Bordighera Is a Hidden Gem Along the Italian Riviera
Photo: Ama Kwarteng
The Weekender

Bordighera Is a Hidden Gem Along the Italian Riviera

Here's why you should consider a trip to the small coastal town over its flashier neighbors.

Welcome to The Weekender, Coveteur’s travel series where seasoned globetrotters share their insider guides to top destinations across the world. Read on for the best spots to eat, stay, and enjoy.

When we think of an Italian vacation, certain destinations immediately come to mind: Capri, Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast. While those locales are stunning, they tend to be overrun by tourists, especially during the summer. Thankfully, Italy has more to offer beyond what you see on Instagram. Take for example the small town of Bordighera. Nestled along the Riviera di Ponente and within sight of Monaco, Bordighera is a pastel-colored sea town that has been a source of inspiration for artists like painter Claude Monet and writer Andre Aciman. (Aciman’s novel Call Me By Your Name takes place in the town.) When a friend, who grew up in Bordighera, asked if I wanted to visit, it was a no-brainer. The hidden gem is known for its striking blue water, diverse greenery, and slow pace of life—it sounded like the perfect summer holiday.

There aren’t any direct flights into Bordighera, and with longer-than-normal security lines, lost luggage, and sudden cancellations being a common theme when it comes to air travel this summer, I wanted to avoid any and all travel headaches. So, I flew into Nice with La Compagnie. The boutique airline offers business class flights at affordable prices and they have a seasonal route into the French city. When I arrived at the airport, I breezed through security and I even had time to finish off a plate of fries before boarding my flight. Onboard, I enjoyed a glass of champagne and applied a layer of the complimentary Caudalie lip balm before fully reclining my seat flat and falling into a deep slumber.

Once I landed in Nice, I took a bus from the airport to the city’s train station. From there, I bought a train ticket to Ventimiglia, a town next to Bordighera in Italy. Once I got to Ventimiglia, my friend picked me up on his Vespa and within a five-minute drive, I had arrived in Bordighera. If you're thinking about visiting, find my guide on where to stay, what to do, and where to eat in this hidden Italian gem, below.

Where to Stay

B&B La Terrazza di Bordighera

Photo: B&B La Terrazza di Bordighera

I was lucky enough to be able to stay with my friend, but he recommended staying in a hotel (or an Airbnb, if that’s more your vibe) that is located in Bordighera Alta, the city’s old town, for a more authentic Italian experience. He’s heard great things about one place in particular—B&B La Terrazza di Bordighera. Located near the town’s main square, the charming hotel is owned by locals and surrounded by countless shops, restaurants, and alfresco wine bars while also being within walking distance of the beach.

BOOK IT

What to Do

Soak Up the Sun at Caletta del Gabbiano

Me on a beach reading a book by one of my favorite authors—I couldn't be happier.

Photos: Ama Kwarteng

The view of the sea from the chaise.

The first stop on the trip? The beach. We grabbed towels and sunscreen before driving over to Caletta del Gabbiano. After walking down the weathered wooden staircase, we sat on the deck and ate sandwiches while taking in the views of the crystal-clear sea. Then, we headed down to the beach, which was peppered with chaises and off-white umbrellas, where I sipped on cocktails while reading The Story of the Lost Child, the fourth and final volume of the Neapolitan novels by Italian author Elena Ferrante.

Shop at Twenty Cabane Deluxe Bazaar

Some of the clothing offerings at Twenty Cabane.

Photo: Ama Kwarteng

If you’re looking for a shop stocked with one-of-a-kind gifts to take back home, look no further than Twenty Cabane Deluxe Bazaar. This store is situated alongside a cobblestone street in Bordighera Alta and it’s a real treasure trove dedicated to clothing, jewelry, fragrance, and so much more. On your way out, stop by the store next door—they sell the most incredible olive oil. I picked up a bottle to bring back home.

Walk Through Old Town in the Evening

The view of Monaco from Bordighera.

Photo: Ama Kwarteng

Grab some gelato and take a stroll through the limoncello-buzzed crowds in Bordighera Alta right before sunset. You don’t need to have a specific destination in mind—just see what catches your eye. You’ll spot a view of glistening bays as you pass by the coffee shops and boutiques dotting the street.

Relax at Maoma Beach

The view from the deck at Maoma.

Photo: Ama Kwarteng

Rocky beaches dot the coastline and one of the best is Maoma Beach. You can spend the whole afternoon there. Lay your towel down on one of the chaises at the beach club, sit back, and relax. When you get too hot, take a dip in the sea then rinse off in the outdoor shower. There’s also a restaurant on the beach where you can order seafood and an Aperol spritz while enjoying the views below.

Stroll Through the Hanbury Botanical Gardens

One of the pathways in the garden.

Photos: Ama Kwarteng

In the neighboring town of Ventimiglia, you’ll find the Villa Hanbury Botanical Gardens built by Sir Thomas Hanbury in the 19th century. Starting from the highest point of the garden, you’ll wind your way down and through the grounds, which feature around 5,800 exotic plants, views of the Italian riviera, several fountains, and more. Once you reach sea level, be sure to grab some lunch from the restaurant on site.

Take a Boat to the French Riviera

Sipping on a pre-boat espresso.

Photos: Ama Kwarteng

A view of France from the boat.

If you’re staying at a hotel, you can ask the staff for a boat charter recommendation. If you’re staying at a house, ask the person who owns the property. Then, on the morning of the trip, head over to the dock early in the morning to have breakfast before hopping on a boat to explore the French and Italian Rivieras. Have your driver dock the boat near the coast of Monaco then swim over to the island to grab some gelato and relax on the beach.

Where to Eat & Drink

La Piazzetta

The triple cheese pizza was my favorite item off the menu.

Photos: Ama Kwarteng

The margarita pizza is also worth ordering.

La Piazzetta sits near a church at the center of Old Town and dinner is served in the restaurant’s outdoor seating area, giving you a nice breeze and a lovely view of the town square. The wood fired pizza is the restaurant’s main draw—we ordered the margarita and triple cheese pies and the house white wine before finishing it off with a couple scoops of gelato.

Ristorante a Scibretta

The pasta was so good, I forgot to snap a pic of the food.

Photo: Ama Kwarteng

Ristorante a Scibretta has a super authentic feel—it’s almost like you’re inside someone’s kitchen. The restaurant is famous for its ravioli, but the gnocchi and sautéed octopus are also worth writing home about. Be sure to call ahead or stop by to make a reservation; walk-in tables are hard to come by.

Ittiturismo Luna Rosa

The menu changes depending on what the fishermen catch that day.

Photos: Ama Kwarteng

Definitely get the octopus! It was the best part of the meal in my opinion.

During the summer months, Ittiturismo Luna Rosa, one of the town’s famous fish markets, offers freshly-caught seafood on the dock over the ocean. The menu rotates depending on what’s caught that day, but I’d recommend ordering prawns, octopus, shrimp, and wine to wash it all down. The restaurant is open from Thursday to Sunday, starting at 7 p.m. until they run out of food. Pro-tip: Head there on a Thursday, if you can; the line will be way shorter than it is during the rest of the weekend.

Corte Cremeria

One of many, many cones of gelato I had during my trip.

Photo: Ama Kwarteng

Your food tour through Bordighera isn’t complete until you grab some gelato. Work back up your appetite with a post-dinner walk through town, stop by Corte Cremeria, and order two scoops of stracciatella in a cone.

Shop Bordighera Packing Essentials:

'My Brilliant Friend'

Elena Ferrante
$17

Daran Knit Midi Dress

L’Academie
$228

'A Sister’s Story'

Donatella Di Pietrantonio
$17
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