August 4, 2020
In the summer of 2020, I have been concentrating on traveling close to home, exploring Liguria’s hidden gems and also cities and towns less visited by Americans. My first stop on this adventure is hardly visited by anyone and that is a shame.
My friend and I did a quick plan for a 2-day trip to Western Liguria. Both of us wanted to see Valloria despite the difficulty since there were no trains or busses to his tiny medieval hamlet high above Imperia. We took a train to Imperia and hired a local taxi driver for a flat fee and one hour in Valloria.
It was worth every centissimo!
Piero spoke English and was so much fun as our driver. He would stick his arm out his window and say things like “Look! Olive Tree!”
His favorite word was “particular” and he used it frequently. It was a cloudy day as we drove tiny roads up the mountain to the hamlet of Valloria where less than 60 people live. What’s the draw of this tiny place?
Art! International artists, both well-known and up and coming, have painted nearly every door in this Medieval enclave.
I have never seen anything quite like it. The door below is unforgettable.
We walked along medieval streets, some painted like below,
Seeking out the next work of art.
And the next.
We turn a corner and, before even noticing the doors, we see the incredible views.
Walking along ancient pathways, up and down the hills.
This gentleman, carrying vegetables, leaving his home, is one of my favorites from Valloria.
The playful painting for the barn doors above brings a smile to my face. I can almost hear the laughter of the children.
This door panel made me wonder what she had done. Maybe she saw the following door.
The multiple styles of art used on these doors gives a visitor like me a taste of the varied styles of modern art available for all to enjoy. I loved the almost steam punk feel on this door.
How about a painted garden?
I have so many more door photos. Some will remain while others will be repainted.
Every single door, every walkway was worth the visit. There is an outdoor restaurant near the entrance to the town. Next time, I will stay longer and enjoy a meal there. But Piero, our driver, was waiting. It was time to drive to Imperia and check into our hotel. I would highly recommend Piero as a driver. Not only was he warm and entertaining, he bought us the best focaccia we have ever eaten on the way up and stopped for a coffee for us all on the way back.
In Imperia, we experienced a Booking.com problem and changed hotels because the one we had booked 3 days before was actually not open. They found us a room in the 4-star Miramare Hotel further from the sea but with glorious views and a pool.
The grounds were lush.
With views of the city of Imperia that were sublime.
Our hotel rooms were large but needed updating. By the time we got settled, we were hungry for pranzo, our lunch. We walked down to the seaside
Where we found Ristorante Al Gambero. What an excellent spot for outdoor dining.
We were surrounded by flowers covering the pergola on one side and the sea on the other.
We enjoyed excellent food and wine.
I wish I had written down the local Vermentino—it was delicious. After our meal, we wandered along the seaside nearby but decided to swim in the hotel pool. The sea did not seem as clear and clean as we were used to swimming in while in Chiavari.
Relaxing in the pool was so peaceful. Our views of the grounds and the city were enchanting. The best part of this hotel was its exterior
and we enjoyed it to the fullest.
The wine at lunch, all the walking up and down hills, and lack of sleep from the night before meant it would be an early night for both of us. The next day would be more new discoveries.
After a good breakfast and checkout, we called Piero to give us a ride to the train station. It was so nice to see him again and have a good laugh with him. We had planned to visit one more town before returning to Chiavari. At the last minute we chose Sanremo.
Neither one of us had done any research on Sanremo. I knew there were beaches.
I knew there was an exclusive gambling establishment.
But this city is so much more.
Our adventure in Sanremo began with the incredible modern train station. What’s this—moving walkways in Italy? Large, modern elevators? Open space and very clean? It was as though we had been beamed to an American shopping mall or airport. Once outside the train station, we were back in a Ligurian town, with painted buildings, clean streets, and the salt sea air.
Sanremo is known as the capitol city of the Riviera dei Fiori, a section of the Italian Riviera known for its flower industry and excellent climate for growing them. There were flower shops everywhere.
I wish I could have taken this bouquet home.
I had also read that there was a Russian Orthodox Church near the gambling casino. I wanted to see that if possible. We chatted with locals, asking for directions and off we sauntered, exploring along the way.
Note the well-maintained, stylish homes and the gorgeous sculpture in the center of the street. See the detail below.
We wandered through neighborhoods.
Where the locals lived, did laundry and shopped.
Up and down interesting side streets.
Where ancient doorways were turned into marketing displays,
While others remained intact.
We also found shopping streets with all the top name brands and people galore.
Intermingled with the top brands were up and coming labels, unique twists on typical offerings.
We did some window shopping along the way. I think it is almost a requirement of a visit to Sanremo. But our goal was to find that Russian Orthodox church. We weren’t in a hurry. We just wanted to see it.
What an architectural treasure!
We paid a donation and went inside.
The artwork within this church would inspire almost anyone to be contemplative.
The angels in each corner
Protect the believers
During ritual prayer.
Ancient artifacts of the church are everywhere including the Black Madonna and Child.
Visiting this holy place was a spectacular surprise. I would highly recommend it to art lovers, and all those who seek peace within.
Of course, people generally do not come to San Remo for churches. Where’s the beach or beaches?
Across from these gorgeous constructions you will find some sandy beaches.
And rocky beaches.
They are all along the city. In Liguria there is no shortage of seashore. Enjoy it when you visit.
We chose to find a place for our pranzo today. We had met a man on our train ride to Imperia who was from Naples but had family with a restaurant in Sanremo. We promised him we would look for it.
Ristorante Vesuvio was in the heart of the shopping district. We stopped and enjoyed pasta. And it felt good to be sitting for a bit. After our meal and chatting with the family, we slowly walked back to the train station where we would catch a train back to our homes in Chiavari.
It was a good deal of train riding for only 2 days of exploration. But it was fun, enlightening, thought-provoking. I would do it again but with at least 2 nights staying somewhere.
My best memories are of the journey are from Valloria, and Sanremo. Although I did enjoy Imperia, I think I prefer the towns around it and above it more than the city itself.
I hope you all enjoyed traveling with me. Liguria is such a splendid province of Italy and, for so many Americans, unknown except for Cinque Terre. Wouldn’t you enjoy exploring it with me further?
Write to me with questions about a journey to these places and elsewhere at Marilyn@takemehomeitaly.com.
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