Walks in Italy
Border to Bordighera
Ventimiglia must be one of the most visited cities in Italy. Nearly every tourist on the French Riviera from Cannes to Monaco and beyond hops on to the local train at least once for the brief journey across the frontier and a taste of la bella Italia. Ventimiglia, however, is barely deserving of all the attention it gets, and once you have been to the colourful local market and taken a brief walk through the (rather danky) old town on the hill, there really isn’t all that much to do.
So here is an alternative idea of how to pass your time: walk to the next town on the coast, which is called Bordighera, a mere 6 km away by the seaside. I hesitate to say that it will give you an idea of what Italy is like, that would probably be too much to ask, but at the very least it will give you some hints of where to start distinguishing it from France. Just don’t come for the walk dressed in your Sunday’s best. You will soon understand why.
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Leave Ventimiglia station and continue straight down the busy high street (called Corso Reppublica) past City Hall (the Municipio) on your left and, straight opposite, the daily farmers market on your right hand side. Walk past the park and turn left on the beach promenade.
If you are coming from the French side of the Riviera, you will immediately spot the many differences between the two countries. Over here, for example, when they go in search of inspiration, they rather go thousands of miles to the west than a mere 20 miles down the coast – where, as I have heard it whispered, there are also one or two rather well-known casinos.
You may also notice that the coastal views behind you improve: the further you get out of Ventimiglia Bay, the more of the French coastline emerges from behind the cliffs. The distant skyscrapers on the left belong to Monaco, and that’s Menton there rising on the right hand side.
Suddenly, the coastal road ends, and you are staring at a large body of water. Unless you want to move inland searching for a bridge, potentially turning what is a 6-km beach promenade into an all-day walk past suburban wastelands and busy country roads, there is only one way of crossing this river. I am sure you have all seen the movie Tropic Thunder, right?
Now for the good news: there is actually a slightly less intimidating point where you can cross. Nevertheless, be ready to get your feet wet – and your legs, too. Let us just remind ourselves that the (original) motto of this site was Adventures for Beginners, shall we?
On the far side of the river, about 200 m away, there is a bar where you can dry out before putting your shoes back on.
They also serve an excellent-value-for-money fruit cocktail for €2. A coffee costs € 3, it says on the sign – but it also says that they are willing to mark it down to €2 when you greet the staff with a “buon giorno” on entering and to €1 when you manage to say that with a smile. So you know what is expected of you.
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A few hundred meters further up behind the beach, the beach road – the lungomare – recommences, and on this stretch, you can find several cafés and ice cream parlours, all looking promising and offering their wares at far lower prices than similar places in French coastal resorts. (For days after, we could not pass a French ice cream parlour without Mrs. Easy Hiker reminding me that “the one in Bordighera”, strictly speaking in Vallecrosia, had offered superior quality for little more than half the price.)
Bordighera itself certainly greets its visitors in style. You cannot fail to notice the municipal frontier: asphalt and cookie cutter beachfront residences on the Vallecrosia side , a broad tree-lined pedestrianized boulevard on the other. The walk into Bordighera doesn’t stay that posh all along, but you clearly get the idea that the resort thinks itself a cut above its neighbours. The town itself – head for the centre by crossing the tracks at the underpass near the station – is small but lively enough, with an elegant high street …
… some impressive architecture …
… and what must surely be one of the mightiest trees on the whole Riviera (in the garden that once belonged to the British botanist Clarence Bicknell.)
Return to Ventimiglia by train (frequent service). You can buy tickets for the brief journey (roughly €2 per person) at Bordighera train station, either on the counter or from a vending machine.