Dolceacqua and Sanremo, two diverse hidden glens in Liguria

June 27, 2023

Dolceacqua bridge and Doria Castle

Our group continued exploring spots where few Americans have tread. One of my favorites is the small hill town of Dolceacqua, set away from the sea in Liguria. Travel with us.

Despite centuries of time, while we were visiting Dolceacqua, it felt as though we were in medieval times. In the 11th Century this town was called Dulzana and Oberta Doria began construction on the castle on the hill. He founded his dynasty here and in Ventimiglia, eventually coming down to Andrea Doria, a son of Dolceacqua. 

The house of Savoy took control of Dolceacqua in the 1500s The Doria family was still co-ruling until sometime in the 17th Century.

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A depiction of the Doria family

What I find most entrancing is simply wandering through the caruggi, or sacagasse as they are called in their dialect, the narrow, curving streets. There is always a breeze traveling through this hill town—the streets are shaded from the sun by the high, attached townhomes.

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A magical walk.

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The Arches over the walkway support the walls from buildings on both sides.

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Here’s a photo of some of my people traveling and climbing up to the castle.

We all wandered where we chose, exploring little corners.

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I found more than one painted medieval warrior guarding the walls.

There are two stories about  Dolceacqua, one may be a fable whereas the other is true.

In the 1800s two Impressionist painters, Renoir and Claude Monet lived for a time in Dolceacqua. Monet was so taken with the stone arch bridge that he actually painted 5 paintings of it.

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This is the exact spot where Monet set up his easel. 

The second story is a traditional one. In the Middle Ages, there was a disgusting habit of Prima Notte. On the night of a new wedding, the ruling Marquis or whatever title he held, would sleep with the bride before the husband has the opportunity. 

When Lucrezia and Basso ran away to be married in secret, the leader sent men to find them. They stole Lucrezia and dragged her back to the castle. She tried to jump but was caught and imprisoned by the Marquis where she chose to die of hunger rather than submit to him.

The entire town revolted against their ruler and abolished the practice forever. In honor of Lucrezia, there is a celebration in mid-August each year in her honor. There was also a cookie created called the Michetta which is celebrated then and eaten every day in Dolceacqua 700 years after her sacrifice. 

Speaking of food, we all agreed that one of the best meals we shared was here in Dolceaqua at Casa e Bottega.

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This stack of beef was tender and delicious.

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Deb Larsen pointed out to us that the wine showed above was the first ever DOC wine in Italy. It was lovely.

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Most of us finished our Dolceacqua experience with excellent gelato before getting on our bus and moving on.

La migliore vita notturna a Sanremo nel 2023 - Tripadvisor

Thanks to Trip advisor for the photo above of SANREMO CASINO.

Now for a very different town in Liguria Dei Fiori, the Liguria area known for its flowers. It is also known for its Casino and for the 75 year old Musical contest held in Sanremo that is famous all over Europe and the world.

The coastline of Sanremo is filled with gorgeous beaches, a long bike path that you can travel on for kilometers, and incredible scenery. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, both the British people and the Russians discovered the joy of excellent winter weather and a peaceful life in San Remo. 

We visited the Russian Orthodox Church in town as we began our exploration.

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The artwork is so intricate and so attractive.

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It is a treat for the eyes.

Once inside, everything is different from other churches you typically explore in Italy.

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The ornate altar protects the sacristy behind the intricately decorated, blue doors.

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Gorgeous artifacts including a Black Madonna.

It was a peaceful break from the busy city life in San Remo.

After leaving the church, we visited the exterior of the San Remo Casino. None of us were high rollers. We then followed our guide to centro storico, the medieval old town.

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Here we met an older lady chatting about her kids moving away for work. Yet she remains in her 4th floor apartment. We wandered through the winding streets of tall, multi-colored pastel homes. Compared to today’s Sanremo, this area is tiny and is an uphill climb. 

We left centro storico to wander on the people only street of expensive shops on Giacomo Matteotti Street. You can shop every high-end shop in Italy here—it is like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

One difference is the effect of the Music Festivals. On the center line of the street, you will find the names of the winners of the Sanremo Festival going back 75 years.

Mahmood, the winner in 2019, has found great success in Europe and beyond.

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Maneskin won in 2021 and has since become huge in the USA and all across the world. 

I personally enjoy both of them. 

The original claim to fame for the San Remo Festival is that the winner in 1958 sang what became known worldwide as the song, Volare.  For me, it was fun to see the walkway. It reminded me of the Hollywood hall of fame.

After our ½ day tour concluded, we each chose ways to explore. Many of us sat by the sea, enjoying a late lunch and an adult beverage. The sea, as always, is captivating. I could spend the day there.

I have more of our journey into the hideaways in Liguria to share with you. Please travel with us today and again soon for more of Hidden Liguria.

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