By C.H. Kwak in Berlin—
When you pull into Bordighera’s train station, a shabby two-platform affair on the Italian Riviera, it might be hard to believe this small city of 10,000 used to be the stomping grounds of Queen Margherita of Savoy and Charles Garnier (as in that Garnier fortune). During its late-19th century heyday, Bordighera was home to a number of British aristocrats and Italy’s only tennis club. The exclusive luster is gone today, leaving this Mediterranean town with a more modest charm.
A wide boardwalk runs the entire length of Bordighera’s long pebble beach. The region’s calm, sapphire water is said to be popular among Italian tourists, though in mid-September, you could count the number of swimmers on two hands. The promenade quickly became empty when a rainstorm arrived, but once it cleared, the Italian pensioners were back in no time to soak up the last rays of summer.
On the other side of the train tracks, eclectic houses and mansions of all sizes dot the small squares and gardens. Follow a side street uphill, and you’ll find yourself in the old town overlooking the Mediterranean, immortalized by Monet’s paintings.
Bordighera is outshone by famous neighbors such as Monaco and San Remo, which may be a blessing. Spared the kind of overdevelopment you see on the French side of the Riviera, Bordighera has preserved its lovely, late-medieval town center. Cobbled alleyways zigzag through the fortified town. Locals go about their daily lives, seemingly unaware of the tourist scene down by the beach.