On a hectare of land among sandstone rocks on the extinct Monte Nero volcano, against a naturalistic backdrop of great power, Giardino Esotico Pallanca’s extraordinary variety of succulents and cacti merit its status as a main attraction in the garden city of Bordighera.

In the early 20th century, Bartolomeo Pallanca created this garden by planting more than 3,200 species of exotic plants. Working with his father Giacomo, Bartomeo had built up experience alongside German landscape architect Ludwig Winter, who designed many botanical gardens along the Riviera di Ponente and the French Riviera. Passionate about growing tropical plants, in 1910 Bartolomeo founded the Stabilimento Orticolo Floreale to sell ornamental plants and cut flowers. After the First World War, he developed the business, adding cacti and succulents to his more traditional plants. He began collecting the rarest specimens, acclimatizing them to the mild climate of the Monte Nero cove. Subsequent generations of the family focused the company’s efforts exclusively on cacti, over the years winning thirty-two first prizes and thirty-six gold medals at top European exhibitions. In 1989, after four generations of the family’s collecting, acclimatization and nomenclature, the garden was rearranged taxonomically and opened to the public. On a slope with typical dry stone wall terraces and stairs cut into ochre sandstone, it has the appearance of a rock garden; areas of light alternate with areas of shade, along with meditation spaces and a unique view out over both sea and bay.