The Ligurian province of Imperia is a hilly and mountainous region linking Italy to France. While the adjacent province of Genoa is all about the Italian Riviera and the seaside towns and villages, Imperia province is home to quite a few “rock villages” that cling to the province’s hills and are clustered together in a way makes an interesting and easy to follow itinerary (if you ignore the curvaceous roads). Let’s take a look at the map.
Map of Imperia Province in Liguria
As we move from the French Riviera to the Italian one we first find Ventimiglia. The Roia River slices the town in half, with the Autostrada feeding you to the newer town near the sea. The older bits, called Ventimiglia Alta, are across the river on a rather steep hill. I wonder how many people miss the narrow streets and compelling architecture of the old town. While you’re there, be sure to visit the Romanesque cathedral and 11th-century baptistery. Go downstairs to visit the crypt and remains of the old baptistery underground. The cathedral is built on the site of an older Lombard church on top of what may have been the site of a Roman temple. Also on the main road is the fascinating Oratorio de’ Neri.
Roman remains in Ventimiglia include a Roman theater, buildings, tombs, and parts of the ancient city wall.
If one were to loop back towards France on the state road, a very interesting seaside garden can be seen between Ventimiglia and France:
Hanbury Botanical Gardens, on the northwestern coast between Ventimiglia and the French border, is built on a slope between the road and a villa by the sea. Pick up a map with color coded itineraries at the ticket office as there’s a lot to see spread over 45 acres, including various plant groupings, statues, fountains, sea views, and even part of the old Roman road. The climb back up is fairly strenuous so have a drink or sandwich at the cafe at the bottom and plan a leisurely return. — 9 Top Italian Gardens
(Claude) Monet spent a happy winter on the Italian Riviera, painting many scenes in the vicinity of Bordighera. He was struck by the light, the color and the vegetation of Liguria, and found Dolceacqua, with its half-ruined castle and high-arched bridge, particularly evocative.
Bordighera has been occupied since the Palaeolithic, perhaps due to Bordighera’s special micro-climate that features warmer winters. Romans occupied it until the pirates got to be too much for them.
The climate brings not one but four notable gardens created in the 19th century. Claude Monet painted the large gardens of Villa Moreno in 1884.
The seaside town was a favorite of British writers and artists. The novel “Call Me by Your Name”, now a popular movie, is set in Bordighera.
From Bordighera one can continue on the Claude Monet trail by heading inland to Dolceacqua.
Filling the bottom of the Nervia Valley Dolceacqua was the fiefdom and birthplace of the powerful Doria clan. It spawned Renaissance admiral Andrea Doria. The Doria clan lorded it over the Republic of Genoa in its 16th-17th-century heyday. —David Downie
Dolceacqua features fabulous olive oil and local light red wine called Rossese di Dolceacqua.
From Dolceacqua one can visit the rock villages, shown in the small type on the map. See David Downie’s coverage of them starting with part one of four parts.
Sanremo is a famous resort city with a casino, known for it’s song competition
Sanremo is also popular for beaches, boating, and its unusual old town, La Pigna, whose narrow cobbled streets wind up the hill to a beautiful sanctuary and gardens with fantastic sea views. The surrounding area is known for the production of flowers and olive oil.
Imperia, the provincial capital, is known for the production of flowers and fine olive oil. Its cathedral, San Maurizio, was built between 1781 and 1832 and is the largest in Liguria. It is a sister city to Newport, Rhode Island. As in Ventimiglia,
he city is split into two districts by the Impero River, Oneglia and Porto Maurizio. If you’re looking for local color and narrow, winding lanes, Porto Maurizio is where you want to be; Parrasio is the old town within Porto Maurizio.
If you wander over to the Oneglia district, you’ll want to visit Villa Grock, a smallish villa with beautiful architecture.
Imperia is fairly small, so getting around by foot is not much of a problem.
Diano Marino is on the eastern end of Imperia Province. Its tourism site offers a live webcam so you might check on the weather and see the city. There aren’t as many attractions in Diano as the other cities to the west except for the beaches and the mild climate, but the Infiorata in which flower “murals” are are set down on pavement is part of the Feast of Corpus Christi takes place in the historic center.
Other Maps of Liguria and its Provinces
We hope you’ve enjoyed the little tour of the Imperia Province of Liguria. You can see a complete map of Liguria, or zoom into the other three Provinces via the links below.