A few kilometers from Sanremo is Villa della Pergola, whose history is inextricably intertwined with the birth of the English winter holiday in Alassio, where numerous families stayed to get away from the rainy and cold English climate in search of warmth, beauty and good food Italian.
Villa della Pergola still preserves the unmistakable atmospheres of that period: refined collections of watercolors, Victorian and Edwardian paintings, memorabilia and antique furniture bring to life the guests and the atmospheres and suggestions that inspired artists such as Carlo Levi and directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, who made his first film here and Oscar Guy Green.
Villa della Pergola History
VIlla Pergola's story begins in 1875, when two Scottish gentlemen, George Henderson Gibb and General William Montagu Scott McMurdo, were the first British, together with their families, to spend an entire winter in Alassio and to decide, the following year, to buy two large plots of land on the Alassio hill, in the locality of Costa.
The Villino, designed and built according to the Anglo-Indian canons and taste, that is, the architectural style loved by the British who had lived for most of their lives in India as military, civil servants or businessmen, was built on three levels and it was equipped with a large porch, exactly as it was customary to do, in those same years, for the English houses built in India and Malaysia for the officials of the British Empire.
In 1880 the McMurdo family started work on Villa della Pergola. This building, larger than the first and in a slightly less elevated position, was built following an eclectic taste: re-proposing a large porch again, but at the same time inserting elements of greater value and pomp such as the dome covered with polychrome majolica Albisola, the flood of marble and the fountain near the staircase.
The design of the park was also the work of the McMurdo family. Initially conceived as a natural continuation of the interiors of the villas towards the sun and the flora of the Mediterranean, the park was developed on several terraced levels, following the natural course of the hill and making space, among olive groves and orange groves, to the Canary palms, Washingtonie , Dactilifere and, of course, cypresses, a tribute to the love of the Anglo-Florentine colony for the Tuscan landscape and avenues.
When General McMurdo died in Nice in 1894, the ownership of the villa was transferred by the widow Lady McMurdo and the general's children to Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple, a Scottish baronet descended from an ancient and noble loyalist family from North Berwick, Scotland. .
The Dalrymple retained ownership of the villa for about twenty years then, in 1922, Sir Hew Clifford Hamilton-Dalrymple, ninth baronet, ceded the residence to Daniel Hanbury, second son of Sir Thomas Hanbury della Mortola.
Thomas Hanbury, an excellent businessman and owner of the Mortola gardens, had sensed in advance the potential of Alassio as a winter climatic resort, foreseeing the same luck as Menton, Bordighera and San Remo and for this reason at his death, in 1907, he left to his son Daniel the direction of the real estate activities undertaken in Alassio.
In 1940, at the outbreak of the war, the Hanbury family, like most of the English on the Riviera, returned to England. Daniel, who was widowed, married Ruth Hardinge, also from an English family in Alassio, at a second marriage. In 1946 the Hanbury returned to Alassio to resume work interrupted by the war, but in 1948, Daniel died suddenly and with him died the main architect of Alassio's success as an elite winter climatic resort.
Ruth returned to live in Villa della Pergola, gathering around her a small and haunted colony of Anglo-Alassins who had become the shadow of the thousand pre-war English residents. His parties were celebrated in the spring, during the flowering of wisteria, to which the writer Cecil Roberts was often a guest, who will dedicate the book "Portal to Paradise" to Alassio and the Bishop of Gibraltar, who every spring he visited the Anglican communities on the Riviera and stayed in Alassio as a guest of Ruth.
In 1925 Alfred Hitchcock shot some scenes of his first film "The pleasure garden" on the beach of Alassio and in the park of the Villa and, in 1957, the Oscar winner Guy Green set in the Villa della Pergola the film "The Snorkel" with Betta St. John, Peter Van Eyck and Mandy Miller. The Villino was used as an annex to his neighboring villa, in the sixties and seventies, by the writer and painter Carlo Levi who immortalized the landscape of Alassio in countless canvases.
Today the villa is a prestigious relais surrounded by a lush park, and offers its guests 15 suites divided between the Villa, the Villino, Casa del Sole and Casa dei Giardinieri.
Expertly restored by the architect Ettore Mocchetti, the suites, most with sea views, are unique and all different in style, atmosphere, color tones and furnishing accessories; each room is dedicated to the numerous personalities who in the past have stayed at Villa della Pergola and have been part of the English colony in Alassio. Refined collections of watercolors, Victorian and Edwardian paintings, memorabilia and antique furniture will make you relive the fine taste and fin de siécle atmosphere.
The Villa houses the NOVE restaurant, which thanks to the creativity of the chef has obtained important awards and has become a reference point.
In the NOVE kitchen there is, first of all, a rare attention to the quality of the material, rigorously from the territory, an absolute respect for the seasonality of the products, as well as continuous research, to enhance traditional recipes to the maximum, innovating them with a touch of creativity .