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Riviera di Ponente
The western Riviera is home to the coastal cities of Bordighera, San Remo, Alassio, Albenga, Noli, Varazze, and others. Inland you'll find Dolceacqua, Pieve di Teco, Sassello, and other hilltop villages. Generally speaking, the coast of the western Riviera is characterized by broad, sandy beaches, especially around the resort towns of Alassio, Varigotti, and Varazze. (Possibly the best sand beach of the Riviera is at Varigotti.)

Keep in mind that what the Italians consider sand may be vastly different from what you consider sand. It's coarser and pebblier than many travelers might be used to, but quite different from the pebble beaches that characterize the eastern Riviera.

The inland towns of the western Riviera are some of the most interesting in Liguria, both for their history and their gorgeous settings amid the forests, valleys, and peaks of the Apennine Mountains. The hiking here is also fantastic, and the trails are frequented as well by mountain bikers and riders on horseback.

All of Liguria is divided into four provinces, and two – Imperia and Savona – are found in the eastern half of the region. The province of Imperia (which stretches from Ventimiglia to Cervo) is also colloquially referred to as the Riviera dei Fiori, or Riviera of the Flowers.

While this summons up visions of blooming hillsides, in reality the hillsides are covered in greenhouses, which gives them somewhat of an industrial look. Imperia is the flower-growing province of Liguria, and you can visit a bustling flower market in San Remo, but it doesn't translate into quite the picturesque setting that the moniker implies.

Everyone has their favorite destinations, for their own reasons. The following are some places not to miss when you're on the Riviera of the Flowers.

Don't Miss on the Riviera dei Fiori...
• Busana Vecchia (otherworldly)
• Dolceacqua (for the Rosesse and the walk to the castle)
• Apricale (for the artistry)
• Imperia (for the olive oil)
• Alassio (for the beach)

The other half of the Riviera di Ponente is composed of the province of Savona, running from Andora to Urbe and colloquially referred to as the Riviera dei Palme. The nickname here is a bit more fitting. The seaside towns uniformly boast palm-lined promenades where people congregate at night for the passegiata (an early evening stroll where friends and neighbors are greeted, children are admired, and a lot of flirting goes down).

The name also refers to the palms that grow among the olives and Mediterranean maquis on the hillsides. (However, legend holds that the first palm seed in Liguria came ashore in the fourth century at Bordighera, on the Riviera dei Fiori.)

Don't Miss on the Riviera dei Palme...
• Albenga (for the medieval city)
• Varigotti (for the beach)
• Noli (for the beach and the ambiance)
• Albisola Marina (for the ceramics)
• Sassello (for the amaretti and the Beigua Regional Park)
About the Author
Hunter Publishing is a travel guide publisher with several hundred guidebooks to destinations around the world.
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