Sanremo – The Travelling Lady Golfer reveals the best of golf and more in this part of Italy
The Travelling Lady Golfer – San Remo
Just as the F1 Monaco Grand Prix flashes by, so did my short golf break in San Remo, Italy. An easy flight into Nice, France and a short 25km drive East is a gentle reminder as to how close the European countries are, as the the French Riveria blends into the Italian Rivera with a blink of the eye.
My final destination – The five star Royal Hotel San Remo, deeply rooted in this majestic place perched on the hillside overlooking the Liguria coastline towards the Mediterranean sea.
Arriving late, the shutters were down in my hotel room, so I awake with a slightly weird feeling that I had no idea where I was, with just chinks of sun shining through the small gaps in the shutters bought me back to my sense as I lept out of bed like a child, eager to open the shutters. Only then did I appreciate the beauty of not only the hotel room itself shrouded in Italian opulence, but the room framing the distance view towards a picture postcard blue sea.
|Circlo Golf Delgi Ulivi
After a hurried breakfast, not their service more from my lack of timing! I met with the Golf Director of Circolo Golf Delgi Ulivi golf club who arrived promptly to whisk me off to his golf club, for 18 holes of golf. The short drive to the golf course gave me the chance to finally take a look around as the road twisted and turned, climbing and dropping the short three mile drive. The view was occasionally obscured by my own hands covering my eyes as Italian drivers live up to their name of ‘owning the road’ regardless of which direction they were heading!
Glancing around didn’t give me any idea where the golf course might be, in fact it just appeared out of nowhere with a statement large colonial style clubhouse, cobbled driveway and eventually panoramic views of the golf course from a terrace.
I was delighted to be playing with two members of the club, and even more delighted when I found out they spoke english, as my Italian is limited to ordering pizza in a bad accent but with plenty of hand gesticulation!
Starting on the first, an open honest fairway from an elevated tee beckons you into the fold of this relatively short golf course, with its chequered history adding to the charm of the established parkland course.
In1928 with a view to capitalising on the average daily temperature of 20 degrees and receiving little rainfall, a plan was hatched to capture more tourists yet offer alternative activities. Step up British architects Peter Gannon and Major Blandford who set about designing the course. As with some English designs the 9th doesn’t return to the clubhouse on the turn but instead it is far away from the club house as possible with a short enticing par 3 and the A10 highway being ever present as an imposing backdrop and reality check as the functional man made meets the countryside and enveloping green. Despite the A10 cutting the course up at this point, the determination of the members was such that the course survived and not only survived, it flourished into what it is today, a par 69, 18 hole golf course with distinctive gnarled olive trees flanking the fairways and ultimately the elusive sea views.
At the time of visiting the greens had just been hollow tined and topped dressed, and whilst a shame from the playing perspective, knowing this essential maintenance is happening also fills me with confidence that the course is being looked after, is being improved and the members and visitors are being presented with a great golf course after a little heartache for a couple of weeks. The bunkers were fair, not overly deep but perfectly positioned to catch any errant shots.
Unusually the golf course does not use any chemicals, it is in fact quite natural for the simple reason that golf isn’t the only thing produced on this fertile land – Olive Oil is a welcome by-product of the golf course and is proudly served, displayed and available from the club itself, not a heavy oil but quite delightful with fresh bread. With just under 2,000 olive trees the Goccia Cooperative, a not for profit organisation working in various social sectors offering employment to disadvantaged people, are drafted in to pick the olives for production by the Boeri family who have been producing fine oils since the 1900’s. With only 6,000 bottle made each year it also certified as a protected destination of origin for it territorial traceability and Friends of the Earth for its sustainable agriculture.
There is a small lake on the course, but it isn’t really in play, but the natural lie of the land does mean there are other considerations when playing this course – tight sloping fairways, hidden banks carefully enticing you into thinking the ball is Ok, until you get there!! And of course some elevated tees and greens.
As you take in the natural beauty of this golf course and the far stretching vistas, one cannot help but notice the odd man made pylon snaking its way up the hillside. Digging a little deeper I find out that it is not a pylon at all but a part of a disused cable car which traversed the valley dissecting the golf course – what amazing views that would have been. The metal frames have not been removed, they have just gently morphed into the background of cobbled buildings, lush greens and blue skies as if they had been there forever.
One gets the impression that this course has been squeezed into a gap of spare land, but in actual fact mans desire to build a modern world has encroached on this peaceful corner of San Remo, but the golf course won’t be bullied into submission and retains its old world character, love and laughter.
A quick drink after golf with my playing partners, and into the restaurant for some fine Italian food of home made pasta served with the best olive oil! With chef present to please my every whim, I was sad to leave this comfortable atmosphere.
Back at The Royal Hotel a quick look around the 127 bedroom five star hotel didn’t disappoint; a range of bedrooms to suites to cover all guest requirements all different yet still embracing the period feel of the time; Belle Epoque dates from 1871 until 1914, and ranges in style from neo Byzantine right up to the Art deco and Art Nouveau period, strong lines in places, pure opulence in others, an eclectic mix blending seamlessly. Built in 1872 the current family owners are direct descendants of the original family Bertolini and are sympathetically managing the hotel to retain and preserve its timeless atmosphere of luxury comfort and refinement, yet being homely and welcoming at the same time.
