Province of Imperia

Liguria, Italy

Province of Imperia
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About Province of Imperia

The Province of Imperia (Italian: Provincia di Imperia, French: Provincia di Imperia) is a mountainous and hilly province, in the Liguria region of Italy, located between northern France and the Ligurian Sea, an arm of the Mediterranean Sea for the South. Its capital is the city of Imperia.


To the east is the Italian province of Savona while its western edge is part of the Italian border with France (the department of the Maritime Alps) and shares its northern border with the Piedmont province of Cuneo. The mountain range north of the province has several peaks above 1,600 meters (5,200 feet), with some peaks on the French border above 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) such as Monte Saccarello at 2,200 meters (7,200 feet). Chains of hills descend towards the coast in a generally north-south direction, effectively making the province of Imperia a succession of hills and valleys that end up on the coast in rocky promontories and small pebble bays. Each valley tends to have its own seasonal river or torrential torrent and only one valley can claim a river all year round: the Roia river (or Roya in French) whose upper parts are located within France. This coast is located in a seismic area and the deserted ruins of Baiardo and Bussana Vecchia are reminiscent of the 1887 earthquake. Bussana has become a meeting place for hippies and artists.

Despite the terrain, the main communication infrastructure runs east to west along the coast. Numerous international express trains serve this coast while the highway is characterized by numerous tunnels and viaducts. The closest international airport is Nice Côte d'Azur airport in France.

This stretch of coast shares much sentiment and history with the French coast, which until the Var just west of Nice until 1860 was part of the northern Italian Kingdom of Sardinia and Savoy. Prehistoric caves have been found near the French border in Balzi Rossi, although there is much more evidence of Roman civilization. The coastal road was the original Roman Via Aurelia and there are remains of a city including a Roman theater near Ventimiglia. During the early Middle Ages until the 11th or 12th century, this part of the Ligurian coast was subject to various local lords such as the Doria and Grimaldi families and the Counts of Ventimiglia and Clavesana. Many hilltop villages date back to this period when the coast was subject to raids by Saracen pirates and evidence of Saracen watchtowers are still visible along the coast. It was only after this feudal period that Savoy and Genoa competed for control of this part of Liguria for over two centuries, in turn replaced by French and Milanese rule until the 16th century, after which Genoa regained its control. During the years of Napoleon's French Empire, this coast became part of the annexed French "Ligurian Republic". Indeed, it is believed that Napoleon overslept in Imperia during his Italian campaign. The overthrow of Napoleon eventually led to this coast which returned to the House of Savoy and the Kingdom of Sardinia.

With its proximity to France, the province of Imperia is often seen as only a continuation of the French Riviera and this stretch of coast is often called the Italian Riviera. However, many historians say that the Imperia of Sanremo (also erroneously called San Remo), Bordighera and Ospedaletti (plus Alassio which is located in the adjacent province of Savona) constituted the first 'Riviera' in the world, previous and originally exceeding today much more sumptuous French Riviera or French Riviera.

In the nineteenth century these resorts became very popular among wealthy Europeans, especially the British, who can claim the start of the local tourism industry. British Queen Victoria was said to have once remained on this coast and once there were large communities of British and Russian aristocratic residents who favored the mild winter weather. Among those who lived on this coast were Queen Margherita of Savoy who lived in Bordighera, Alfred Nobel who died in Sanremo, the Russian tsarina Maria Alexandrovna (Maria of Hesse), Ciajkovskij who wrote her Eugene Onegin in Sanremo, Claude Monet who painted around Bordighera and finally Grock, the famous Swiss clown who died in Imperia. These locations remained popular with the British until the mid-20th century when Spain became more favored.

Today there are few remains of these communities although traces of its past can be found in the Villa Hanbury (or Hanbury Botanical Gardens) near the French border, famous for its tropical and subtropical gardens founded by Sir Thomas Hanbury. Other examples are the Russian Orthodox church in Sanremo and the Villa Grock in Imperia.

Source: Wikipedia
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