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An Italian style flower power battle.

Byline: Frank Corless

A HOLIDAY in Italy is always likely to be a pleasure, but it turns to sheer delight if you happen to find yourself among the crowds at what Hollywood legend Cary Grant called the "greatest show on earth".

His description may be considered a little over the top, especially as the annual Battle of the Flowers in Ventimiglia is hardly a battle.

It's more on the lines of a totally innocent, carnival-style happiness day as people of all ages have the time of their lives - hurling flowers at each other!

Daft? Wacky? Call it what you like, it is very definitely great fun, not just for locals but also for people who travel from around the world to join in.

Talented craftsmen also give up their spare time to assemble the show's star attractions, huge floats of giant-sized figures made entirely of carnations.

It all comes to a head in a noisy, spectacular and colourful parade that wends its way along cordoned-off streets thronged by thousands of spectators.

But the enjoyment really begins, almost on cue, when the floats' occupants start to throw carnations into the crowds who respond by hurling back floral ammunition supplied to them from little tractors that are part of the procession.

The result is a flower shower that turns into a deluge.

Ventimiglia is one of many gems in Liguria, a lovely coastal region known as the Riviera of Flowers, famous for its wines, olives, medieval villages, rugged landscapes, history and culture and, of course, flowers.

Dominated by its towering Romanesque cathedral, the town is split into two - the old and the new - by the River Roia.

In the old part, I stayed at the delightful Sole Mare Hotel, which faces a tree-lined promenade fringed by a pebble beach, and a handful of eating places.

Narrow, shaded streets wind their way steeply uphill to the cathedral where it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop.

S) By contrast, the opposite river bank is bustling with shops, restaurants, elegant buildings, its own palm-fringed seafront lined with restaurants and a delightful little park.

A bus ride costing just E2 - it's E17 by taxi - took me into the nearby hills to the fabulous Hanbury Gardens. The gardens were created by Sir Thomas Hanbury, a Londoner who made his fortune importing tea and silk from China.

Bursting with thousands of plants imported from five continents, it's no surprise to learn it's popular with tourists. I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

Don't leave Ventimiglia without a trip into the foothills of the Italian Alps, if only to see a couple of the many beautiful inland villages. Dolceacqua and Apricale, nestling in the glorious Nervia valley, are among the best. French artist Claude Monet captured Dolceacqua charms on canvas. Famous for its wonderful Rossese wine, the village lies in the shadow of the 12th Century Doria Castle where a labyrinth of streets rises to the top of the ruined fortress. Not even a famous painting could do it justice.

Compared to some Dolce Vita tourist locations, Ventimiglia is not one of the best known Italian hot spots.

But, battle or no battle, it is a little "show stopper".

Travel FACTS. Double rooms at Sole Mare (hotelsolemare.

it ) start from E70.

. Flights ex-Manchester to Nice with Jet2.com (jet2.com from pounds 29.99 one way, including taxes. Visit www.jet2.com for further details.

. More on what to do and see at visitrivieradeifiori.

it

CAPTION(S):

* FLOWER POWER: Floats and floral fights are a joy to behold at the flower festival of the picturesque Italian town of Ventimiglia, in what Cary Grant once called 'the greatest show on earth' (S) PICTURESQUE: Ventimiglia in Liguria, Italy
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Aug 28, 2010
Words:619
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