Paula Farquharson

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Yachting: Article

Italian Ports Along the Ligurian Coastline

Sailing 'The Big Blue' reveals the diversity of Northern Italy's natural beauty

There is no other way to describe the Ligurian coast in the north of Italy other than simply gorgeous and naturally so. Sailing along in your yacht along one of the most beautiful stretches of the Mediterranean Sea, fondly known as “the big blue”, the view from the water of the cliffs and craggy coves with the immense outline of the Alps is breathtaking. The Alps are so close, within an hour’s drive you can reach the ski slopes. So it is possible to combine a day’s skiing with your leisurely yacht vacation. Or like us you can choose to lie on the deck of your yacht in the warmth of the spring sun while marvelling at the snow capped mountains a stone’s throw away.

The proximity of the ports to the town centers and tourist attractions makes it easy to visit the main points of interest without leaving the luxury of your boat for more than a few hours.
That is the beauty of this region - the landscape is so diverse within short distances. The hills slope down to the sea where perched villages clutch to the side of the steep mountains, safely guarded from more violent sea visitors in the days of old when pirates forced villagers to higher ground. Nowadays these quaint medieval towns and traditional fishing villages ensure your seafaring voyage is a trip down a cultural and culinary lane.
The best thing about the Ligurian coastline that runs from the ports of Ventimiglia to La Spezia is that you will not have to meander far to see much. At a leisurely pace your two week yachting vacation can encompass many of the top ports such as Ventimiglia, San Remo, Bordighera, Santo Stefano al Mare, Imperia, Diano Marina, San Bartolomeo al Mare and of course Genoa. The many inlets en route are home to quaint little fishing villages, which promise a peek of traditional Italian coastal life, and the many local restaurants and trattoria will have you a tavola for several hours indulging in the speciality dishes of the region.
On a recent trip my new Italian husband delighted in introducing me to his old stomping ground in San Remo where he went to school by the sea and grew up on a diet of pasta and pizza and many Mediterranean delicacies that form one of the healthiest diets around.

Port of San Remo
The modern Portosole, which covers an area of 83,000 sq. m. and docks more than 450 yachts and 50 fishing-boats, welcomes the luxury yachts of the world’s elite.
The view as you enter the modern port of Portosole is one of countless luxury yachts like other ports throughout the world, but San Remo is surrounded by hillsides of exotic tropical plants and palm trees and terraced gardens ablaze with colorful flowers. No wonder San Remo is known as the flower town with the slopes littered with glasshouses visible as you sail along the coast. It didn’t surprise me to discover that there are more than 2,000 botanical species in the many gardens here.
As your yacht docks you will smell the perfumed scent of citrus trees in the air, leaving you in no doubt of the mild micro climate this region enjoys.
San Remo is the perfect stop for those who crave the richness of a sophisticated city with none of the downsides - except for the intermittent honking of horns from sleeked-back-dark-haired Italian teenagers who whiz through the streets of this port town on their scooters. Thankfully our fellow yachting neighbors adopted a more prudent approach entering Porto sole than the traffic etiquette we were to witness on the streets of this elegant town.
San Remo’s other port, the older and smaller Porto Vecchio is used by the locals and where you can watch fishermen spill out their catch. Right beside the harbour is the ancient fort of Santa Tecla (a former prison) overlooking a lovely little restaurant Dick Turpin where we ate al fresco the most delicious pizza I have ever tried in the warm spring air.

SIDEBAR: Yacht Club
There is an Italian saying “Li gens de San Remu navigou san remu”, which means the people of San Remo can sail without oars! This prestigious yacht club hosts important sailing events and prestigious regattas such as the Springtime Pre-Olympic Criterium and the famous Giraglia - one of the most important high sea regattas in the Mediterranean Sea. Other important events are the West-Liguria Winter Championship and Italian and international championships. At the yacht club you can hire both sailing and motor boats, and sailing lessons for adults and children are organized every year.

