It was San Rainmo on Our Visit

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A Rainy Day in San Remo

Every trip to southeastern France should include at least a brief hop across the border to Italy. Ventimiglia, the easternmost stop on the half-hourly train service that connects all the famous Cote d’Azur resort towns from Cannes to Monaco and beyond, is the obvious choice, but if you can, you should venture out a little further.

San Remo, a mere 15 minutes by train from Ventimiglia, is a much better introduction to Italy – and, apart from that, well worth a visit in its own right, rain or shine.

"San Remo in the rain"

Actually, let me rephrase that: particularly in the rain. For one because, when the weather is good, there are so many other things to do on the Riviera – like taking a hike in the hills or along the coast, for example. And for another because rain best reveals the true beauty of a city, the type of beauty that alone can shine through the thickest of clouds. (Just like a beautiful lady is most beautiful without any make-up.)

"Old town of San Remo in the Italian Riviera"

San Remo – or “Sanremo”, as they write it in Italian – also helps you to understand one important thing about Italy: that beauty can come uncomfortably close to being a curse if you possess too much of it. Take the baroque church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, for example.

"A baroque church in the town center of San Remo, Italy"

In most cities further north (or east), this church would be the town’s bijou piece of architecture, the pride of the city council, the focus of urban renewal planning, carefully protected and probably surrounded by townscaping arrangements intended to enhance its visual impact.

Read also: The French Riviera on Canvas

In Italian cities, however, baroque churches as such are nothing special, and you cannot even take a half-decent picture of Santa Maria degli Angeli without getting some utilitarian architecture or tram line cables into view. Because, of course, Italian cities too need to put all of these “modern comforts” somewhere. And no matter where they put them, they will always cram the vista of some historical building or another.

"Restaurants and office buildings in the town square of San Remo Italy"

San Remo is best known as a resort town and, at least in Italy itself, as the host city of the annual Music Festival, a song contest that is said to have inspired the Eurovision Song Contest. (A dubious fame, admittedly.)

For a better impression of the “real” San Remo, however, head straight for the Old Town – called “La Pigna” – by turning right out of the train station frontcourt down Corso Garibaldi, entering the narrow maze of medieval lanes and alleyways on the far side of Piazza Cristoforo Colombo.

"Street stairs leading up to old town of San Remo in the Italian Riviera"

Make your way past St Stephen’s Church on Piazza Cassini …

"Plaza Cassini of San Remo in the Italian Riviera"

… always following the uphill route …

"an alleyway in the old town of San Remo Italy"

… all the way to the top of the hill …

"residential houses in San Remo Italy"

.. until you arrive at the majestic Santuario Madonna Della Costa …

"Santuario Madonna Della Costa in Sanremo in the Italian Riviera"

… from where you get magnificent views over the lush gardens of old San Remo ……

"old town of Sanremo seen from the hilltop"

and the city underneath.

"old town of Sanremo seen from the hilltop"

To get to San Remo from any town on the French Riviera, take a train to Ventimiglia and change there for a Trenitalia service. Local trains leave frequently throughout the day (roughly twice every hour), and tickets are easy to buy (on the machine) as well as cheap (EUR 5.40 p.p. round-trip as per March 2013).

Read also: A Perfect Winter Walk in the Italian Riviera

Arriving at San Remo by train is not only convenient but also a memorable experience in itself, largely because of the train station, one of the largest I ever saw – resembling in scale more a major international airport than a provincial railway depot.

"Long exit/entrance hallway of the Sanremo train station"

In one phrase: Italy is full of surprises – and San Remo does an excellent job of preparing you for the ride.

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12 comments to It was San Rainmo on Our Visit

  • Dennis Griffin

    Home of the Martini family. Florists extraordinaire and our old friend Mario.

  • Sanremo is very charming and we go back there often, being only a few minutes away from where we now live, Menton. Thanks for dropping by, Dave.

  • Growing up in Italy we used to watch the Sanremo Music Festival on telly every year but I have never been there. Thank you for sharing this interesting post and beautiful pictures; another place to add to my “to do” travel list!

  • I’m very pleased to hear that my piece has helped you enjoy San Remo in some small way. And you are absolutely right about traveling anywhere in the direction of Italy from the South of France (except if you started from Nice). Trains are uncomfortably packed as you rightly pointed out because of the market day in Ventimiglia. Thanks for sharing your experiences and for dropping by.

  • Angela Major

    We are staying in Menton and used this excellent guide to San Remo, your pictures and prompts to lead us to the main sites on a much sunnier day in august. Thank you for excellent instructions. We also visited the casino, the exterior of the Russian Orthodox Church and the forlorn but lovely old station building on the sea front. One warning to anyone heading from San Remo from Menton, avoid Friday – the all day market at Ventimiglia as the trains are packed and uncomfortable at this time of year. An excellent place however to rest after the journey is the first coffee cafe – Cafe del Palma- for an Italian coffee, pastry and courtesy from the owner – along with a clean, modern toilet! Well practicalities have to be considered!

  • This is a nice post and photos! ? hope so i will going to eastern france and italy.. With your notes! :).. Thanks and good luck!

  • I haven’t heard much of San Remo but what a beautiful town to walk around. The uphill climbs look steep but look so worth it for the views. There aren’t many cities I would appreciate walking in the rain but this one is definitely worth strolling around with an umbrella. I would love to see that train station.

  • Would love to visit the Riviera – #1 and make the day trip to St. Remo #2. You’re right about it being beautiful even in the rain. Your photos are great and give a real sense of what one could enjoy.

  • Rain can definitely influence a journey and the way a city is perceived. It is all about what do we want to see. I’m happy to notice that you think rain can bring out the best in a place – and I must say I loved the photos! I hope I will visit San Remo one day ;)

  • Jeremy Branham

    San Remo is a beautiful town. While the scenery is a bit different, it reminded me of walking through Dublin in the rain. I actually appreciated the walk in the rain. Gave me a different sense and feel of the place. Even in the rain, San Remo looks beautiful.

  • What a lush and beautiful post, Michael! It’s the dry season here and everything’s brown. I’m just drinking up the lushness of San Remo. I’d love to visit. The rain does make it look fresh and beautiful.

  • Exactly right about how rain showing the true beauty of a town (and about truly beautiful ladies). I think it would be quite enjoyable to roam around those medieval lanes and alleys in the rain, admiring the pretty buildings and gardens.

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