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San Remo

Fifty kilometres east of Europe's premier gambling capital lies San Remo, Italy's own Monte Carlo, a sun-dappled Mediterranean resort with a casino, a clutch of ostentatious villas and lashings of Riviera-style grandeur. Beaches aside, San Remo (spelled Sanremo in Italian) hides the atmospheric lanes of a medieval district called La Pigna.

Known colloquially as the City of Flowers for its colourful summer blooms, San Remo also stages an annual music festival (the supposed inspiration for the Eurovision Song Contest) and the world's longest professional one-day cycling race, the 298km Milan–San Remo classic.

During the mid-19th century the city became a magnet for regal European exiles, such as Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Tsarina Maria Aleksandrovna, who favoured the town's balmy winters. Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel maintained a villa here, and an onion-domed Russian Orthodox church reminiscent of Moscow's St Basil's Cathedral still turns heads down by the seafront.

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