A Trip to Bordighera, Ventimiglia and the Famed Giardini Hanbury
You have many things to see and experience when you stay at Villa Hippocampo in Villefranche-sur-Mer. One of the nearby attractions less than 50 km to the east is the beautiful Italian towns of Ventimiglia and Bordighera, which will take less than one hour to reach.
Bordighera is one of the most prominent cities in the Province of Imperia, Liguria, with many incredible natural and historic sites. We have gathered some of the main highlights you should not miss if you only plan to visit this lovely Italian town for a day.
The Church of Sant Ampelio is one of the oldest churches in this area, built in the eleventh century, and honors the city’s patron saint. The church is at the end of the Promenade Argentina, overlooking the Mediterranean. Per the legends, Saint Ampelio comes from Egypt, brought and planted date palms in the area, and the churchyard now boasts several date palm trees.
The Old Town of Bordighera, also called Bordighera Alta, is full of charming little streets, piazzas, alleys, and plenty of tall houses. Many of the houses are interconnected with support arches towering over the streets. You can find cafes and small, family-run restaurants where you can taste local delicacies.
Next on your list of places to see in Bordighera is the Villa Mariani, the former residence of the painter Pompeo Mariani, which today serves as a museum devoted to the painter. The workshop, La Specola, served as the painter’s studio is a must-see; the gardens are exquisite, featuring centuries-old trees, palms, oranges, tangerines, lemons, and olive trees, some older than 500 years. The garden was a part of the much larger Moreno Gardens that were immortalized by Claude Monet, even though these no longer exist.
When discussing gardens, during a short trip to Bordighera, you must visit the Pallanca Exotic Garden. The garden was initially founded in 1910, and over the years, it has the most extensive variety of succulents in Italy, featuring over 10,000 square meters of gardens with over 3,000 plant varieties.
There are many more appealing vistas to see and experience in and around Bordighera. Still, we’ll now have to take our trip to Ventimiglia, which is 7 km to the west or only about 37 km away from Villefranche-sur-Mer. Like Bordighera, Ventimiglia belongs to Italy’s Province of Imperia, Liguria. The region has been populated since antiquity, and many historic landmarks point to the region’s long and rich history. One of the critical places is Balzi Rossi, the ancient caves that are Western Europe’s most important archeological sites.
When visiting Ventimiglia, you should visit the remains of the Roman Theater that was built in the first half of the 2nd century. However, mosaics, ancient city wall ruins, and even tombs near the theater can also be seen.
The old town is also referred to as Ventimiglia Alta, perched on a hill; it overlooks the newly built parts of Ventimiglia and offers many impressive things. Walls enclose the old town, and you should wear comfy shoes, as you must walk the narrow streets, as cars don’t fit here. One of the key sights is the Romanesque cathedral and the 11th-century baptistery, but don’t miss the underground crypt. If you come on a Friday, you can visit and explore the vast Friday outdoor food and flea market that provides excellent shopping and exploration opportunities.
However, between the towns of Ventimiglia and Bordighera, there is one impressive, must-see place: the Giardini Hanbury, or the Botanical Garden Hanbury, also known as the Villa Hanbury. The gardens were established by Sir Thomas Hanbury in the small peninsula southwards in 1867. The garden was designed by the famous botanist and landscape designer Ludwig Winter.
The gardens are now operated by the University of Genoa, featuring an area of 18 hectares (44 acres) and over 2,500 taxa with about 5,800 ornamental, medicinal, and fruiting species. The plant collections include agaves, aloes, salvias, olive trees, and rare fruits. Some other plants you can see here are palms, succulents, citrus trees, Australian trees, and a large variety of cultivated flowers.
The gardens are open for visitors daily from 9.30 to 18.00, but the working hours change during the summer and winter. The entrance is a nominal 10 euros, and you can do a self-guided tour following the signs. You’ll need about 1.5 hours to explore the gardens. Of course, don’t forget to bring your camera, as the place has many incredible photo opportunities.
As you can see, your stay at Villa Hippocampo in Villefranche-sur-Mer is the perfect holiday where you can see and experience the Cote d’Azur and many fantastic once-in-a-lifetime experiences.