Where Italy Meets the French Riviera
Ventimiglia is certainly in Italy, just 3 miles from the border with France in Liguria where the Italian Riviera meets the French Rivieria on the Bay of Genoa. Ventimiglia was once the capital of a tribe who managed to resist being conquered by Rome until finally succumbing in 115 BC from a sea bourne assault. As a frontier outpost, the city later suffered under wars of the Byzantines, the Visigoths, the Savoys and ultimately the Genovese. Today, this modest sized city is where the rail lines cross the border for international trains, so one might never have occasion to see Ventimiglia, but if visiting the Cote d’Azure in the south of France with a France Rail Pass or Select Rail Pass with France but not Italy (see How Rail Passes Work), Ventimiglia has the advantage of being included (one has to disembark the train there and travel back into France). If traveling on the Italian Trentalia rail system, it is the end of the line. If you're dying to add just a bit of Italy to a trip to Cannes, Nice or Monaco, go to Ventimiglia - especially on a Friday for the large and very popular public street market held by the oceanfront, when the streets are blocked off from traffic and swell with French invaders looking for bargains.
The area around the train station seems a little bit rundown, but walk a block toward the ocean and you'll discover a quaint pretty rivieria town of palm tree lined lanes and little hole-in-the-wall restaurants and shops reveals itself. Ventimiglia is divided by the River wihich flows into the bay. At high tide the little bay estuary fills with sea water about half a foot deep along the promenade past the pebbly riviera beach umbrellas and ocean view restaurants. Up the hill above the new city is the old medieval city of narrow lanes and the vestiges of ancient walls. A little farther finds the remains of a Roman Amphihitheater and the Hanbury Gardens, follow the signs to “Giardini Hanbury”. In the old town the San Michele Arcangelo Chruch was first built in the 10th century where an early Roman temple once stood, and later reconstructed in Romanesque style. The city’s old library holds the second largest collection of late Renaissance books and manuscripts to be found in Italy outside of Venice. Just outside of town are the caves of Balzi Rossi where evidence of Cro-Magnon man have been found.
By car, Ventimiglia
lies along the A10 autostrada which follows the coast of the Italian
and French Rivieras. By rail it is a 15 minute train
ride from Monaco just the other side of Mentone, and about 35 minutes
from Nice, 2 hours from Genoa or about 4 hours from Milan. © Bargain
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VILLA BALBI - LIGURIA BAY OF SILENCE