Leaving my spouse and daughter beneath a parasol on Bordighera’s seaside, my teenage son and I set off looking for the most important Ficus macrophylla in western Europe.
The tree, generally often called the strangler fig, was planted in 1886 by Clarence Bicknell, British botanist, collector, lover of Esperanto and chaplain of Bordighera’s Anglican church.
Bicknell cherished the hilly, pine-covered coast between Sanremo and the French Riviera, however ended up loathing his “tea-party, gossipy” British congregation, who had “no worldwide spirit”. He deserted the church and spent his time portray flowers, cataloguing archaeological artefacts and taking rubbings of the prehistoric rock carvings within the maritime Alps.
Every part he did is now within the city’s Museo Bicknell, together with his huge assortment of butterflies, his sketch books, hundreds of pressed flowers, a microscope and sepiolite clay pipe. The museum additionally provides guests a glimpse of Bordighera within the Eighties, which on the time had a British inhabitants of greater than 3,000, far outnumbering native individuals. They based Italy’s first garden tennis membership within the resort and created unique gardens round their extravagant villas. The museum’s facade is roofed in a clenching, twisting wisteria which overwhelms the constructing with drooping, purple flowers in spring … There, crushing its entrance gate, is the 21-metre-high strangler fig, with aerial roots twisting down from its branches and a dainty palm tree rising up from between its buttress roots. There’s one other monstrous-looking ficus within the backyard past, the place pines, oleander, lemons and aloe burst by way of the encircling fences.
We stroll alongside by way of Romana, previous the artwork nouveau villa Regina Margherita (the identical queen the pizza is called after) in the direction of the medieval outdated city, looking for a some water fountains and ravioli.
Excessive above the coast, the pentagon-shaped outdated city, the città alta, is a tangle of caruggi (slender streets), embellished with pot vegetation and outdated bicycles wearing flowers. There’s no want for a map: all roads lead into the identical shady squares behind blanched partitions with a couple of restaurant tables within the shade. Osteria Magiargè serves superb ravioli filled with ossobuco with saffron cream, or a herby model with butter and thyme. A number of alleys away, La Cicala does inexperienced ravioli crammed with aubergine in a cherry tomato sauce and, the native speciality, fried courgette flowers with burrata.
Arcades and slender passageways hold the outdated city cool however there is no such thing as a shade on Bordighera’s seafront promenade. Midway alongside is a rust-coloured bandstand devoted to Evita Perón, who inaugurated the walkway – the Lungomare Argentina – throughout her go to in 1947. Both aspect are ice-cream parlours, bike-hire businesses (it’s a flat journey to Sanremo, eight miles away) and eating places constructed on stilts over the seaside.
Ravioli and brandacujun (creamed cod with olives and potatoes) apart, Bordighera is understood for its pastries, so we choose up a slice of chocolate and pear tart and one other of apple and maraschino from U Pesigu on by way of Vittorio Emanuele, plus an ice-cream within the form of a hedgehog from a gelateria a couple of doorways down and stroll down on to the sleek pebbles. The seaside continues to be in summer season mode, with parasols up and loungers out however hardly anybody on them.