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Visiting Grimaldi, near Ventimiglia, Italy: perched on rock, with a sheer drop into the Mediterranean
Mountains and sea, thrown together
At Grimaldi, near Ventimiglia, close to the French border, is some of the most dramatic topography in Europe.
At a location near to one of the photographs supplied, I was walking a number of years ago on the Corso Mentone (1) in Grimaldi, where the road seems to curve towards the sea, and where it is hard for the stranger to get proper bearings, unaided by a map. Indeed, I was suddenly questioned — in French, not Italian — by a young woman motorist who stopped her convertible and asked me, in apparent confusion: Où est la France? (Where is France?) and thus I was able to give her simple directions. Certainly, given that the Alps here fall so dramatically into the Mediterranean and the roads have consequently been blasted into the rock in a curving pattern, it can be somewhat confusing even for unfamiliar drivers who are usually adept at following a good sense of direction.
One can well see how the nearby Principality of Monaco — its ruling house is also named Grimaldi — preserved its sovereignty over several centuries because its very similar topography made the heartland of the small state very inaccessible except by sea. It is a place where dwellings and villas perch in an almost precarious-seeming way between the Alps and the western end of the Mediterranean's Ligurian Sea.
Grimaldi, divided into lower and upper parts, Grimaldi-Inferiore and Grimaldi-Superiore, is located near Ventimiglia; the local administrative boundaries are within Imperia province, itself in Italy's Liguria region.
The nearby Hanbury Gardens attract many visitors. A conspicuous tower, named for Grimaldi, overlooks the sea as one approaches Balzi Rossi, close to the French border.
(1) 'Mentone' is the Italian spelling for the French city of Menton, near the border with Italy. Since the city was not part of France until the second half of the 19th century, English-speaking visitors were already familiar with its attractions and consequently the Italian spelling 'Mentone' has also featured in some English-language references to the Riviera.
Interestingly, since even the word 'Riviera' is Italian, meaning 'coast', the term 'French Riviera' is not one which has a close, French equivalent; instead, French people tend to refer to the 'Côte d'Azur'. It is thus interesting how the Franco-Italian border area can in some ways prove complex for native English-speakers.
Also worth seeing
Balzi Rossi , adjacent to Grimaldi, has an archeological museum and caves.
In Ventimiglia (approx. distance: 8 kilometres) are the Medieval Cathedral and the Sant' Agostino and the San Michele churches; there are remains of a Roman amphitheatre; the Palazzo comunale , is a Rationalist style municipal building.
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 Grimaldi 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 ); the nearest railroad station to Grimaldi is Menton-Garavan, over the French border, which is withing walking distance of Grimaldi. Enquire also at Nice Airport for bus links to nearby Menton, France. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to 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.
- Visiting the Roia River at Ventimiglia, Italy: scenic river that defies boundaries and spellings
- Visiting Ventimiglia, Italy and its Palazzo Comunale: municipal architecture in Italian Rationalist
- Visiting Balzi Rossi, Italy: rocky Mediterranean cliffs near Ventimiglia
- Visiting Menton, France: Mediterranean, border city with Monaco memories
- Visiting the City Hall, Cannes, France: gracious, Neo-Classical building dating from 1876