CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

Petal power in northern Italy

PUBLISHED: 12:59 19 October 2010 | UPDATED: 18:00 20 February 2013

A Ventimiglia seaside restaurant

A Ventimiglia seaside restaurant

Frank Corless brandishes his blossoms and joins in Ventimiglia's famous Battle of the Flowers

Frank Corless brandishes his blossoms and joins in Ventimiglias famous Battle of the Flowers

A holiday in Italy is always likely to be a pleasure but it turns to sheer delight if you happen to find yourself among the crowds at what Hollywood legend Cary Grant called the greatest show on earth.
By any standards, his description one he made in Italy while he was filming To Catch a Thief may be considered a little over the top, especially as the annual Battle of the Flowers in Ventimiglia is hardly a battle.
Its more on the lines of a totally innocent, carnival-style happiness day as people of all ages, from children to great grandparents, have the time of their lives... hurling flowers at each other!
Daft? Wacky? Call it what you like, it is very definitely great fun, not just for locals but also for people who travel from around the world to join in.
None of it would be possible without months of hard work by an army of volunteers led by Roberto Ansossi, the committee president for the last ten years.
Talented craftsmen also give up their spare time to assemble the shows star attractions, huge floats of giant-sized figures made entirely of carnations.
It all comes to a head in a noisy, spectacular, and colourful parade, featuring brass bands, entertainers, clowns, majorettes etc, that wends its way along cordoned-off streets thronged by thousands of spectators.
But the enjoyment really begins, almost on cue, when the floats occupants start to throw carnations into the crowds, who respond by hurling back floral ammunition supplied to them from little tractors that are part of the procession.
The result is a flower shower that turns into a deluge. No-one is safe from a direct hit, not even VIPs in the grandstand seats. I saw one carnation disappear into a bandsmans tuba. Everyone, even normally poker-faced policemen, seemed to feel the vibes.
It is always wonderful to see so many people enjoying themselves, Mr Ansossi told me. It is a really happy day. I love it.
Ventimiglia is one of many gems in Liguria, a lovely coastal region known as the Riviera of Flowers. It is famous for its wines, olives, medieval villages, rugged landscapes, history and culture and, of course, flowers.
Dominated by its towering Romanesque cathedral, the town is split into two the old and the new by the River Roia, but is linked by bridges, one of them for pedestrians who can take a leisurely stroll as swans and ducks glide past beneath them.
In the old part, I stayed at the delightful Sole Mare Hotel which faces a tree-lined promenade fringed by a pebble beach, and a handful of eating places. Narrow, shaded streets wind their way steeply uphill to the cathedral where it was so quiet you could have a heard a pin drop.
By contrast, the opposite river bank is bustling with shops, restaurants, elegant buildings, its own palm-fringed seafront lined with restaurants, and a delightful little park. Sitting there on a bench is a great place to relax and switch off, particularly on Fridays when one of the busiest and best loved Italian markets hits town.
A bus ride costing just two euros (17 euros by taxi) took me into the nearby hills to the fabulous Hanbury Gardens, regarded by some as a little bit of heaven on earth.
The gardens were created by Sir Thomas Hanbury, a Londoner who made his fortune importing tea and silk from China. Bursting with thousands of plants imported from five continents, its no surprise to learn that it is hugely popular with tourists. Its challenging to do the full tour, especially when the sun is high, but I wouldnt have missed it for anything.
If you fancy a complete change of scene you can head for France. The border is only a few miles away and taking the train to flesh pot places such as Monaco and Monte Carlo makes for a great day out. But Id advise you to take a packed lunch because its pricey to eat out. Either that, or settle for a spectacular baguette at Ventimiglia railway station. One I enjoyed cost less than four euros and was delicious and great value for money.
Dont leave Ventimiglia without a trip into the foothills of the Italian Alps, if only to see a couple of the many beautiful inland villages. Dolceacqua and Apricale, nestling in the glorious Nervia valley, are among the best.
French artist Claude Monet described Dolceacqua as an extraordinary picturesque village, and proceeded to capture its charms on canvas.
Famous for its wonderful Rossese wine, the village lies in the shadow of the 12th century Doria Castle where a labyrinth of streets rises to the top of the ruined fortress. Not even a famous painting could do it justice.
Clinging to the mountainside, Apricale is dominated by its belltower and castle. Dark, narrow alleyways lead to a hanging garden and a wonderful, tiny museum featuring a collection of historical statues and relics dating back to the 13th century.
Compared to some Dolce Vita tourist locations, Ventimiglia is not one of the best known Italian hot spots. But, battle or no battle, it is a little show stopper.


  • For tourist information contact: Provincia di Imperia, Largo Nuvoloni, 1 - 18038 Sanremo - ItalyTel. +39 0184 59059 - Fax +39 0184 507649 - Freephone (from Italy only) 800-813012

  • The Sole Mare Hotel has accommodation ranging from singles to rooms for four people. Prices start from 70 euros to 170 euros per night depending on date of stay. Contact

  • provides a direct service from Manchester Airport to Nice, five days a week. Flights start from 29.99 per person one way, including all taxes. For more information visit


More from Out & About

Friday, December 7, 2018

A typical part of the Suffolk village scene is the village sign, standing tall in a prominent part of the area and succinctly giving you an insight into the area’s history. Here are 15 Suffolk town or village signs and what they mean

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for someone to enjoy a few days in Suffolk this festive period then look no further than these 6 gorgeous locations

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with loved ones and there’s no better place to do that than Suffolk, with its outstanding natural beauty, charming villages and festive foodie delights

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

From Waveney and the Suffolk coast to Dedham Vale, these 19 pictures are guaranteed to get you exploring the beautiful towns and countryside of Suffolk this winter

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Suffolk in winter time is a magical place to be. There are Christmas markets, chilly walks, and days by the blustery seaside to be had. These 17 nostalgic pictures will definitely bring out that unique festive feeling.

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Invitation to View tours reveal the surprising wartime roles of East Anglia’s historic town and country properties | Words & Photos: Lindsay Want

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Are you searching for places to go this winter? Suffolk has some truly magical places simply perfect for a day out with the family that are sure to get you feeling festive. Here are 9 locations you have to visit over the Christmas holiday

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

As the season of parties approaches, hotel and restaurateur Milsoms is itself celebrating a milestone for one of its popular venues | Words: Ross Bentley

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Lindsay Want wanders the pilgrims’ paths and concrete runways around Horham, Denham and Redlingfield

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Not many people know it but a lot of your favourite films have been made in Suffolk. From blockbusters to independent, here are 21 films made in Suffolk.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search