San Remo and Ventimiglia was my first experience of Italy. Most people Start in Rome, Venice or Naples. Or Capri.
I hopped the train from Monaco Station and thought I’d start with Ventimiglia, seeing as it’s so close.
It impressed me enough to want to travel all over the country… although this is the only place I’ve ever been to where I felt out of place as a lone traveller – it seems as if the places I visited only cater for couples or groups… San Remo is a resort on the Italian Riviera only an hour from the French border and hour in the other direction takes us to Genoa. Ventimiglia is, as the name suggests, about 20 miles Italy’s border with Monaco (although I didn’t actually ever notice a “border” – I don’t know of they exist throughout most of Europe these days!)
I had come from Tokyo and was feeling a but deprived of trees, ocean and just nature in general so I stopped in Ventimiglia to walk around the lovely green hills and the famous Hanbury Gardens. I thought I’d walk along the beach, which was very nice and warm but rocky and packed. Nice atmosphere…
It’s a small place and apart from the beach and Hanbury Gardens, there isn’t much to do for tourists. I found a lot of scary people around Ventimiglia Station, maybe it was just a bad day.
When I arrived in San Remo I had no idea what to expect, so stumbling across La Pigna, the medieval town centre and a stunning harbour was very exciting!
I wondered into this old house with a lovely door (I have a very bad and potentially dangerous hobby, which is taking pictures in stranger’s houses) and, for once, it was the right thing to do – this was once a temporary Palais du Papes in the 1800’s and, being a former papal residence, it was open to the public. And for free as well!
It looks like it hasn’t been touched for 200 years: fading frescos and there are piles of antique chairs stashed in an unused bathroom awaiting repair – I guess these things all cost money, and poor old Italy has much higher maintenance costs than most places.
I tried about 3 or 4 little restaurants in la Pigna, all of which were very good. I suppose some of the portions are meant for two people – everything was huge! This is perhaps why I didn’t really find any cheap places to eat? I spent 20 – 40 euros on salad, pasta and a drink or two… it was all very nice.I noticed that the panetterias had snack and there were one or two really cheap places near the beach but the one I ate at (11 euros) was terrible. I wanted to try out the little bars but no single girls hanging around in their either: this has never stopped me before, but I just didn’t have the energy to go in and chat with strangers today.
The shops were pretty good – no big shopping malls, just the paved streets La Pigna full of great little boutiques and chain stores such as Marina Rinaldi, Lacoste, Mango and many smaller shops. Some were very posh and expensive but some were very reasonable – I got a pair of jeans (now my favourites) for 20 euros and a beautiful lacey top for 22 euros.
The casino – what a treat it was! It’s been there since 1905 and I can just imagine all the Russian aristocrats, who spent their winters in San Remo villas, standing around the roulette table 100 years ago just as I was… but they probably spent more money than I have ever earned in my life on a night out – how decadent and glamourous! I did feel a bit left out on my own, as the restaurants didn’t seem to cater for single people (they would give me a table, but suggested that I would be bored at the rooftop restaurant alone!) and everyone seemed to be in a group. Still, I stayed till all of my chips were gone and then started the lonely walk back to my hotel…