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September 30, 2013

Italy Meets France

Filed under: Uncategorized — Darren & Malcolm @ 3:06 pm

Hanbury Gardens

So Casa Verde goes on holiday!  This time a trip to France via the Italian Riviera….only 400 kilometres to the border at Ventimiglia, following the Via Aurelia.  The Via Aurelia was one of several Roman roads constructed in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC.  This road originally built by Aurelius Cotta in 241 BC linked Rome and Pisa, at that time, the Roman’s most North Westerly port.  It was extended a 100 years later into Gaul or southern France.   The line of the current SS1 road follows this route still and can be travelled all the way (but slowly) up the Tuscan and Ligurian coast to Nice.  We stopped off (between the tunnels and high bridges of the Motorway A12/A10) at Santa Margherita, Portofino and enjoyed a lovely local and very pretty resort called Finale Ligure….see below!

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The A12/A10 Autostrada is a very interesting road that has, apparently 157 tunnels between Ventimiglia and La Spezia!!  The tunnels are interspersed with high bridges for virtually the whole it’s length from the French border to the end of the Cinque Terre.  It is a very spectacular highway, and if you dare look away from the road (as a passenger of course), you catch fleeting glimpses of the coast below.  A blue blur of delicious towns and beaches.

Ventimiglia is the final town on the Italian side of the Riviera and is an ancient Roman settlement protecting the Roman empire from the Gauls.  It was conquered eventually by the Republic of  Genoa in the 11th century and does have a very ‘border town’ feel to it.  The modern town seems down at heel and run down after the pretty resorts mentioned above.  We are, however, here for one special reason, that is just beyond and on the last headland before descending into Menton (the first town across the boarder in France) is the historic and glorious Hanbury Gardens at Capo Mortola. Sir Thomas Hanbury acquired the property in the mid 19th century and turned his interest in the botanical plants of the world into a large terraced garden that descends dramatically downwards to the sea.  There are lovely pergolas and fountains; forests of giant cacti; giant trees from Mexico and Australia; and a huge variety of citrus fruit trees, all of this in a magnificent Mediterranean setting.  The lovely Palazzo, now closed up sadly, once played host to Queen Victoria and has wide marble terraces from which the views over the gardens and the sea are fantastic.  What a way for Italy to finish and all thanks to an Englishman and the University of Genoa who now own and look after the garden.

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We went onwards and had a lovely time in Provence with our friend Liz, who has kindly commented on our blogs here before.  Provence  is equally as beautiful as Italy and Tuscany of course, but we do not wish our description and photo gallery to go beyond the Hanbury Garden border with Italy, and of this Italian blog.

Just as a postscript, the photo below is of Mark Cavendish flying (and splashing) through the streets of Pescia our local town in a rain storm this Sunday.  The World Cycling championships, so eagerly anticipated, and which has contributed to 100’s of kilometers of wonderfully re-tarmacked road (the Via Acqua!) came and went in a mist of colour and soaked every one from head to foot in water!!!  Mark crashed (along with most of the rest of the British team) and gave up, understandably, half way through the race.  The Italians did not win either!  Oh and welcome to Autumn.

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  1. It certainly feels like 127 tunnels doesn’t it, flashing in and out of sunlight, I think that road is amazing, the construction must have been an incredibly difficult undertaking. It is a lovely stretch of the coast and you have given some good suggestions on where to stop and look, I love the sound of Hanbury Gardens, maybe I will come back to see you some time and stop near there on the way. It was good to see you both. Love, Liz xx

    Comment by Liz — October 14, 2013 @ 8:27 am

  2. Yes modern-day Italians with that historical Roman heritage ‘we can make a passage over difficult ground because we need to get there!’ Liz we are sure you will come back sometime. Lots of love Malcolm & Darren

    Comment by Malcolm — October 14, 2013 @ 9:41 am

  3. Yes modern-day Italians with that historical Roman heritage ‘we can make a passage over difficult ground because we need to get there!’ Liz we are sure you will come back sometime. Lots of love Malcolm & Darren

    Comment by Darren Hackett — October 14, 2013 @ 9:49 am

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