Exploring the Italian seaside town of Bordighera – once a favourite of the Queen Mother
- Mail On Sunday’s John Osborne set off for Bordighera on Italy’s Ligurian coast
- He says the small town of 10,000 is not on the lips of most British tourists
- For a week he explored the surroundings, staying at Villa Elisa hotel and spa
By John Osborne For The Mail On Sunday
Published: 23:02 BST, 8 April 2017 | Updated: 23:02 BST, 8 April 2017
Bordighera is a small seaside town on Italy’s Ligurian coast where the Alps plunge into the Mediterranean, just over the border from France.
I walk past cafe owners setting up for the day and a lady who sings Rihanna songs as she mops the sleepy piazza on my way to the beach, which is already full of beautiful young people playing beach volleyball, the shimmering sea their backdrop.
The digital thermometer outside a pizzeria says it’s 31C but that doesn’t matter because there’s such a nice breeze, and the hotel I’m staying in – Villa Elisa – has a shaded garden and outdoor swimming pool, as well as a newly opened spa.
It hasn’t always been so relaxing here. In the 14th Century, the town’s residents had to flee when pirates invaded, taking and men, women or children who remained.
People didn’t return to live on the coast for many years, preferring the relative safety of the inland hills.
The small town of 10,000 is not on the lips of most British tourists, but in the mid-19th to early 20th Century it was a favourite of our aristocracy – with one notable holiday-maker being the Queen Mother, who visited several times as a child.
The town had found fame through the publication of Giovanni Ruffini’s novel Doctor Antonio in 1855.
It was written specifically to win over British support for Italian unification and lead to a tourist boom to visit the town where the handsome Doctor Antonio cares for the beautiful British character Lucy.
It helps that Bordighera is part of a good railway system that links it to the French Riviera to the west, and I’m soon itching to take the train to Monte Carlo.
It takes only 45 minutes to get there and, after the previous day of visiting vineyards and olive plantations around Bordighera, it felt good to look at the huge yachts.
And if anything sums up the principality of Monaco, it’s the gold yacht I saw in the harbour.
What better sign of bling than owning a gold yacht?
This is a haven for the rich and famous and I wonder whether people assume I’m a mad billionaire because I’m so scruffily dressed.
The harbour is mightily impressive, but I would probably choose somewhere else to eat as it can be prohibitively expensive.
Further west, the train, which runs along the coast for much of the journey, calls in at cosmopolitan Nice and glamorous Cannes, home of the famous film festival every May.
But it’s the relatively quiet town of Bordighera I enjoyed most – a place of sun and sea, and easily accessible. I can’t wait to head back there again.