Posted by: Brad Nixon | December 14, 2015

To the Ligurian Coast: Bordighera

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? Maybe it’s the scenery.

Bordighera Marcy Vincent 1075 (640x445)

Si. E vero.

A picturesque old city center enclosed by a thriving coastal resort?

Bordighera arch Brad Nixon 6678 (480x640)

Bordighera Ave Brad Nixon 6729 (640x480)

Certo, si!

With about 10,000 inhabitants, Bordighera is quite different from towns we visited recently, Villefranche-sur-Mer and Nice. Much larger and more urban than Villefranche, 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.

It has a daily life of its own, as well: shops, produce available 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:

Bordighera Monet Brad Nixon 6725 (640x480)

Bordighera villa vert Brad Nixon 6724 (480x640)

The specific painting by Monet that inspired us to visit the city is well known, titled simply, “Bordighera:”

Claude Monet Bordighera (640x515)

Bordighera by Claude Monet, 1884

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:

Bordighera Monet Brad Nixon 6672 (640x480)

We had great fun exploring the steep, narrow streets of Bordighera Alta.

Via XX Sett Brad Nixon 6689 (640x480)

Bordighera street Brad Nixon 6681 (480x640)

At night, the place looked magical as the sun sank behind France to the west.

Bordighera Marcy Vincent 1100 (640x462)

The local kids took advantage of the mild summer night to — what else? — play computer games in a doorway off the old piazza.

Bordighera Brad Nixon 6659 (640x480)

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.

Bordighera Brad Nixon 6716 (480x640)

With true Italian hospitality, the owners made us feel like regulars on our second visit. Here’s The Counselor, center, 2nd row, with several generations of the restaurant family and in-laws.

Restaurant Bordighera Brad Nixon 6720 (640x480)

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 4th-century hermit.

St Ampelio Brad Nixon 6747 (640x480)

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 even a used book sale. For a Euro,  I picked up a copy of Thomas Pynchon’s 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.

Bordighera Brad Nixon 6661 (640x358)

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.

Some of the photographs in this post and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2015, 2019. Some photos © Marcy Vincent, used by kind permission.


  1. No wonder Monet liked Bordighera. What a beautiful village! Those painters certainly knew how to enjoy life. Thanks for the great photos and colorful, informative descriptions.


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