You might not have heard of it yet, but this quiet coastal town on the Italian Riviera is very famous.

Famous for its flowers and gardens, famous for its casino, famous for its Italian Song Contest and famous for its scientists. Oh, and for the year-round perfect climate that makes it an ideal holiday spot.

Where to wander

For a bracing but atmospheric stroll, wander up through the steep, winding streets of the old town and look out over the modern town and the coast. Shopaholics will find an abundance of boutiques in the town centre, plus a local market on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. For adventure and exercise of the more traditional kind, popular activities in the vicinity include swimming, boating, horse-riding or a round of golf on the 18-hole course. Sporting and cultural events take place throughout the year, though the most well known is the Festival della canzone italiana, an annual Italian song contest that’s been running here since 1951. The San Remo Music Festival, as it’s usually known outside Italy, was the inspiration for the Eurovision Song Contest.

High rollers

One of the main attractions in the town is the grand and historic San Remo Casino, perched on a hillside looking out over the beautiful coastline. It may live in the shadow of Monaco just a little way along the coast, but it has had its fair share of scandals and legends pass through its doors rolling the dice and placing chips. First designed in the 17th century, the casino underwent years of rebuilding until it emerged ‘finished’ 1905. The casino attracts over 360,000 visitors a year and it is a great place to lose elegantly.

Ligurian cuisine

Traditional Ligurian cuisine is a foodie’s dream, with the local climate and geography providing a wealth of fresh fare from land and sea. Liguria produces some of the best olive oils in the world and local people take a serious pride in the variation between oils from different regions within Liguria. Simple but delicious local dishes to feast on include stuffed vegetables, home-made pasta with fresh pesto, rabbit with Vermentino, dried cod and risotto. No tinned ravioli around here, then.

Villas and gardens

A sight not to miss is the villa and garden of scientist Alfred Nobel. Situated on the eastern side of San Remo on Corso Felice Cavallotti, Villa Nobel was the stunning renaissance abode for the Swedish scientist famed for inventing dynamite and then somewhat incongruously lending his name to a Peace Prize. Nobel inhabited the area from 1890 to 1896, and it was here that the established and composed the testament for the prizes in question. The villa houses permanent relics and the surrounding gardens are full of mature plants and palm trees. Nobel’s villa and gardens are just one of many along this stretch that are open to the public – Villa Siro and Villa Ormond are also well worth a visit.

Getting there

San Remo is situated on the Italian Riviera but its proximity to the French border means that the closest airport is Nice, around 57km away. Ryanair fly to Genoa, from where you can catch a train to San Remo in two hours or drive in one hour 20 minutes.

Bonus points for: Great seafood on the waterfront.
Loses marks for: Loss of travelling money at the casino.
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Additional information supplied by Lonely Planet ( The sixth edition of Lonely Planet Italy is out now.