The outside area has a large, beautifully designed terrace and natural pool with the water being sea water heated to a constant 23 degrees, stone steps leading you gradually into the clear waters below with sea views beyond. There is also private beach access, between June and September.
Making my way back inside to the Wellness centre, your senses come alive starting with the smell as you are shown to your private lockers for slippers, towels and robes. Then you just relax, sit back and soak up the atmosphere. The small indoor pool with waterfalls to wake you up – if you press the wrong button, as I did! and sauna and stream rooms coupled with a multi jet shower to refresh and pummel yourself afterwards.
I didn’t spend too long here as I had an appoint with a lady, not really knowing what to expect, I just went along with the flow, still soaking from my button pressing experience, I was shown into a treatment room and asked to lie-down on what looked like a glass bed. Visions of the forest growing around me for 100 years, I naturally did as I was told, I could do with a long sleep after all!
A plastic sheet was underneath me and the two sides wrapped around me to envelop my whole body with towels adding to the weight were placed on top then the button was pressed. Being mindful of my button pressing escapades previously I was a little nervous, but I was ever so slightly and careful lifted. I was literally weightless as the plastic filled with water and tucked into every nook and cranny my body had and some of those I’d rather not have. Then something really weird happened the water in the plastic started to pop and bubble up and down my body, I began to wonder what was in that airplane food as bubbles popped unceremoniously and without warning around me gently massaging my whole body but it felt so good. I did wonder if I might over heat but no, I remained at a constant temperature despite being trussed up like a water bath chicken in oven ready plastic!
Then it ended and it felt like the base of the glass bed lifted to take my weight, it was a strange yet sensational feeling. I had no idea what had just happened, but I knew I liked it, later to learn it was a dry floatation treatment and a treatment I’d highly recommend
Feeling ever so relaxed and just about ready for bed, I remembered I had a dinner date with the lady, Monica who had put this amazing schedule together from the Royal Hotel in San Remo.
Shower, changed, out.
At the large white tabled clothed restaurant, we were shown to our table overlooking the sea and treated to a lovely cool crisp rose wine. The chosen meal by Monica was all about Olive Oil of the region, every dish had some element of Olive Oil in it, even the dessert which was the proverbial chocolate sponge with the soft centre, which did ooze just like a television advert. I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t appreciate olive oil could be so versatile as each little mouthful of various fresh tastes exploded in my mouth as I thought back to great day I had topped by this amazing colourful tasty food of the region.
Day two yielded a warmer day and a slightly longer drive to the second golf course, Golf Club Garlenda. The Liguria region of Italy is known for the flowers, in abundance, mimosa and others to tantalise the eyes and nose alike. Garlenda means garland as the land sweeps round in a natural crescent of flowers. Playing just nine holes with the golf director and his amazing crack-pot sense of humour was fantastic, we did laugh as he took the micky out of my golf, and of course me, his! The remaining holes I played with Arianna a non-golfer from the hotel who was my escort, guide and fellow partner for golf by the end of the nine holes where her willingness to give golf a go was refreshing.
Garlenda club house is more akin to that of a traditional members club, easy relaxed and unpretentious hacienda style made from stone. The golf course opens with a dog leg right, and is most likely one of those course one must play more than once to score well. Opened in 1965 and designed by John Morrison and John Harris of England, is certainly worth a trip into the hinterlands of this pretty part of Liguria. A relatively flat course, which crosses roads for your tee shot and wide open fairways. once over. In a basin of established trees, there has obviously been investment in the course in the past into new younger saplings which are going to catch up in no time. This is definitely a members course with the members being very proud of their club as they settle into lunch after golf. Large greens in great condition were receptive to the golf ball with bunkers generally being quite flat and fairways managed to a good depth. The 18th sticks in my mind as an elevated tee shot over the road to the entrance of the course, a decent drive is required slightly left to allow for a second shot to the green without the corner coming into play on the right. A nerve wracking moment as you drive over the entrance road hoping a car doesn’t appear and carefully going through your holiday golf insurance line by line as you strike the ball.
In all a decent par 72 golf course that looks easy to start, then will chew you up and spit you out if you loose interest! An easy to navigate golf course which is probably not in the same league a Circolo but is a great compliment when visiting for an alternative experience.
The clubhouse, more akin to grandmas Italian kitchen with carefully and proudly placed deserts on display and members banter in the clubhouse ever present. Little rickety chairs pulled up to miss matched tables and a limited menu was absolutely perfect for the lunch menu. Fresh pasta as mama might make it, in portions that were not so ridiculously sized were absolutely perfect, incredibly tasty and hit the spot after a round of golf.
One thing I did notice, the pasta was always fresh, always tasty and never served in huge portions, these humble Italian people have even converted me into fresh pasta with the dried stuff being reserved for emergency use only, which is most likely to expire before it is eaten.
A quick drive through San Remo, looking down the shopping street, Corso Matteotti and past the imposing San Remo casino means I need to come back and see more one day.
Back to the hotel, showered packed and on the road back to Nice wondering if I’d made a mistake by not staying one more night in this lovely place which I was now having to tear myself away as I said goodbye to my lovely hosts.
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