Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ventimiglia, Italy

We expanded our horizons and went into Italy.  It is very close, just 2 hours by train from Cannes.  The first town over the board is Ventimiglia. We had read that there is a very large market in town every Friday, so decided that we would go to see what it was about.  We went on Thursday and spent the night there.
Ventimiglia is almost like two towns, the newer one at sea level with a river seperating it from the old medieval village that is high on a rocky hill.  There are three bridges crossing from one side to the other, with the one closest to the sea being pedestrian only.

Fred found us a B & B on hotels.com, which we have often used in the States, so decided to give it a chance here.  We were more than pleased with our choice, which was located high in the old medieval village.  There were only three rooms in the B&B, but luckily there was one available for us.

steep stairway in B&B

Our room was not quite ready when we arrived, so we got to sit and enjoy one of the plant filled terraces available to use.  There we met one of the other guests, a young Russian woman from St Petersburg Russia, traveling in Italy with a friend. We now know that if you want to go to St. Petersburg, you fly to Finland and then take a train or drive 200kms to St. Petersburg.  It is not that you have to do it this way, but apparently it is quite a bit cheaper and you see some country side.  As the Russian woman said "what's 200 kms?"  She laughed because Europeans consider such a distance really, really far to go.  She and her girlfriend had been there for 4 days and were next going to Milan as they headed back to Russia.
The other room was occupied by a couple semi retired, she was, he wasn't, from Johanasburg, South Africa.  They were going on to Basel in a few days and then home.  They thought we were Canadians, which pleased us, since we really make an effort to not be seen as "ugly Americans" when traveling in Europe.  We were able to give them some train info, they were going to take a train from Ventimiglia to Nice airport. We spent time chatting while we all enjoyed a wonderful breakfast on the terrace.  Breakfast was cafe au lait, blood orange juice, home made pastries and jams, homemade variation of panecotta, plums and cream filled croissants- wow!
Exploring the village lead us thru narrow streets with houses being all up and down in tight formation along this steep hillside.  Lots of arches over streets and plenty of plants hung on walls or in little pocket gardens.

door way to our B&B is with 2 planters

Amazingly, there were two churchs in this little village.  The Cathedral of Ventimiglia was built in 10th-11th century over the ruines of a pagen 8th centrury church.  There is an original 8th century step, with inscriptions to a Queen Juno,  that identified the first church as pagan.  You can actually go down into a section of the pagan church, below the current altar.

The second church is St Michele was built 12th century and has remains of Roman stone works.  Roman military road markers had been used as part of the pillars in the church crypt. Two Roman road markers were sitting just inside the entrance to the church, with on of them currently being used as a holy water vessel.  There was another beautiful crypt to visit here also.

Right next to our B&B was a little chapel with a most unusual view of Jesus.

We were definitely quite surprised by the finds in  this small village.  It far exceeded our expectations of exploration.
Our evening included a really nice dinner while we watched and listened to the Italians getting excited as they played in semi-finals of Euro 2012 soccer game.   TVs were set up every where you looked, cafes, restaurants, bars etc.  We had at least 3 TVs, including 2 outside, at the restaurant where we had dinner.  They played against the favorites, Germany, and the Italians won.  Great joy in Italy that night!  It was quite a fun evening to be able to share with the locals.

Friday we went to the large market which is quite an event.  You can find everything from clothes, shoes, leather bags, even fur coats and jackets.  It was amazing and very crowded!  It was also very, very hot with hardly a breeze.  We also went to the real market area, veggies, fruits, meats, cheeses, flowers to name a few things.  Quite spectacular!

Ventimiglia ended up being a pleasant village in which to spend a bit of time. I had just enough ability to recognize some of the Italian that we were hearing and reading to get by.  Also most folks spoke some French and a dab of English. As has been usual for us, we confuse folks since I'm often talking to them in French and then in English with Fred.  All in all a great little trip for us and one we are glad we did.

From Michelle and Fred
Traveling in Italy so you don't have to!