The first thing friends ask when you tell them you have a place in Italy is "Why Ventimiglia" and it's true, the main road through town is somewhat unprepossessing especially if you've just driven along the corniche into Italy. Indeed a writer friend who lives in the town wrote a book about the area which she wanted to title just that but Penguin, the publishers, felt that "Portraits of the Riviera" would be more suitable.
But tucked away behind that traffic-clogged main road are all sorts of fascinating places.
If you visit the enormous Friday market in Ventimiglia facing you across the river are what look like mediaeval favellas and that's the most fascinating place of all. A huge warren of cobbled passages and ancient buildings housing a large thriving community of Italians of mostly Calabrian origins with churches, palazzos, food shops, bars and restaurants make this old town unique along the French and Italian Rivieras where there are plenty of these charming mediaeval towns but none with a year-round community. In Ventimilia Alta you could be on the set of a Fellini film in the '60s where children still play outside and grandmas sit and chat.
And if you tire of the coast a very short drive or bus ride finds you in the villages of Alpes Maritime where instead of fish and Ligurian Vermentino wine you'll find wild boar and delicious Dolqueacqua rosesse on the menu.
One TGV per day goes directly from Paris to Ventimiglia so with the Eurostar to Paris now taking 2hrs 20mins and soon to be quicker it's easily possible to leave the UK in the morning and get there in time for dinner without having to get on a plane, an increasingly attractive option. Once there you don't really need a car; Ventimiglia station may not be the most handsome station in Italy but the connections from there are brilliant. One stop west and you're in France; Menton, Monaco, Nice can easily be reached for a morning's shopping or eastwards the Belle Epoque charms of San Remo are 20 mins by train. In winter the ski resort of Limone is an hour by train and for destinations further afield, direct trains go to Milan, Turin, Genoa and Venice.
Nice is of course the nearest airport and by auto-route, Ventimiglia is 40mins away.
So, in answer to their question 'why Ventimiglia?', I reply that it has everything. Great food and wine, culture, great shopping, beaches, skiing, glimpses of a lifestyle lost in much of Europe, easily accessible, good value and not over-run by tourists all of which make it the perfect place for an over-worked northern European to spend a holiday.
Written by Linda Thompson - Owner of Property 57960 in Ventimiglia, Italy