We’ve decided to extend our tour we’ve been on for the past few posts in order to see more of the Mediterranean coast (who could resist?). We’ve gone east from Villefranche-sur-Mer about 20 km (12-1/2 miles), across the border into Italy . Now we’re on the Ligurian coast, and stop in the coastal city of Bordighera (bor-dih-GER-uh, with a hard “G).
Why here? Scenery, perhaps ? (click on photos for larger images):
Si. E vero.
A picturesque old city center enclosed by a thriving coastal resort?
With about 10,000 inhabitants, Bordighera is quite different from towns we visited recently, Villefranche and Nice. Much larger and more urban than Villefranche (which is, interestingly, Bordighera’s official twin city), it’s calmer and more compact than Nice. It’s been a tourist destination since the 1800s, especially for the British as well as Russians and other continental travelers. It has large tourist villas, restaurants, parks and gardens and a variety of other traveler-focused amenities, including a lovely beach, but it has a daily life of its own, as well: shops where you buy your produce at a large farmer’s market or, perhaps, you pop into the butcher’s shop for some coniglio nostrano — local rabbit — or something else:
What brought Bordighera to our attention wasn’t a travel brochure or a website; it was a painting.
Claude Monet spent a good deal of time in Bordighera, and produced a lot of paintings there. The city, in fact, makes a point of posting reproductions of paintings by Monet and other artists at approximately the point from which the painters worked, so that one can compare their view with the vista today. Here’s an example:
The specific painting by Monet that inspired us to visit the city is well known, titled simply, “Bordighera:”
The Counselor and I went looking for the point from which Monet painted his view of Bordighera, featuring the distinctive tower of Bordighera Alta, the city’s old town. Although we hiked far up above the city, we couldn’t quite find the same angle. Here’s as close as we got:
We had great fun exploring the steep, narrow streets of Bordighera Alta.
At night, the place looked magical as the sun sank behind France to the west.
The local kids took advantage of the mild summer night to — what else? — play computer games in a doorway off the old piazza.
We ate well in Bordighera, returning for a second successive night to a small restaurant in the old town, wedged into a small open-air space under the sky with the last of the day’s light above us.
With true Italian hospitality, the owners made us feel like regulars on our second visit. Here’s The Counselor with several generations of the restaurant family and in-laws.
We didn’t spend a lot of time investigating architecture, but one picturesque structure is the 11th-Century church of Saint Ampelio, at the very edge of the water, named after the city’s patron saint, a hermit from the 4th Century.
If you’re an observant and curious traveler, sometimes the “real” life of the people whose town you’re visiting comes into view. Our first night in Bordighera, we heard live music from the Giardini Lowe not far from our hotel and went to investigate. We found the second night of a 5-day “Festa Democratica” in full swing there under the trees of the park. There were food booths, arts and crafts and a used book sale where for a Euro I picked up a copy of L’arcobaleno della gravità: Gravity’s Rainbow. Best of all was the music and dancing. There on a mild July night on the coast of Italy, the local trade union members and their families were celebrating their democratic heritage.
La dolce vita, certo.
This is the concluding article in a series of posts about visiting a portion of the Mediterranean coast. Click HERE to see the first, or use the navigation below to see previous posts.
© 2015 Brad Nixon. Some photos courtesy of and copyright by M. Vincent, all rights reserved.