Ventimiglia Alta (old town) served as the fortified city centre through the 1800s. What remains today is an incredibly beautiful and architecturally unusual historical site. There are four churches in the steep, winding streets – one of which, the Church of San Michele, is more than 1,000 years old. The granite columns that support the church’s crypt are said to be built from ancient Roman milestones.
Other Roman remains in Ventimiglia include a Roman theatre, buildings, tombs, and parts of the ancient city wall. Roman artefacts from the area, such as statues, tombstones, oil lamps, and ceramics, are housed in the Girolomo Rossi Archaeological Museum in Forte dell’Annunziata on Via Verdi. Just outside of the old town, there is a second Roman museum called Museo Civico Archeologico Girolamo Rossi.
The Balzi Rossi, close to the French border, is the most important Ligurian archaeological site with spectacular caves perched on sea where man used to live in the Paleolithic Era and whose traces are preserved in the Prehistoric museum.
The Villa Hanbury Gardens boasts 18 hectares of splendid subtropical plants from all over the world. The extensive botanical gardens, Italy’s largest, surrounding the former villa of Sir Thomas Hanbury are built on a slope extending almost to the sea. Hanbury Gardens are a few kilometers outside town, reached by car, bus, or taxi.
In nearby Sanremo, old railway tracks have been converted into a traffic free, coastal path, used by walkers, roller bladers as well as cyclists. The path is 20 km long and runs from Ospedaletti to San Lorenzo al Mare along the seafront. It meanders through the delightful town of Sanremo, then down the coast. There are plenty of spots along the route with benches where you can rest and enjoy the scenery and places to stop for refreshments. There are several places where you can hire bicycles but the easiest place to pick one up is directly opposite the old train station in San Remo, close to the coastline and the old town.
When you’ve had enough of the beaches and palm trees, head to the mountains to experience an alpine ambiance and a different kind of Italian charm. Limone Piemonte is a skiing & snowboarding resort with ample amenities, also a great place for mountain biking and hiking outside of the ski season (December until April). It can be reached by car in around 1.5 hours or by train in under two hours.