San Remo: 140km (87 miles) W of Genoa, 59km (37 miles) E of Nice; Bordighera: 155km (96 miles) W of Genoa, 15km (9 1/4 miles) W of San Remo, 45km (28 miles) E of Nice

Gone are the days when Tchaikovsky and the Russian empress Maria Alexandrovna joined a well-heeled mix of nobils strolling along San Remo’s palm-lined avenues. They left behind an onion-domed Orthodox church, a few grand hotels, and a casino, but San Remo is a different sort of town these days. It’s still the most cosmopolitan stop on the Riviera di Ponente, as the stretch of coast west of Genoa is called, and caters mostly to sun-seeking Italian families in the summer and Milanese who come down in the winter months to get away from the fog and chilly temperatures of their city.

If you’ve got a few extra days, base yourself in San Remo and explore farther along the coast, all the way to the French border. Train connections are good, and the coastal SS1 road links several charming towns. Highlights include the quiet resort town of Bordighera (12km/7.5 miles west of San Remo); one of Europe’s finest gardens, Giardini Hanbury (28km/20 miles west of San Remo, just past Ventimiglia); and the inland village of Dolceacqua (23km/14 miles northwest of San Remo), with its well-preserved medieval core and abandoned castle