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Bordighera - the City of Palms

From Bordighera on a day like today, you can look as far as Monte Carlo, Genua and even Corsica. The city oozes relaxation, romance and luxury, with unique views, many charming villas and lush gardens. When you walk through the picturesque streets, you will understand why this colourful city has attracted writers, poets and artists for centuries; including Claude Monet who frequently stayed in Bordighera for inspiration.

 

Beautiful Palm City

Bordighera, also called "the City of Palms", is the northernmost point in Europe where palm trees grow. Every year, on the occasion of Palm Sunday, Bordighera offers its traditional Parmureli - handmade embellishments of braided palm leaves - to the Vatican. They are worn by the Pope and the cardinals during the official Mass on St. Peter's Square to celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The symbolism is in the palm branches, with which the many spectators waved to Jesus, who came into the city riding a donkey.

 

The tradition of Bordighera donating the palm branches leads us back to Rome in the year 1586. In that year, the Ligurian sailor Benedetto Bresca performed a heroic act, during the placement of the old, more than 25 meters high Egyptian obelisk, which is still in the middle of St. Peter's Square today. For the placement of this obelisk, 900 men and 150 horses were needed. Because ultimate concentration was required for this work of precision, the workmen were strictly forbidden to speak; there was even the death penalty on it. But at the moment the weight demanded the utmost and the ropes were about to break, Bresca broke the silence and shouted the legendary words: Daghe l'aiga ae corde - throw water on the ropes! -, which caused the ropes to shrink and put the obelisk in the right place. Pope Sixtus V decided not to condemn Bresca to death, but granted him and his descendants (the current inhabitants of Bordighera and Sanremo) the honorable privilege of supplying Parmureli to the Vatican for Palm Sunday.

Bordighera Alta is the old town of Bordighera and certainly worth the climb to visit. You walk through narrow, winding alleys with colorful houses and along the remains of the thick medieval city walls. In the most unexpected places you will find extraordinary sea views, beautiful palm trees and huge cacti. Bordighera Alta is certainly the most attractive part of the city and perfect for a long walk. Along the Via Romana, the old Roman trade road that ran to France 2000 years ago, we are slowly but surely coming down again. Through this road you will pass beautiful old villas and you can walk in the shade of the many ancient trees. When we reach the beach of Bordighera, which varies from fine pebbles to rough rocks, we continue our way to the most southern point of the city, the peninsula of Sant'Ampelio. 

During a visit to Bordighera, you can't skip the Chiesa di Sant'Ampelio. This church is dedicated to the hermit and blacksmith Sant'Ampelio, the patron saint of Bordighera, who brought the first palm seeds from the Egyptian desert to Liguria in the 5th century. He lived in a cave between the rocks by the sea. The small white church also has a simple construction and a spectacular location by the sea. When you are inside, you can still hear the roar of the sea!

 

As the wind is rising at the end of the day, we return to Cà de Runde, tired but content. From the patio terrace we can look out over the sea and we see the city we visited today. We dream away, reminiscing about Bordighera. The approaching sunset colours the sky purple, pink and blue ...

  

This dreamy city full of little gems was certainly worth the visit.

(Photo credit: own pictures and www.bordighera.it)

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