The lovely coastal town Italians are mad about. Here are Visit Italy's tips for visiting Sanremo like a local.
This charming town in Northern Italy's Liguria is very popular for its long-standing music festival, storied floral tradition, and casino, one of only four in Italy.
A trendy destination for A-list travellers since the 19th century, Sanremo has both the charm of an ancient borgo marinaro and the appeal of a modern yet cosy city.
Some facts: the old town has a very peculiar shape; a lot of exciting events take place during the year; you can find a special local kind of Ligurian focaccia; fairytale villas pop up here and there opening onto enchanted gardens you just can't miss.
Curious to know more? We've got you covered! Go ahead and see what you can do to visit Sanremo like a local.
What to do in Sanremo like a local
We have already given you a glimpse, but now we delve deeper into the topic with some tips to enhance your stay in the City of Flowers.
In this portion of Italian Riviera aptly named Riviera dei Fiori, the abundance of flowers is a constant delight. It's impossible not to think of them as you stroll along the long seaside avenues surrounded by precious gardens and aristocratic palm trees.
Don't settle for bucolic scents only, but also follow the fragrant aromas wafting from the local bakeries: you'll find bread and focaccia to satisfy your taste buds.
The Ariston Theatre—a well-known landmark in Italy for hosting the Festival della Canzone Italiana since 1977—acts as a beacon for those navigating via Matteotti, the street of stylish shopping and classy hangouts. However, there's also an old, secluded cinema Italian novelist Italo Calvino loved and shops where you can still catch glimpses of its hidden side entrances with original decorations.
It's just like the synthesis of the town spirit: an unexpected gem emerges alongside what you already know. Follow your curiosity, and you won't be disappointed.
Here's what to do in Sanremo like a local, according to Visit Italy.
7. What to do in Sanremo like a local: strolling through La Pigna
Our visit to Sanremo like a local begins at Porta di Santo Stefano, the entrance that acts as a watershed between the new part and the city's old heart.
From this 14th-century stone arch, you access the La Pigna quarter, a veritable fortified citadel.
The name suggests the shape around which the area developed from 1000 onwards: a dense network of narrow streets, covered passages, small squares, terraced houses and fortifications all wrapped around the hill.
During your walk around La Pigna, you'll be enchanted by some of Sanremo's most stunning and iconic sights, including the picturesque porticos of Piazza dei Dolori, the lush greenery of Regina Elena Gardens, the historic Saracen Tower, and the sanctuary of the Madonna della Costa, which is Sanremo's primary place of worship and offers a breathtaking panoramic view.
6. Shopping at the mercato
Pop into the local Mercato Annonario, which is open in the mornings from Monday to Saturday. The recently renovated building dates back to the 1950s and is located on Via Martiri della Libertà.
The place is a reference point for the Sanremesi, who regularly come here for their daily shopping, and it's also an attraction for tourists, who can try and buy numerous local specialities directly from the local producers.
If you enjoy browsing through stalls in search of unique clothing items or the perfect vintage piece, head to the Sanremo market, held on Tuesdays and Saturdays in Piazza Eroi Sanremesi.
With a short walk, you can also reach the city's most famous shopping street, Via Giacomo Matteotti, and its boutiques. Some still retain details such as mosaic floors and painted walls dating back to the early 20th century.
5. Taking a seaside stroll
It only takes about 15 minutes to wander along Sanremo's stunning seafront, the Empress's Promenade.
This passeggiata owes its name and charm to Maria Aleksandrovna, the wife of Alexander II of Russia, who adored Sanremo. She generously gifted the palm trees that still adorn the western area, creating a timeless atmosphere.
Sanremo's promenade is truly one of the most captivating coastal routes on the Riviera—a lengthy, tree-lined avenue with a view of the beaches. You'll find lush palm trees interspersed with chic urban features, including classy sea-view hotels and charming gardens emblematic of the place.
Take a walk, indulging in an atmosphere of relaxed elegance, like a traveller from the Belle Époque!
If you feel like it, visit the old marina to admire the sea's hues during sunset. In the early morning, you can even grab the freshest catch directly from the local fishermen.
4. Attending a local event
Diving into the lively atmosphere of a local event is a fun and effective way to explore Sanremo's culture.
During the Italian Song Festival, Italy's spotlights are all focused on Sanremo, and everything in the city seems to revolve around this annual cult appointment. Naturally, when the show is over, the excitement doesn't go into hibernation; quite the opposite!
Numerous events ignite the enthusiasm of both citizens and tourists throughout the four seasons. Join local festivities and neighbourhood parties to interact with residents and discover the true essence of the place.
Among the most acclaimed is Sanremo in Fiore, which brings a sea of spectacular floral compositions to the streets.
In October, celebrations in honour of the patron saint, San Romolo, provide the perfect opportunity to savour a traditional and folkloric atmosphere.
For high-speed enthusiasts, the Sanremo Historic Rally, a vintage car race along the Ligurian coast and hinterland, is the not-to-be-missed event.
3. Visiting a garden
When you hit up a place that's all about being the City of Flowers, you've gotta dig a bit to figure out why it's got that rep. And you'll get the lowdown by checking out its parks, villas, and gardens – some of the prettiest in Italy.
One spot you can't miss is dedicated to Queen Elena from Montenegro, King Vittorio Emanuele III's wife. The Regina Elena gardens were cooked up in the 19th century, near the historic district La Pigna. The view of the gulf and Sanremo's rooftops from here? Absolutely stunning.
If you're aiming for the city's biggest public garden, make a beeline for Villa Ormond. They've got a bunch of exotic and rare plants like ancient rose varieties, a tiny Japanese garden, a palm grove, and the Floriseum – Sanremo's Flower Museum.
For tropical vibes and wild spots, hit up the lush Marsaglia Park – a burst of exotic nature right in the heart of Liguria.
2. Savouring Ligurian Delights
Let's dive into the street food scene, which in Liguria is all about the savoury focaccia. The Sanremo variant is known as sardinara: a classic base topped with a killer combo of tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, capers, and Taggiasca olives. It's a flavour explosion you can devour in a single gulp or maybe two.
And while you're at it, throw in an order for torta verde (green cake), a crispy puff pastry filled with rice and seasonal veggies.
Once the snack session is over, it's time to get serious. You can't pass up a plate of trenette with pesto, a true blue classic of Ligurian cuisine, before diving into the local mainstays: Sanremese-style rabbit, whipped cod, and red prawns.
Cap it all off with a sweet smooch. A lovey-dovey one? Nah, it's a sugary affair: the Sanremo kiss, il Bacio di Sanremo, is a threesome with two hazelnut paste cookies hugging a chocolate mousse. That's amore!
1. A bike tour around Sanremo
The Riviera dei Fiori Coastal Park has a straight-up awesome bike path that stretches around 25 kilometres, linking San Lorenzo al Mare to Ospedaletti. It's your ticket to exploring some rad spots near Sanremo, cruising through a chill, straightforward, and totally scenic route.
As you pedal towards San Lorenzo, you'll bump into a hillside gem called Bussana Vecchia – a village with a vibe like no other.
An earthquake wrecked the place in 1887, turning it into a ghost town. During the '60s, a bunch of fearless creatives decided to flip the script: they fixed up shaky buildings, added colours to the street, and sprinkled in some quirky crafts. The town slowly came back to life, thanks to a small community of artists still rocking it.
Definitely worth a visit, and hey, why not crash there for the night? Most tourists roll in and out during the day, and there aren't a ton of cosy B&Bs. But if you snag a spot, you'll get to soak in that insane atmosphere all to yourself!