Ventimiglia, an Italian Riviera town, is just across the border from France making it a convenient place to stop when entering or leaving Italy. Ventimiglia’s attractions include the archaeological site with remains of a Roman theater and baths, the medieval hill town, Hanbury Gardens, prehistoric caves, and of course the beach and seaside promenade.
Plan Your Visit to VentimigliaWhere to Stay:
- We stayed at the Sole Mare Hotel by the sea below the old town. It’s just across from a sandy beach and the small tourist harbor and by the tunnel from where you can access the elevator to go up into the old town. It also has easy access to restaurants and downtown on foot. The harbor photo below is from our balcony:
- We’ve also stayed at Hotel Kaly, at the other end of town. It’s directly across from the sea and a rocky beach where you can swim. The view of the sea and Menton, France, beyond from our sea view room balcony. Sunset photo from our balcony:
- If you want to stay in the old town, try B&B Casa Fenoglio.
Ventimiglia is on the main rail line between Genoa and France and the station is right in town. It’s the last town before the French border, 7 kilometers away. If you’re arriving by car, it’s just off the A10 autostrada and there’s free parking along the sea and in town. Since it’s less expensive than some nearby towns, it makes a good base for visiting the northwestern part of the Italian Riviera and Liguria, the French Riviera, and Montecarlo. See our Liguria map for location.
Top Things to See and Do in Ventimiglia
The modern town runs along the sea while the medieval town, Ventimiglia Alta, is on a hill above the Roja River across from the modern town. It can be accessed by climbing the hill or using the elevator inside the tunnel. Most of the modern town and beaches are to the left of the river when you’re facing the sea although there’s a small tourist harbor and beach area on the other side of the river below the old town.
Ventimiglia Alta highlights:
- The old town is enclosed by walls and is primarily pedestrian. Enter by foot through one of the remaining gates and walk up the hill toward the cathedral or use the elevator inside the tunnel. As you walk up, you’ll see colorful houses, narrow alleys, chapels, and small squares along the way. There are a few shops and bars near the top.
- Cathedral and Baptistery: The Romanesque cathedral and octagonal baptistery date from the 11th century, In the crypt below the cathedral are remains of an older Lombard church.
- Church of San Michele Archangel :This 10th century church at the top of the hill was built on the site of a Pagan temple. Some Roman columns are incorporated into the church.
- Oratorio de’ Neri: Built in 1650 by the Confraternity of the Misericordia, the beautiful oratory was restored in 2011.
In the modern town:
- Roman remains: A 2nd century Roman theater, floor mosaics, remains of houses, and parts of the ancient city wall can be seen along with a small museum. More Roman finds from the area are housed In the Girolamo Rossi Archaeological Museum in the Fortezza dell’Annunziata.
- Markets: Ventimiglia has a good covered food market, open on weekday mornings. On Fridays a huge flea market runs along the river and sea in the modern town.
- Seaside promenade and beaches: A long promenade runs along the sea with good beaches and places to swim all along it. Restaurants by the sea serve fresh seafood and some bars have nightlife during the summer season.
Hanbury Gardens are a few kilometers outside town, reached by car, bus, or taxi. The beautiful gardens, Italy’s largest, surrounding the former villa of Sir Thomas Hanbury are built on a slope extending almost to the sea. In addition to exotic flowers and plants, there are several fabulous view spots within the gardens. A minimum of one hour is recommended but longer would be better. The gardens are open all year with a variety of flowers and plants to see each season.
Between Ventimiglia and the French border, visit Balzi Rossi pre-historic archaeological park. Remains from a Cro-Magnon family, fossils, stone tools, and other Paleolithic artifacts were found in the caves of Balzi and some are displayed in the 2 museums at the park (closed Mondays). A few of the caves can also be visited.
Both the Italian Riviera town of Sanremo and the French town of Menton are a very short train ride away. Other Italian seaside towns, Monaco, and Nice (France) can also be reached by train. If you have a car, you can explore the interesting interior mountain towns and picturesque perched villages.
Italian Riviera Travel Books:
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Italian Riviera
- Food Wine The Italian Riviera & Genoa by David Downie
- Bradt Travel Guides Liguria
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