Sanremo is a good base for a holiday in this western end of Liguria.
Sanremo holiday information
The Italian Riviera is famed for its all-year-round mild climate, and was a popular destination for European nobility, who could promenade along the sea front or stake their inheritance on the fall of dice in the coast’s casinos. The Mediterranean resort is busier and hotter in summer, but makes a pleasant destination at almost any time of the year. Within Italy, one of Sanremo’s chief claims to fame is as the host resort for an annual pop music competition, the Sanremo Festival. Unless you have a real passion for contemporary Italian pop music, it’s best to avoid the crowded city in the first weeks of March.
One of Sanremo’s principal tourist attractions is the town itself. For a small resort, Sanremo presents an impressive variety of faces to the visitor. There is a harbour where swanky yachts jostle for space, and old men tinker with more dilapidated marine transport. There are busy shopping streets where you can pick up jewellery and clothes, and a hectic market, crowded with French trippers who throng over the border in a quest for bargains. There are broad palm-lined streets where Sanremo’s exotic past visitors – from Empresses to poets, via Tchaikowski and Alfred Nobel, resided in luxury villas. And most atmospheric of all is the old town, the Pigna, named after a pine cone for the way the tight-packed buildings cling to a steep hill.
Like other Ligurian towns, Sanremo was built with defence in mind – early foreign visitors were not extravagant tourists but marauding pirates. So the oldest part of Sanremo consists of winding narrow alleys diving under arches and buttresses towards the hill’s summit, crowned with a church.
Individual tourist sights of interest in Sanremo include the pretty domed Russian Orthodox church built by the town’s many wealthy emigres in the early 1900s. The Casino is one of the town’s most famous sights, a glaring white palace with a range of options for those in love with chance. You’ll need to dress up to enter some of the gaming rooms, but anyone can have a go on the one-armed bandits in the main halls. If you visit early in the day, the main clientele consists of respectable-looking elderly women with manic gleams in their eyes, clutching their buckets of tokens.
Sanremo is well-experienced at entertaining leisure-seekers. As well as all the usual seaside facilities, the town also offers an 18-hole golf course, horse-riding and boat trips (as well as gambling, naturally). It’s well-worth exploring more of the coastline – the smaller nearby towns such as Ospedaletti offer more peaceful surroundings and charming beaches, while the French Riviera and Monaco are just a train ride away.
Sanremo Tourist Information Office is located close to the seafront and the Russian church; in Palazzo Riviera, Largo Nuvoloni (on Corso Imperatrice). You can pick up a selection of excellent free guides and maps, so it’s a good first stop for your holiday.
Sanremo Travel Information
Get to Sanremo
Sanremo has a huge railway station. The railway runs underground, through the cliffs – allow ten minutes to walk from the station entrance along moving walkways to the platforms. The station is not particularly welcoming or user-friendly, and it is also quite a long walk from the main tourist parts of town (unlike the old station, which was right on the seafront).Trains run to Genoa and further into Italy, and also along the coast to France.
There are also bus services which run along the coast – although note that in peak season the roads may become congested.
Sanremo’s lodging options tend to consist of rather old-fashioned hotels that have a faint air of having seen better days, although there are also some up-and-coming options including holiday apartments and B&Bs. There is a fairly big choice if you book ahead, and hotels range from budget to luxury standard. Highlights include the grand five-star Royal Hotel Sanremo and the seaview aparthotel Residence dei Due Porti.