It doesn’t bother me that Ventimiglia is a border town; not a thriving city like Rome, or a classical city like Florence—it doesn’t have to be—it’s still Italia. Ventimiglia is a bit run-down; still worth the trip, and is extremely easy to navigate. If you are looking for good quality at a low price, by all means, come here and taste Italian life.
…is a coastal city in the region of Liguria, with famous cities such as Genoa, Portofino and Cinque Terre. This city is the first town in the Italian Riviera after leaving the French border – the portal to Italy.
My friend and I are here on Friday, from France, soaking up everything Italian. She is English, and loves all things Italian, while I’m an Italian-American who was not taught Italiano – so my French comes in handy.
If we are fortunate, and it’s not too packed, we get a seat on the right side of the train, and have a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea. Passing each town, staring at the shimmering, turquoise blue sea.
As the train gently rolls into town, I know we’ve reached our destination and look at the view of the ancient old town (Ventimiglia Alta, opening photo), high up on a terraced hill. Each time I notice more progress with the restoration of the buildings.
Most of the time I’m too excited to check the board for my return train – and walk past the sign. The only thing I want to do – is to be at an Italian café and have a macchiato. (And visit the WC).
First, we stop at the very first café-bar called, “American Bar” (why don’t they call it Italian Bar?) located on the left side (corner) of the street, (Via della Repubblica & C. Battisti) just steps away from the station. There is always a little drama at this café, and worth the café and pastry. I’m ready to hit the pavement and shop!
After “mio caffè”, the second stop is across the street to a pasticceria shop (Motta) that has authentic panettone and Italian cookies. He might be closed when I come back, worse yet, he might be sold out of the artisanal sweets that I can’t find anywhere. Shops here close at 12:30 or 1pm for 3 hours.
My third stop is the covered food market where I buy 18-month old Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, ricotta cheese, along with some pasta.
Their fruit and vegetables are garden fresh; over-sized veggies that I have not seen anywhere.
Sometimes, I circle a few times just to bathe in the color of the food. You will find the best pasta, fresh veggies, meat, seafood, cheese, all GMO free.
I might be teased with more…
Maybe some olives from local farmers that are located to the right of the permanent stalls on small tables. Woman farmers come from the inland villages, high above the town, bringing wonderful bounty from their personal garden. Good quality Ligurian olive oil is available here too.
Behind this area is a fresh fish market; not to be overlooked, and other areas with wonderful herbs, and beautiful flowers of all kinds. Prices are very reasonable, and the quality is terrific, and who knows, maybe chefs from France come here. Open: Tue-Sat 7am-1pm
In addition to the food market, Ventimiglia’s special day is Friday, 8am–4pm when the town comes alive with the largest market on the Riviera. Be prepared for a huge crowd for their open-air market of leather goods, scarfs, purses and the usual trinkets.
You can expect quality Italian goods, and you should haggle a bit on the price.
The several pieces of Italian leather I purchased are still in great shape, and I bargained on the price. The umbrella (in the photo) has a chrome greyhound with the Versace logo on the canopy. It’s exceptionally well made and looks gorgeous, despite being 15 years old. My red leather bag goes with me everywhere.
MY TIP: Stick to the Italian made “anything”. Ventimiglia also has stylish boutique shops, if you prefer, on several streets close by to the station.
These stalls along the beachfront are truly legitimate; costume jewelry, clothes, scarves, kitchen-ware, and travel goods. The other group are unauthorized men from North Africa that display their wares on the ground, or have it in their hands. Their goods are from China. Watch out for these guys. At any moment you will see the carabiniere chase them away.
Ventimiglia: a pebble beach to take a break after shopping…
Take a walk over the footbridge that crosses over the Roya river to the medieval old town where there is a restaurant; La Vecchia Napoli with pizza, and seafood delicacies.
Or try La Caravella which has a lovely picturesque, seaside setting. This was my first time here this spring, and it is now going to be my new favorite for fish. Mussels and frito misto were fresh and delish.
True Italian life exists here uphill
Stone walls, centuries old Churches, even a Library. And much more in the way of history. The old town is loaded with Roman artifacts that won’t disappoint you.There are many treasures here to see such as: Hanbury Gardens, and Blaze Rossi Prehistoric caves.
There are many restaurants and the cuisine in Liguria is tasty. The real deal is at Il Giardinodel Gusto, Piazza XX Settembre, 6, and is close to the train station.
Chef Emanuele cooks spectacular lunches. A tad high-end here if you don’t want the seaside restaurants. I’ve been to most of them during my 15 years of visiting, and Il Giardinois a luscious treat.
STEP BACK IN TIME
Here is something to think about when you sit down at a café or restaurant here… linger awhile and think of this city as an Italian film set with Victoria de Sica directing Sophia Loren, making Marriage Italian Style. Then, you can enjoy everything this town has to offer. Just don’t come here for the glitz like Milano, Toscana, or Torino. The past coexists with the present.
To sum up, this is simple Italian life at reasonable prices with genuine Italian charm. Think how important Ventimiglia connects to France—two great countries joined together. In conclusion, This town, the people, and the food market is pure joy for me – it’s comfortable and relaxing. I manage a few Italian words, and I feel all Italian.
While walking over the foot bridge, down below in the river bank, I spotted a nest of swans…so lovely when I can see how exquisite and beautiful creation can be… just around the corner.