0618 An Italian Tunnel City (Ita 097—new)

Ventimiglia Travel Blog

 › entry 42 of 92 › view all entries

I’m running a bit behind schedule, and I don’t know how late trains into France run, so I decide to play it safe and catch my next train all the way to Ventimiglia right on the French border. 


At first Ventimiglia just seems like the typical beach town that I got tired of seeing along the Adriatic coast with it boring, flat coast lined with stale hotels and beach shops, but then a sort of mound of very grubby looking houses catches my eye, so I go to check it out. 


The closer I get, the more fascinating it looks, until I suddenly realize it’s not a mound of houses--  it’s an entire ancient city unlike anything I’ve seen in all of Europe.

  Here there are alleys so narrow I have to walk sideways and walkways that literally tunnel underneath the town--  just like the mud castles of east Morocco!  But what’s most fascinating about this place is that people still live here, in what by modern standards would be considered ridiculously uncomfortable circumstances.  And unlike the Old Medina of Casablanca, where people live because they can’t go anywhere else, people live here in the Old City of Ventimiglia by choice.


It’s absolutely one of my coolest discoveries in a long time.  The underground alleys T off and Y off, and there are stairways up and down the steep slopes with mysterious dark doors that belong to someones home… Then suddenly you have a cozy little courtyard with grimey but very cozy looking homes looking down from far above.  Then suddenly you reach the edge of the Old City and immediately you have vineyards, a panoramic view of the valley below and… what is that… snow?  Cool!  I didn’t think I’d be seeing anymore snowcaps this far south…


I try taking pictures in the dim light, but pictures really can’t do the experience justice.

  Ventimiglia is just something you have to experience.  And if mysterious, dingy old cities is your thing as it is mine, then Ventimiglia is a must.


So I wonder, why would folks here choose to continue to inhabit this Old City, when they could move into modern convenient apartments that get some sunlight and aren’t always damp and moldy?   Is it just because of the love of their history and their ancestral homes?  Ventimiglia isn’t exactly Sevilla or some other Disneylandesque old city--  it’s rough, dark and harsh--  a true glimpse into medieval life…

I don’t know why, but I’m sure glad they do and keep this fascinating piece of history alive.

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photo by: Vikram