My Stolen Afternoons in Ventimiglia


As I mentioned in my picture post on train travel, I’ve recently switched from a stopover in Nice to a stopover in Ventimiglia. If the above picture is not enough of an explanation why, I invite you to come with me on one of my stolen afternoons in Ventimiglia:

Because I arrive at the same time every trip, I always look forward to how the light plays on the passage that goes from the tracks to the station.

Rome to Montpel

My next stop is down a long, hilarious hallway to check my bag. When I reach the end, I ring a bell and someone comes and opens the window. I give them my bag, they take a photocopy of my passport, I give them 2 euro, a lot of paper shuffling is commenced, and a few minutes later I walk away unburdened of the schlep factor.


I always use the bathroom there afterward, just because it’s so nice not to have to do so without being surrounded by all of your worldly possessions. This is the only drawback I can think of to traveling alone. (Note: Go to the cafeteria first and grab some napkins, because it never, ever has toilet paper. I learned this the hard way.)

Then I head out the door of the station.

Rome to Montpel

On my way down that street, which ends at the sea, I usually stop into the market and get a farinata.


For lack of a better description, it’s like a thin slice of polenta. They roll it in paper, stick it in a bag that gets delightfully greasy, and I’m on my way.

Sometimes, particularly if it’s a weekend, I watch bus tourists crowd the market. They gawk at the gorgeous produce lovingly arranged, and stare wistfully at the enormous blocks of cheese they will never be able to get through customs. I listen to them order food from the take-away stalls. The Germans trip over their hesitant Italian pronunciation, unused to subject and predicate being so intimately related. English speakers brazenly use their mother tongue in a shocking array of accents from both sides of the Atlantic, blissfully unaware that the vendor does not understand them and instead is waiting for them to point to what they want.


I take my little treat and walk down to the sea, cross the footbridge to the other side of the Roia river, and eat it on a bench.





(My favorite pictures of the sea here are from a spectacularly stormy day. I must remember to get pictures of the sea when it’s sunny, too, as it usually is!)

Even when there is snow on the Alps in the distance, I’ve rarely had to bundle up. I sit in the sun for a while, letting it warm my bones, blowing the indoor life of a freelancer away in the breeze. Sometimes a family will walk by, chatting happily after a big lunch. Sometimes there is an old man who sits on another bench and feeds the seagulls, then lies down and naps there. Once I watched as three burly Russian men walked out to the jetty, set up an enormous picnic, and chowed down. They were as giddy as kids playing hooky.

Sated, refreshed and thoroughly happy to be on Italian soil I head back to the station, ready for the next part of my journey: Ventimiglia to Milan.

This post has been entered into the GrantourismoHomeAway travel writing competition. Does the post resonate with you? Does it inspire you? Have you had similar experiences? How do these kind of everyday experiences compare with visiting a major tourist sight? Lara and Terry of Grantourismo are keen to hear your thoughts.


31 thoughts on “My Stolen Afternoons in Ventimiglia

  1. Oh, thank you for this (cyber) trip! I’ve been to Italy several times, further south, granted, but seeing this was very nice. I keep thinking about moving to Italy . . .

  2. I am really happy with the direction your blog is taking. I have to say, besides France, the bathrooms in that train station are some of the grossest I have ever been in. Not to mention, the guys that hold your luggage in that back room, have no concept of time. They are in no hurry what-so-ever. We almost missed a train because they were 1 1/2 hours late coming back from lunch and nobody would answer the bell. Those shots you got are amazing though. It makes my hurt heart thinking about how much I miss that town. The yellow building, in the third photo from the bottom, isn’t there a really killer bistro/pizza joint on the ground floor? Maybe not. Keep it up. Your blog is taking me back to a time and a place I hold very close.

  3. Ventimiglia was usually for me just the frontier on the way to Nice or on the way back to Sicily.

    But one day I had a delay and walked down to the waterfront and found it to be quite charming.

    It was always nice coming back from France to hear Italian spoken in the Ventimiglia train station.

    It’s such a warm language after hearing French for a few days. French is a great language, love all the stuff in your nose and the back of your throat.

    Love to hear people argue in it.

    But warm, no. 🙂

    Best regards,


    • I don’t mind French, but for the most part – especially where I live – they all sound like teenage girls with head colds. I looooove speaking Italian so much more. It matches my personality better.

      • I was fond of telling people back home that the French were more like Germans than they were like Italians.

        They were always nonplussed; their idea of the French being the beret, the Gauloise, the baguette, the wine.

        And not the TGV, the bloody cerebralness…

    • Thanks! That was really an amazing day – and NO ONE WAS PAYING ANY ATTENTION but me. I was practically jumping up and down to see the sky and the sea like that, and probably took about 200 pictures in the course of an hour and a half. I kept stopping people saying, look at that! And they were like, yeah whatever crazy girl.

  4. Oh, I have loved these past two posts so. I’d love to make the same trip. But I also admire how you write. I mean, how could any one else top: “unused to subject and predicate being so intimately related,” or “blissfully unaware that the vendor does not understand them and instead is waiting for them to point to what they want” ? Your writing is delightful!

  5. I’m not even kidding when I say that photo of the waves on the shore with the storm in the distance took my breath away. It makes me want to throw my camera away and never again pretend I can take a photo of anything approaching that level of beauty. Too much gushing? I’m serious.

    Except for tossing out my camera. I could never do that.

  6. The few times I have been to Ventimiglia have been running from one train track to the next. This has definitely made me think about stopping and enjoying it on my next visit. The photos are amazing and have made me even more excited for my 2 month trip coming up. Thanks for such a beautiful post.

  7. I love it! It’s so very evocative! But we only asked for one pic – could you choose one from above as the entry pic? The one that matches the mood of the story best? (Though I’ll still have to run it by the judging team when the time comes…)

    • Hmmm. I’d have to say the top one. It’s such a joy to stand there in the warm sun and see the snowy Alps in the distance. That’s how I like my snow – many miles away, but still making my pictures look pretty. Ha!

      I promise to read the directions better next time!

  8. Ventimiglia is one of my favorite towns too. We used to stay there when we would travel from the US. Easy drive the first day from the Nice airport. Huge market on Friday mornings. Good hotel with parking just on the oher side of the river from town that allowed dogs. Good Conad that is the first place where I found liquid olive oil hand soap. I think the farinata is made with chick pea flour. They are tasty. I would even consider moving there.

    • Conad! Love Conad. The one in Termini has all the fixins for a pancake breakfast, believe it or not. Which hotel is it where you stay?

  9. I really like your blogs,. every pieces you have written and all the pictures you have made makes me admire you a lot! I’m here now in Italy,. i’m a traveller too. Keep exploring., and… just want to say you inspire me so much!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time not only to read my blog, but to leave such a generous, kind comment.

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