Saturday, July 25, 2015

Riviera Di Ponente

A narrow strip of land between the Mediterranean and the mountains of the Maritime Alps and Apennines, the Italian Riviera is divided into two main sections: the Riviera di Ponente (coast of the setting sun) and Riviera di Levante (coast of the rising sun). Genoa is the division between the two; together, they extend from France to Tuscany.

Today’s post will focus on the Riviera di Ponente. Boarding a westbound train at Genova Brignole, the closest station to our hotel, Gina and I spent the day traveling to Ventimiglia. Fortunately, the train had air conditioning, as it was about 90 degrees Fahrenheit with 80 percent humidity -- unusual weather according to many locals.

San Remo and Ventimiglia are in the long-established flower growing industry locally. The Riviera di Ponente features a markedly different and more down-to-earth atmosphere than the opulent and pretentious Riviera di Levante. This stretch of coastline is famous for its particularly mild climate and relaxed way of life.

Reminds me of the old joke about the American tourist and the elderly Italian olive farmer sipping limoncello and staring off into the sunset.

The “merigan” notices that the olives are just dropping on the ground here and there, and asks: “Who do these trees belong to?” “They're mine,” replies the old man. “Don’t you gather the olives?” queries the tourist?

“I pick one when I want one,” comes the old man’s response. “Don’t you realize,” continues the exasperated tourist, “that if you prune the trees and picked the olives at their peak, Americans would pay top dollar for the olive oil?”

“What would I do with the money?” asks the old man. “You could build yourself a big house and hire servants to do everything,” counters the American.

“And then what would I do?” asks the old man, perplexed. “You could do anything you want,” responds the tourist with enthusiasm.

“You mean, like sit outside and sip limoncello at sunset?” offers the old man. Yep, the Riviera di Ponente is that kind of place: laid back.

Historically, the border of the Riviera di Ponente was positioned farther west, through what is now French territory, and as far as the little independent nation of Monaco. Ventimiglia itself it a former customs post.

The train took us through Savona, Noli, Finale Ligure, Loano, Albenga, Alassio (which was a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway), Cervo, Diana Marina, Imperia, Bussana Veccia, San Remo and Bordighere before arriving in Ventimiglia.

The town is known on both sides of the French/Italian border for its lively Friday Market, which features hundreds of vendors selling everything under the Ligurian sun. On a hill on the western bank of the Roia River, Ventimiglia’s medieval town is crowned with a 12th-century cathedral. The town is primarily residential.

With less than two hours until our return train to Genoa, we did our best to check out the beaches and parks in the time we had, stopping for a gelato in the downtown area before departure. On the way back, we almost missed our connecting train in Savona, but thanks to a diligent porter, we made it onto the right train.

1 comment:

Jorman223 said...

Good ole Ventimiglia. A nice little hamlet in the Italian Riviera. Great spot!