Villa Boccanegra has a 5-century history that tells us of changing owners and transformations of a 4-hectare (10-acre) park overlooking the sea at the border with France, between the ancient Roman road of Albintimilium and Porta Canarda (one of the medieval doors of Ventimiglia).
The location of Boccanegra is referenced since 1545, when it was owned by the Curti family, before being handed to the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor. The 1800s marked the handover to the Marquis De Mari of Genoa and the Biancheri brothers of Ventimiglia, who purchased the villa and its gardens in 1865. Giuseppe Biancheri loved this palace, a stone’s throw away from the botanical paradise of his friend Sir Thomas Hanbury, but in 1906 he sold Villa Boccanegra to the rich British heiress Ellen Willmott.
Willmott, with a passion for landscaping, took good care of the Mediterranean garden by planting exotic and Mediterranean species, most of which survived after her fight against the double-track railway that would pose a threat to the garden’s integrity.
The relay continued: in 1923, the property was sold to the Englishman John Tremayne, thanks to whom the villa was added a central section. Later, in 1956, Mario Sertorio purchased the house and park for his wife Emilia Rolla Rosazza, and the new owners commissioned structural work that gave life to the terrace/belvedere, the paved trails, and the greenhouse.
In the 1970s, the property was inherited – with a commitment to preserving the location’s splendour – by the Piacenza family of Biella, who were entrepreneurs in the wool business and garden enthusiasts. In 1983, the youngest son Guido and his wife Ursula inaugurated, thanks to conscious research, the final phase of the park’s recovery: it was cleaned from spontaneous plants and added ones suited to the Mediterranean climate from all around the world.
The green wonders include holly oaks, cypress trees, Lebanese cedars, olive groves, and exotic plants, as well as numerous Mediterranean plants. Must-sees include the “Sénateur Lafollette”, a rare rose variety created in 1910 in Cannes by Busby, Lord Brougham’s gardener, which climbs 10 metres (33 ft) up the trees of the park.