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Beach Culture

Discover Imperia through the eyes of locals


The story of Sandra and Simon and their renovated old townhouse.

An art director and architect meet each other in an old village. They fall in love with each other, but also with the charming village of Montegrazie, a small village 15 minutes inland from Imperia, the regions main capital. There was one house in particular in this small village that always intrigued them. This old, abandoned ruin was almost falling apart, and they were truly the only ones who saw the unique charm of the house and had the desire to tackle this renovation project. But sometimes you have to follow your instinct and take some risks. And it turned out to be an excellent choice, despite the doubts of others, Sandra and Simon succeeded in bringing this old townhouse back to life! Their main source of inspiration was the daily life in Liguria, the house itself, and above all, the surroundings. They used recycled and traditional materials. Like old Ligurian patterns and fabrics. Local craftsmen helped them; everything was hand-and tailor-made, it had to be as simple as possible. The end result is a traditional Ligurian house that preserves its soul and remains true to its essence.


The house that Simon and Sandra renovated captured by Emma Peijnenburg

You can book their houses here:
N042 - Townhouse Liguria 6 persons
N049 - Townhouse Liguria 4 persons


A 15-minute drive from Sandra and Simon's mansion, you'll find the bustling city of Imperia. Imperia is the capital of this eponymous province. The name Imperia was actually invented by Mussolini, who coined the name Imperia, inspired by the river 'De Impero' that separates the two largest villages, Oneglia and Porto Maurizio, from each other. Once these two villages were rivals, since 1923 they have been merged into the city of Imperia.

Porto Maurizio

We first meet Sandra in Porto Maurizio, on the terrace of her favourite restaurant: La Ruota. The restaurant is located right next to the sea and is therefor a wonderful place to sit down, to enjoy the view and to eat a good plate with seafood.



Restaurant La Ruota

The menu is full of all the classic seafood dishes one longs for at a spot like this. After a fantastic lunch consisting of oysters, Pasta vongole, and a dolce, we're ready for a little stroll along the coast. We walk along the entire bay of Porto Maurizio and end up at the surf beach. Although the season hasn't opened yet, the beach is full of people, men sunbathing in Speedos, and the sea is full of surfers on boards.



The beach has a cozy atmosphere. It reminds us of the beaches of the French Riviera, which are less than an hour's drive from Imperia, but it's a world of difference. The beach here looks much more relaxed, a lot less polished than that of the French neighbours. No fancy restaurants and huge yachts, but cozy bars and cute fishing boats. Also, because of the surfers walking around everywhere and hanging out at the bar, it has a very laid-back atmosphere. Sandra tells us that Porto Maurizio is really a place where Italians live, and that's why it's nice to visit all year around. Even in winter most of the restaurants stay open. This is in contrast to many Italian seaside resorts where that's not the case. This is one of the reasons why they love living here. After a stroll along the beach and taking some photos, we have a drink at Il Molinetto. From here, you have a beautiful view of the sea and the bay of the surf beach. A perfect place to watch the sun go down over the sea or to spot handsome surf hunks.


Il Moletto

But after one drink we decided to stroll around some more and we went up hill to the old part of this sea-town. With many old alleys, hidden houses and old men having drinks together on the streets.


A stroll through the old part of Porto Maurizio



At the end of the afternoon, we finally go to Montegrazie. We drive inland and a bit into the mountains and after a short 15-minute drive, we arrive in Montegrazie. The fact that there is little else to be found in Montegrazie is precisely what makes it so charming. This tiny medieval village consists mainly of small winding streets. These winding old streets are also the way up to Simon and Sandra's beautiful mansion. So don't show up here with large suitcases because you can't park your car right in front of the door. Instead, make sure to pack a nice bottle of wine and a few good books in your bag because once you've set foot here, you actually don't want to leave anymore.

We enjoyed the silence and the sounds of the village: chatting neighbors, the birds and from time to time, the church bells. Sandra and Simon prepared us a lovely aperitivo on their terrace outside, we did not bring any food with us, but luckily we did not need to as in this small town, they have a gem of a restaurant, only a 15-minute walk away. It's one of those restaurants you only find in Italy: the tables are set with checkered tablecloths, semi-ordinary roses hang from the ceiling, and there's a cheerful Italian man in the doorway. Owner Roberto has been running Al Santuario restaurant with his wife for years. They cook with local ingredients, most even from their own garden, and in slight contrast with other Italian restaurants, they hardly use any meat. There is no menu, you just eat what the chef prepares. When Sandra joked during the aperitif that we shouldn't eat too much because we would still get 10 courses, we all laughed. We thought that she was making a joke. But the food kept coming out that night, Sandra was not exaggerating. I think we must have eaten around 10 courses of food. And I loved every bit of it. The way Roberto was serving the food was amazing too, he would walk around with an oven tray, pouring some scoops on each plate. Always with a big smile and a lot of jokes. What is also worth mentioning, with these courses comes an unlimited wine arrangement. How lucky we were not to have the car, and the 15-minute walk back was also very welcome after this amount of food.


Slow Food restaurant Al Santuario in Montegrazie

The next morning we were all woken up early by the church bells, and we had a quick breakfast on the terrace with fresh 'Cornettos' that Simon had already bought for us in Imperia. We could not take too much time, as the Saturday market in Oneglia was waiting for us.


We are now visiting the 'modern' Imperia, the part that used to be called Oneglia. We have to drive around a few times before we can find a parking spot because on Saturdays, the whole area visits this market. Before we start strolling, we start with an extra cup of coffee at Caffè Pasticceria Piccardo. This is quite an institution if you ask me. There is a cheerful and lively atmosphere, as if everyone has been looking forward to this Saturday morning immensely. A group of Italian ladies sits loudly chattering next to us, each with even more makeup and jewellery than the other. Waiters run up and down to keep up with the endless stream of coffee orders, and we could have easily stayed here all day, but we have to discover the market and whoever isn't early misses all the bargains!


Caffè pasticceria Piccardo

This truly is one of those markets where you can discover everything: fresh fish, the most beautiful vegetables, and of course, olives. Liguria, and especially Imperia, is known for its olives. In the past, Imperia was the epicenter of olive oil production. Ships laden with barrels of olive oil departed from the port cities of Oneglia and Porto Maurizio to destinations all over the world. With bags full of delicacies, we then settle down on the boulevards. There we sit next to a group of cyclists, who enthusiastically tell us about the pleasures of cycling in this region. And we can well imagine that, especially when you can then enjoy a lunch with a plate of pasta in the sun!"


The Saturday market in Oneglia, Imperia

With bags full of delights, we drive back towards Montegrazie a few hours later. We have everything we need for a perfect Ligurian aperitivo and dinner. We don't plan on leaving the house anymore, with all these delicacies at hand, we have no reason to be elsewhere. We gladly let ourselves be carried away by the rhythm of the village and go on a journey of discovery to 'The Art of Doing Nothing'. If there's an ideal place for that, it's here.



Shari Wijnhoud