It’s been years that I’ve wanted to visit the huge Friday market in the Italian border town of Ventimiglia. This week we made it there, undeterred by cold and rainy weather. We were so glad we did.
Now, Ventimiglia the town is nothing to write home about. Actually, one might write that it is unprepossessing at the very best, and downright rundown and esthetically devoid at its most correct. But it’s Italy, and besides, it carries its own historical interests. Because the border line moved so often over the centuries, people would find themselves living in one country but working in the other and in the modern era were given legal leniency to do so. Market vendors speak Italian and French, and there are shoppers from each country. The local dialect is related to dialects along the near French Riviera.
Plus, you can get real cappuccino there, not the ersatz version you get in Nice.
Bringing our shopping caddy on the train was the right decision. We picked up a moist Grana Padana for grating over pasta, a creamy mozzarella da bufala and firm salad tomatoes to eat together, sweet and crisp fennel for my salads, sheep milk ricotta for toast, unfiltered olive oil from the nearby hills, mushroom ravioli, dandelion honey from the apicoltore, colorful vegetables for soup, juicy and sweet clementines and more, at about half Nice prices for similar products. The same probably goes for a comparison with Milano.
I had mentioned it was cold and damp. When even my feet started to chill, I broke down and bought a nice sweater for five euro that did the trick.
When shopping was done, we tucked into a low key trattoria for lunch and a glass of wine. That’s how you make market day a special event.
On the train home, we sat next to friendly young man who, from his accent and appearance, seemed to be from West Africa. At the border with France, the train stopped, border police entered, and, after asking the man for his papers and finding them unsatisfactory, took him off the train. Whether you go by train or car or on foot, crossing that border will bring you in contact with immigrants and the border authorities. It is a situation that won’t change anytime soon.