5th CENTURY B.C.
Tribes of Ligurians whose livelihood was based on agriculture and sheep-rearing lived in fortified villages, built on the top of the high ground. Two of these villages, which the archeologists called "castellari", were in the possession of Bordighera; one in the area of Montenero, the other in Sapergo. Sapergo, discovered in 1970, still has remnants of Pre-Romanesque dry-stone walls as well as other Roman and Medieval constructions.
The Via Julia Augusta, opened in 13 B.C. to connect Liguria to Gaul, crosses the land of Bordighera to the bottom of the hill, along the route of the present Via Romana. The discovery in 1955 of a grave of the Imperial Age (recomposed at the Bicknell Museum) testify to a probable Roman rural installation in the zone, once dominated by the city of Albintimilium (Ventimiglia).
The anchorite Ampelio landed on this coast, coming back from Egypt, bringing and then sowing the hazels of the date-palm. Thanks to him, Bordighera would become "the queen of the palms", gaining that exotic image which amazes many travellers. Ampelio lived in a cave among the rocks, on which a small church was built.
With the bull of the 29th November, Pope Innocent III puts the abbey of St. Ampelio under the protection of the monastery of Montmajour of the diocese of Arles.
A bull of Pope Bonifacio VIII defines the monastery of St. Ampelio (on that occasion under the protection of the monastery of San Fruttuoso of Capodimonte) "monasterium Sancti Ampelii subtus Burdigheta". Perhaps the name Burdigheta comes from the Franco - Provençal word "bordigue", which means fish-weir, that is to say an artificial lake closed by walls of reeds, used at the time by a group of several fishermen's families, who probably lived on the hill above Cape St. Ampelio. At that time Burdigheta was still dependant on Ventimiglia, but then the zone was abandoned.
On 2nd September, 32 families from Castrum Sancti Nicolai, - Borghetto San Nicolò, a village of the hinterland, nowadays a hamlet of Bordighera - meet in the parish church and decide together to rebuild the "villam alias existentem in capite Burdighete". The fact is that the meeting indicates the act of foundation of the modern Bordighera: fortified village, at the top of a hill in front of the sea.
The Turkish army besieges Nice. Groups of pirates want to storm the Ligurian Riviera. They land on the beach called Arziglia, east of Bordighera, climb up to Seborga and Coldirodi, take men, women and children as prisoners.
On 21st April, the representative of eight "villas" dependant on Ventimiglia meet in Bordighera and decide the constitution of the "Eight Places' Magnificent Community". The protagonists of this peaceful federalist secession are: Camporosso, Vallebona, Vallecrosia, San Biagio, Sasso, Soldano, Borghetto and Bordighera. The community will be autonomous and independent until the Napoleonic Era.
Birth of the democratic (Napoleonic) Ligurian republic. Bordighera agrees to the Palm-trees' Jurisdiction, which extends from Taggia to Ventimiglia and whose chief town is Sanremo.
After the Congress of Vienna, Liguria is annexed to the State of Sardinia. Now Bordighera belongs to the Division of Nice, province of Sanremo. This is a terrible year for the people of Bordighera, because many wolves descend from the mountains and arrive to the city.
The new road from Paris to Nice, wanted by Napoleon and called "The Great Frame", improves the communications along the Riviera, which once was crossed by uncomfortable and dangerous mule-tracks, where people travelled on mule back or in a palanquin, along the steeps paths among the rocks and on precipice above the sea.
Five years after the publication of the novel, the first hotel was opened. Its name is Hotel d'Angleterre and the English Prime Minister Lord Russel, one of the pioneers of the tourism in Bordighera would come to the hotel in 1861. In 1861 the city had 1600 inhabitants, but the population would increase very soon."
Firstly the road, then the railway multiplies the crowd of tourists. French, English, Russian, Austrian, German families travel on the main lines "grand-express", which cross Europe, such as the Petersburg - Warsaw - Vienna - Cannes, which stops in Bordighera too. Bordighera is a winter resort. The tourists arrive in autumn and leave in spring. Only at a later stage would the city become a summer resort too.
The French writer Stéphen Liégeard celebrates "the great hotels of Bordighera, which provide stays at a high level". "Bordgihera" - he assures - "is a place which you can't not return to".
Edmondo De Amicis dedicates one of his funny "Pagine Allegre" to Bordighera, called "Heaven of the English". During winter, the English colony counts 3000 persons. There are many famous guests, such as Queen Margaret, who came regularly to Bordighera since 1879 and will give a concrete sign of her presence.
Next to us...
Today Bordighera is a pleasant city, not only for the tourists but also for the inhabitants, who live into a "protected world", as the wonderful natural places of Bordighera can testify. The Old Town, the buildings left by the English, the proofs of the local culture form a set of a notable historical interest, which is reflected in the very particular peculiarities of the cultural places, for example the International Municipal Library, the International Institute of Ligurian Studies, and the Anglican Church, now Polyvalent Cultural Centre. Bordighera is not only a seaside resort, but also a historical and natural route still to complete or, if you prefer, a way where the visitor is free to draw his own routes, letting himself be led by the great characters (like Monet, Bicknell, Garnier, Dickens) who lived and went there. (Luca Moreno)
translation by Manuela Borella