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Visiting Balzi Rossi, Italy: rocky Mediterranean cliffs near Ventimiglia
Red rocks and their secrets researched by Monaco's Princes
Literally, Balzi Rossi in Italian means Red Rocks. These are in abundance: towering cliffs which drop down to the Mediterranean Sea and and when I visited I was impressed by the outstanding scenic qualities of the location. An abiding sense of the overwhelming power of historical perceptions, within an aesthetically intense setting, is easily retained in this locality.
Traces of the ancient Roman Via Iulia Augusta have been found at Balzi Rossi and at nearby Ventimiglia, situated in Imperia Province, Liguria Region.
The Torre Grimaldi (Grimaldi Tower) overlooking the sea is a local landmark. The tower is sometimes known as the Torre della Dogana (Customs Tower) as befits its status as an historic sentinel near the borders with France, or as the Torre dei Saraceni (Saracens' Tower) in reference to the defences against attacks by Saracen shipping many centuries ago.
Monaco's Princes sponsored archeological research
Monaco is situated only a few kilometers away and some of the Principality of Monaco's Princely heads of state have taken a considerable interest in the pre-history of Balzi Rossi. One of the caves is called Grotta di Florestano, named for Prince Florestan I of Monaco, who sponsored excavations from 1846.
Later, Prince Albert I of Monaco continued Prince Florestan's sponsorship of cave excavations at Balzi Rossi, and many archeologists have shown great interest in the site.
Canadian scholarly links and discussions
In the years leading to 1895, Louis Alexandre Jullien carried out research at the Balzi Rossi caves, and later announced the discovery of figurine artifacts. Jullien immigrated to Canada, corresponding with Sir William Dawson at Montreal's McGill University, and his claims remain the source of lively and sometimes controversial discussion among archeological scholars. The Canadian Museum of Civilization, at Gatineau, has made Jullien's claims about what he discovered at Balzi Rossi the subject of exhibitions.
Other local attractions include the Hanbury Gardens at nearby Mortola and the town of Ventimiglia, to which Balzi Rossi and Grimaldi-Inferiore and -Superiore are attached administratively. Ventimiglia's Roman theatre remains and its church architecture are of particular note.
How to get there:
Alitalia flies to Genoa (Aeroporto di Genova ); there are rail links from Genoa to Ventimiglia. The nearest sizable international airport to Balzi Rossi is Nice, France (Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur ). Delta Airlines flies direct from New York to Nice. The French railroad company SNCF serves stations between Nice and Ventimiglia (French: Vintimille ). Enquire also at Nice Airport for bus links to nearby Menton, France. For North American travellers making the London, England area their touring base, airlines flying to Nice include easyJet, from London Luton Airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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