Liguria has been the cradle of Italian floriculture and still is one of the regions with the most gardens, thanks to its mild climate and the presence of many foreigners, in the 19th Century and in the early 20th Century in particular, English for the majority, that stayed there during winter. Not without a reason, a part of the coast is known as the Flower Riviera: in the province of Imperia, it extends from Capo Mimosa (East) to Cervo and Ventimiglia (West).
Here is based the Istituto Sperimentale per la Floricoltura di Sanremo, established in 1925 and directed first by Mario Calvino and then by Elena Mameli, Italo Calvino’s parents; here, the great writer set The Baron in the Trees, fantastic story about a rebellion on trees; in this area there are many historic mansions, villas and castles with ancient gardens, historic and contemporary parks, botanical museums and gardens, romantic promenades and naturalistic reserves, countless typical products (orange blossoms water, basil, Savona’s Chinotto and the Quarantina Prugnona, a variety of potato), but mostly a lot of nurseries. We selected some of them for the specificity of their production and their skill, gathering them in an itinerary that from the area around Imperia reaches Sanremo, among avocado and mango trees, scented roses, countless vines and subtropical and Mediterranean shrubs, ornamental grasses and other particular herbs. It is the first one in Liguria and you can easily connect to the second one, that will bring you in Pietra Ligure. From there you can continue on to Pidmont through Serravalle Scriva. Safe travels!
The map indicates the nurseries and the other locations of the suggested itinerary. For each nursery, we indicate its distance from the others, in order to facilitate you in the choice of the ones to visit and their order.
Azienda agricola Persea: located in Ciaixè, a hamlet of Camporosso (Imperia), it produces exotic fruit plants, such as avocados and mangos, that are able to grow and bear fruits in Ligurian gardens.
Distance from other nurseries: km 9 from Quarnero Angelo – km 7,5 from Vivai Noaro – km 22 from Phytotrend – km 27 from Nino Sanremo – km 35 from Tamoflor – km 64 from Le Rose Profumate.
Quarnero Angelo: Camporosso (Imperia): created more than 50 years ago, the nursery produces succulent plants of many varieties, and in particular, eight years ago it began a collection of Epiphyllum, with countless varieties, different in size of the flowers and colours, white, yellow, peach, pink, red and violet.
Distance from other nurseries: km 3 from Vivai Noaro – km 9 from Persea – km 12 from Phytotrend – km 16 from Nino Sanremo – km 30 from Tamoflor – km 59 from Le Rose Profumate.
Vivai Noaro, Camporosso (Imperia): this interesting nursery created by Luciano Noaro and now run by his son Mauro, is specialised in collections of vines, some rare and almost unknown, tropical fruit and shrubs, particular citruses. Entering their greenhouses feels like adventuring into a jungle full of flowers and fronds. Can’t miss it!
Distance from other nurseries: km 15 from Phytotrend – km 7,5 from Persea – km 3 from Quarnero Angelo – km 19 from Nino Sanremo – km 38 from Tamoflor – km 67 from Le Rose Profumate.
Phytotrend: this very interesting nursery near Sanremo (Imperia), grows and produces ornamental grasses and restiads, herbs native to the South hemisphere with a particular architecture. Plants are also exhibited in a demonstrative garden. There is much to learn, especially if you are guided by the owner, Maurizio Casale.
Distance from other nurseries: km 8,5 from Nino Sanremo – km 22 from Persea – km 12 from Quarnero Angelo – km 15 from Vivai Noaro – km 19,5 from Tamoflor – km 48 from Le Rose Profumate.
Azienda floricola Nino Sanremo, Sanremo (Imperia): this renowned nursery in Sanremo, established in 1906, offers a wide choice of roses: ancient, modern, landscape, for a total of more than 300 cultivars, created by David Austin, Meilland and Nirp, and all produced through grafting. The annexed rose garden is very beautiful, especially in May. The nursery also sells products for the cultivation of roses: fertilizers, mycorrhizas, organic root stimulators, and so on.
Distance from other nurseries: km 10 from Tamoflor – km 27 from Persea – km 16 from Quarnero Angelo – km 19 from Vivai Noaro – km 8,5 from Phytotrend – km 49 from Le Rose Profumate.
Tamoflor, Sanremo (Imperia): Bougainvilleas enthusiasts will be happy there, because this nursery offers 42 varieties, grown as an espalier, in spherical shape, or in a tree shape. There are also Callistemons, oleanders, Cammelia japonicas, mimosas, citruses and other Mediterranean plants.
Distance from other nurseries: km 40 from Le Rose Profumate – km 35 from Persea – km 30 from Quarnero Angelo – km 38 from Vivai Noaro – km 19,5 from Phytotrend – km 10 from Nino Sanremo.
Le Rose Profumate: located in Diano San Pietro (Imperia), it is specialised in the cultivation of ancient and modern roses selected for the intensity of their scent.
Distance from other nurseries: km 64 from Persea – km 59 from Quarnero Angelo – km 67 from Vivai Noaro – km 48 from Phytotrend – km 49 from Nino Sanremo – km 40 from Tamoflor.
From this nursery you can connect to the second itinerary Wandering nurseries reaching Giardino Vivaio Ciancavarè, 18 km away. Along the way you can also discover gardens, typical products and so much more.
Gardens and places not to be missed along the way
Villa Hanbury Botanical Gardens, La Mortola promontory (Imperia), a few kilometres away from the French border: they are worth the visit even if not well maintained, they are a wonderful example of English park for the acclimatisation of exotic species. They were established at the end of the 19th Century by the passionate English traveller, Sir Thomas Hanbury, and by his knowledgeable brother Daniel.
Giardino di Villa Piacenza Boccanegra, between Latte and Ventimiglia (Imperia): this pleasant private Mediterranean and naturalistic garden was born out of the passion of its various owners, among which Guido Piacenza and Ursula Salghetti Drioli, both of them eminent botanists. Visiting this garden with them (only by appointment) is an adventure in the world of plants. However, the best time of the year is from October to March, when the majority of the plants are in bloom.
Giardino Esotico Pallanca, Bordighera (Imperia): a spectacular naturalistic garden dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century dedicated to exotic and succulent plants, born out of the passion of Giacomo Pallanca, pupil and collaborator of the German botanist Ludwig Winter, and then of his son Bartolomeo.
Giardini Winter, Bordighera (Imperia): created by German botanist and agronomist Ludwig Winter, who also participated to the realisation of Hanbury Gardens, it includes one of the richest collections of palms, that by the end of the 19th Century spread all along the coastline.
Villa Nobel Garden, Sanremo (Imperia): owned by Alfred Nobel, who said it was “his nest”, it is a building dating back to the second half of the 19th Century with an eclectic style, surrounded by a beautiful garden.
On the site www.italianbotanicalheritage.com, you can find other public and private gardens clicking on “luoghi” and choosing regione Liguria, provincia Imperia.
Museo delle Erbe, Cosio d’Arroscia (Imperia): if you want to discover the Ligurian hinterland, arduous, wild and rarely visited, you should have a look at this museum dedicated to agronomist Giovanni Alessandri, a local that thought about setting up experimental fields for the cultivation of medicinal herbs and plants for perfumery.
Where to stay
The Mortola Tower, La Mortola, Ventimiglia (Imperia): it is a luxury resort, yet spartan, refined and sustainable, located just above the Villa Hanbury Botanical Gardens. Created by its owner, landscaper Carlo Maria Maggia, together with the surrounding garden and the terraces and rich in Mediterranean plants with ornamental and artistic elements that make it new and interesting. It hosts up to 15 people and it is possible to organise parties and receptions. The view is breath-taking.