SIDEBAR: Italian Ports: Things To Do and See

Ventimiglia: Anchor in this pretty port and take in a spot of diving where you will find a marvellous seabed full of flora and marine fauna treasures and sunken ships. Don’t miss the Historical Folk Festival in August. Visit the Hanbury Gardens, created by English man Thomas Hanbury who made his fortune in Shanghai and brought back thousands of exotic species of plants creating lush green gardens descending towards the Mediterranean Sea. It is the only botanical park of its kind in the world.

San Remo: Visit the largest flower in the world. Indulge in some betting at the casino.

Bordighera (Sant’Ampelio marina): Further up the rocks is Seborga, a tiny principality dating back to the late 10th century. Ruled by its own Prince (George I, a flower-grower by profession) Seborga issues passports and stamps and is hoping to produce its own currency, the ‘Luigino’. The abbots of Lerino founded a mint and began producing coins, which can be seen at the Bicknell museum in Bordighera.

Port Santo Stefano al Mare: For a breathtaking breath of fresh air take to the hills. Up from the marina degli Aregai you will revel in the panoramic view from the rural villages of Castellaro, Pompeiana and Terzorio (with its quadrangular tower from the 16th century). Meander through olive-tree groves and fragrant flower cultivations (lavender, carnations, roses and chrysanthemums).

Diano Marino: Don’t miss the Castrum Diani Historical Parade in September.

Genao: Visit explorer Christopher Columbus’ birthplace in Borgo Lanaioli beside Porta Soprana. To see sharks and crocodiles on land visit the aquarium. Take the cable car up from the foot of the hill at the Hotel Miramare to take in a panoramic view of this spectacular port and surrounding area. Or for some history visit the Museo del Mare (Museum of the sea and Merchant Shipping).

Portofino: Simply stroll around this unassuming fishing village turned Mecca for luxury yachts to soak up the ambiance. Tall narrow shuttered buildings painted in pale shades of peach, rose and lemon make the piazza (town square) one of the most picturesque in the region and a refuge for the stars. Do not miss breakfast at the Hotel Splendido set in acres of tropical gardens above the port. St George’s bonfire festival takes place in April.

La Spezia: Just north of this military port is the spectacular Cinque Terre (five lands). Five medieval villages and small vineyards are tucked into the folds of the cascading hillsides hovering precariously over the sea. The best way to see them is to take the little train that runs between them or hike the sentieri (paths), many of which have been marked by the Italian Alpine Club. The Cinque Terre Seas are ideal for fishing with abundant shoals of anchovies and other types of blue fish used in local dishes. Portofino Castle Brown on top of the hill overlooks the harbour.

Shopping Heaven
    San Remo’s main street, five minutes from the port, is bursting with designer shops, where Italian men buy their signature shirts, ever so important to their image as the best dressed men in Europe. Women have their fair share of boutiques from which to choose. Afterwards a stroll along the promenade by the harbour made me feel like I was attending an open air fashion show on Milan’s runway and our boat attire felt extremely casual.

Poker Time
We did dress up to try our luck at the roulette table when we paid a visit to the casino that evening - any excuse to don my new Salvatore Ferragamo scarf. San Remo has one of the four casinos in Italy and its Art-Nouveau facade and interior is reminiscent of splendid days gone by resurrected for the lucky elite who pass through its doors. Egyptian King Faruk claimed he could win a poker game by exhibiting just three king figures. “I am the fourth” is what he used to say.
If you would rather indulge in a drink near your yacht and take in the view of the port check out The Victory Bar – they make a great negroni.

Day Time Fun
San Remo also offers a 18-hole golf course, Golf degli Ulivi, and here at one of the oldest courses around (built in 1931) you can play golf all year round. Beware though the views of the surrounding countryside with holes hovering over the sea made for a distracting round.

More Stories By Paula Farquharson

Paula Farquharson is an editor of The Riviera Times newspaper. Originally
from Ireland, she worked in New York and is now based in Nice, France,
where she learned to sail.

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