Thursday 9th November 2023
The sun-kissed Mediterranean Riviera coast has long been a dream destination for Brits seeking winter sun and escape. The glamour and glitz of the French Riviera is well documented, but under an hour’s drive east of Nice airport, across the border in Italy, sits West Liguria on the Italian Riviera. With its charming coastal towns and medieval hillside retreats, steeped in historical significance and enjoyed by British and European royalty, aristocracy, artists and naturalists in previous centuries.
While there are medieval villages and history harking back to Roman times and beyond, much of the town architecture and garden attractions date from the 19th century when this area was a most fashionable, and social, holiday capital. Historians believe this may be the first Riviera. Nowadays, the coastal towns of West Liguria provide a popular holiday home retreat for more Italians, in particular those living in Milan or Turin.
So authentic is this special region, extending from the border to beyond Imperia, we are hesitant to write about it! It was very popular amongst the British in the 1920s with a few resurgences since.
Now our partner, Liguria Homes, points out British interest in property has risen 25% over a three month period this year, so we are flying the flag, helping discerning buyers and shrewd investors find their match.
1. Spectacular Mediterranean Climate and Coast
One of the biggest draws of West Liguria is its fantastic Mediterranean climate. In fact, its close proximity of the Alps to the coast creates a shelter from the winter winds, giving the area its own microclimate.
This climate helped create a garden industry, in particular the cultivation of flowers centred around Sanremo, nicknamed ‘City of Flowers’, with greenhouses adorning terraces around the city.
Liguria claims the most blue flag beaches in Italy, with some of the clearest waters making popular wreck diving and trips from Imperia to watch whales or dolphins in the Ligurian Sea Cetacean sanctuary. Corsica is only 180km off the coast.
Proximity to the sea means local seafood dishes are popular on menus – and delicious!
2. Diverse Landscape and Sport
West Liguria's landscape is diverse and striking. From the marinas, towns and beaches along the rugged coastline to the mountains, with hills and terraces covered in vineyards, lemon, orange and olive groves, this region is a great spot for exercise, wellbeing and nature lovers.
In particular, there are many cycle routes and trails for hiking, biking, in the hills and mountains. For those who prefer a flatter level, along the old coastal railway line the track has been replaced by a tarmac walk and cycle route, The West Liguria Cycle path, extending 24km overlooking the sea, from San Lorenzo to Ospedaletti. Bike hotels are planned to open at the old stations along the route.
Cycling history in Liguria dates back to the end of the 19th century, when the first races were held. The Milan-San Remo ‘Spring Classic’ race started in 1907. This is the longest professional one-day race and one of the most prestigious in cycling.
Tennis in Italy goes back to around 1325, but tennis clubs came to Liguria during its international heyday, inspired by Wimbledon and there are many tennis clubs today, in locations including Sanremo, Ospedaletti and Bordighera. Paddle is proving a very popular rival.
3. Authentic Italian and Ligurian Culture
While West Liguria is a part of Italy, it maintains a distinctive Ligurian identity, including its own dialect as it was once linked as far west as Var in France, as part of the Kingdome of Sardinia and Savoy. Brits looking to immerse themselves in authentic Italian culture will find it in abundance. From traditional festivals and local markets to the irresistible cuisine, including fresh seafood, pesto, and local wines, the region offers a true taste of Italy. Some of the olive oil is world class!
English is widely spoken in Sanremo and in Bordighera but less so elsewhere.
Not only did the area’s capital, Sanremo, have its casino before Monaco, but its annual singing competition, entering its 74th year in 2024, is believed to be the inspiration behind the Eurovision Song Contest!
West Liguria is renowned for its safety and tranquility. Crime rates are low. Locals will tell you how stress free it is, living there!
4. Accessibility from the UK
Getting to West Liguria is remarkably easy, with direct flights from major UK airports to nearby Nice Côte d'Azur Airport or, a little further away, Genoa Cristoforo Colombo Airport.
There are ferry, bus and train options too. It takes under 14hrs to drive from London to Sanremo via Eurotunnel.
5. Nearby Attractions
Beyond the stunning coast, West Liguria offers a gateway to explore nearby attractions. Day trips to iconic destinations like the French Riviera, Portofino, or the Cinque Terre, with many options for adventure and exploration. From the new marinas, there are sailing and boat trip options available in season.
There are medieval villages to discover in the hills and mountains, including Dolceacqua, with its bridge made famous in a Monet painting.
6. Property Investment Opportunities
Property prices in West Liguria are relatively affordable compared to other Mediterranean hotspots. Beachfront and sea views may be prime, in particular in capital Sanremo, but prices vary across the main towns of Bordighera, Sanremo, Ospedaletti and Imperia, where our partner, Liguria Homes, have their offices. Rural properties and apartments lead in around €100,000 with prime family villas closer to the coast around €1,000,000 to €18,000,000 or more.
New building is very restricted but some prime investment opportunities do come to market. With the potential for rental income, buying a holiday home can be a financially savvy decision, especially an older property that can be refurbished and either let out, or sold as turnkey. Our partners report a steady growth of international interest in the area. Demand outstrips supply in many cases. There is investment from Monaco, in particular in the new Marinas that brings new life and holiday potential to the area.
To conclude, West Liguria is a slice of understated Mediterranean paradise that is authentically its own. There is opportunity for investment, and Italy has an attractive residency programme to attract wealthy foreigners, but most importantly there is a place here to warm your heart.
Contact us if you would like to know more – or be connected to our partners. They can hand hold through the entire sale process, even renovations if you buy an older property. Email us to get in touch. We are here to help.
West Liguria property search link here