The Italian coastline: cycling from San Remo to Imperia

View over San Remo from Bussana

Last month I took advantage of a beautiful and sunny January weekend to head down the coast to the Italian town of San Remo to do something I hadn’t done in about 10 years: ride a bike! A friend had told me about the new cycling path along the coastline between San Remo and San Lorenzo al Mare, close to Imperia, the provincial capital, so I figured it would be a nice change from the normal hiking and would give me a bit of exercise, especially given that it’s pretty much flat all the way.

The cycling trail is a nice way of converting the old railway track that ran along the coastline from San Remo to Imperia, and that was replaced about 15 years ago by the new underground railway line currently in use. Instead of having it turned into a derelict strip full of debris and graffiti, the local government invested EU funds into turning into a very wide cycling trail, away from the traffic and affording great views of the little-known but scenic Ligurian coastline.

The NoloBici rent-a-bike stall near the old San Remo train station

Bicycles can be rented in a number of stalls dotted along the 24 km stretch and run by a company called Nolobici where you can either take out or return the bikes: prices range from a very reasonable 3 € for an hour on a normal bike to 10 € for half a day, which is pretty much the time required if you cycle the full distance like I did. Electric bicycles are also available for those wanting to enjoy the scenery without sore thighs at the end… The easiest place to pick up a bike is directly opposite the old train station in San Remo, close to the coastline and the old town, amidst the palm trees and the Belle Epoque architecture.

The start of the cycling path, just next to the Belle Epoque old train station of San Remo

The cycling trail first meanders through the palm-lined streets of San Remo then down the rocky coastline with great views of the blue sea and beaches whilst passing through through some delightful little villages, such as Bussana, Arma di Taggia (crossing the Argentina river) and Santo Stefano al Mare (probably the most picturesque section of the trip). All of these are great for a stopover and a quick coffee or snack at prices impossible to find on the French side of the coastline. There are plenty of viewpoints for pit-stops on the way and the whole cycling path is very well signposted – just beware of some of the rather poorly-lit tunnels, one of them is 1.5 kilometres long, which gets quite tedious and you come out feeling like Gollum after spending so long in the dark.

The cycling trail looking back towards San Remo: two lanes and a section for pedestrians

The beautiful Mediterranean Sea viewed from the cycling path near Bussana

Naturally, one of the high points was being able to have a great Italian lunch before heading back. We stopped off at the end of the first leg (after 18 kilometres) by the sea in the village of San Lorenzo Al Mare and ate by the beach under the sunshine at Ristorante Emy Bar, which I can strongly recommend: some wine, a delicious local fritto misto with fresh fish, green salad, a meringata dessert and coffee all cost 20€, so some great value for money. My friends had some black and white ravioli stuffed with fish with a salmon sauce that was out of this world! In addition, the service was extremely friendly with the owners willing to give us additional information on what to see in the area, much more so than could be expected on the French side of the border in more touristy destinations.

At the half-way point, a delicious Ligurian lunch at Ristorante Emy Bar by the beach in San Lorenzo al Mare

A delicious Ligurian fritto misto on the beach in San Lorenzo al Mare

If you do not wish to do the full 36 kilometre return trip to San Lorenzo, you can always stop in Bussana (8km return), Arma di Taggia (16km return) or Santo Stefano al Mare (24km return).

The quaint village of Santo Stefano al Mare on the way back towards San Remo

In any case, I can definitely recommend this as a nice day trip to breathe some fresh air and discover an area seldom visited by tourists to the Riviera, as well as doing some exercise – I certainly felt very proud after propelling myself 36 kms with my legs and certainly deserved a delicious cappuccino afterwards!

Getting there

–          By car: by far the recommended option, San Remo is about an hour’s drive on the motorway from Nice and 45 minutes from Monaco. Just drive down to the historical centre and the old railway station, there is ample public parking just by the bicycle renting spot, at a pretty reasonable 1.50 € per hour.

–          By train: only if you don’t have a car, the most flexible way is to buy a ticket to Ventimiglia at the Italian border , then buy a separate Italian ticket to San Remo (about 15 minutes, 5.20 € return). It is possible to get a through ticket from France but they tend to be more expensive and cumbersome to buy if the person at the counter isn’t cooperative (which is the case most of the time with French railway staff). The new San Remo train station is about 1.5 kilometres away from the old one, so best to take a local bus or walk about 20 minutes into the centre.

11 thoughts on “The Italian coastline: cycling from San Remo to Imperia

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  2. Can definitely recommend the cycle path. We’re vacationing here and have been out cycling on it daily, mainly for fitness, and the kids are obsessed with it. Wide, hill-free (almost), totally safe and separated from traffic – the designers of London’s so-called Cycle Superhighways might take note! A stunningly good project in a place which has not, to be frank, always spent its EU funding so wisely.

  3. Kevin — Thank you for the recommendation of the Emy Bar. I took some friends there this month and we all loved it. Good food and good value, as you said. Due to my own stupidity we went on the Assumption weekend, by car! Oops! Glutinous traffic all the way. Bouchons at every opportunity. AS a result we arrived an hour late for our reservation. The owner didn’t turn a hair: sat us down with no delay at all. Excellent! Only negative: if you go by car rather than bike parking is difficult, at least in August. But the walk from the car parks to the beach is much shorter than you think it’s going to be. Looking forward to a return visit in September. Thanks again. Richard.

  4. I was going to do some bicycling in the Bavaria area in Germany before arriving Menton. Would love to try this cycle path. The view is definitely going to be very different than that in Germany, basically cycling through forest and around lakes, from one small village to another. My friends ( local residents there) said that we can do a one way cycling trip, stay over night where ever we feel like it and at the end, we will just take the bikes on the train and come back home. I will tell them about cycling in San Remo. They may want to come along. Thanks for the great blog.

  5. My husband and I are staying in Menton and would like to bike in San Remo on Sunday. Will it be possible to rent bikes on Sunday, and are most restaurants open?

    • Yes, bike rental is possible and most restaurants in San Remo are open on Sundays, especially during the tourist season which has now begun. Have a good day out!

  6. Pingback: Ballade en vélo sur la Riviera dei Fiori – Happy Healthy Simply

  7. Fantastic day cycling from San Remo to San Lorenzo, very cold on this January Sunday, but amazing blue sky and views! And excellent lunch at Emy Bar, thank you for the tip!

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