Ventimiglia in 12 Photos… A Reason to Stay

The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
– G.K Chesterton

The train stops just short of the border. This is the last chance to remain in Italy and so I disembark. Only the briefest of journeys ahead separates me from France, the Cote d’Azur and Nice, my eventual destination. Nice is the town where ‘tourism’ began. Already at the end of the 19th Century the coming of the iron horse to the Riviera lead some to lament how ‘tourists’ were now taking over from ‘travellers’ and with them changing the landscape dramatically. The distinction was one of time. It was now possible from Northern Europe to reach the Mediterranean in 30 hours and instead of staying the whole winter, possible to stay just a few weeks.

Arriving By Train...

Arriving By Train…

On my last coming here we spent two nights on the Riviera, two nights. Then the tour left. I have never really pondered the meaning of my job title; ‘tour’ manager, implicitly from ‘tourism’. I am not a ‘travel’ manager or even a ‘travel guide’ which suggests a book, not a human.

My fellow Dane, Hans Christian Andersen said; ‘travel is to live‘. Well, if such, boy am I alive. But today, as I drag my suitcase down across Ventimiglia’s delightfully named Ponte Squassafichi to my hastily arranged lodgings on the ‘quieter’ side of town, I feel like a traveller. I must stop in Italy, I need to stay on my Italian mobile number… Now here’s a novel reason for a destination.

What Lies Beyond?

What Lies Beyond?

The day will come soon, too soon, when I can no longer put off crossing the border ahead and in a time of such fluidity across once meaningful boundaries, this now largely absent barrier, takes on a symbolic significance to me, I have not experienced in a long time. It is Tuesday as I cross the Roia river, emptying its waters here finally after having risen high at the Col de Tende in France. I need to be at the receiving end of a phone call on Friday. I need to be in Italy for that call. That is the sole defining factor of this particular of so many journeys I have made. I am hoping it qualifies me as a non-tourist.

A View Across the River

A View Across the River

With little to do but stand by and wait, I intersperse my research for my next tour with strolls, venturing rarely far from what is rapidly becoming the familiarly comforting surroundings of the short Passeggiata Marconi. I go the same cafe for my morning coffees and evening spritz. I eat at the same restaurant, something I never do, my culinary sense of adventure stretching no further than trying a different ‘primo’ each night. I even drink the same Chardonnay; a delicious IGT from Sicily, nothing to do with the Riviera. And I take photos… Photo after photo of Ventimiglia…

Work in Progress...

Work in Progress…

In snapping more photos of a single place than I have for a long time, maybe it is my subconscious clinging on to what has now become a symbolic ‘last stand’. I don’t want to leave really. I like Provence and I enjoy my work, the next group, Road Scholars – retired Americans are likely, if the past few are to go by, to be lovely and I will work hard, but enjoy their company. But crossing the border out of Italy these days is always accompanied by a sense of guilt. I am requested, at least in words, by no one to stay. ‘Write hard and clear about what hurts’, said Hemingway. And leaving Italy hurts, so I wrap writing around my photos…

Dreams of Sailing Away...

Dreams of Sailing Away…

‘At the station I said to myself; if the next train goes east, I’ll head for Ventimiglia and eat spaghetti in Italy’. In the end the compass pointed not East and Paul Theroux in is wonderful book The Pillars of Hercules, did not make it to Ventimiglia. But as I read these lines here with his next étape, Corsica, an island steeped in the most wonderful personal memories, off in the distance I can’t help but think just what a wonderful way this is to travel. Who has the courage to do so these days?

In a Different Time

In a Different Time

And over the next hours and days as I stroll around, at regular intervals climbing the stairs to room 12 in the Hotel Seagull, what has become my temporary home, for the sole reason that it is one stop on two parallel iron lines, from France, Ventimiglia starts to fill a space in my heart. It is without doubt one of my favourite feelings associated with travel, when a destination from which one expects little or nothing (because I knew nothing about it) surprises and captivates. I find even a short time in such a place – I rarely have longer, can feel like an entire season.

Trapped Angels

Trapped Angels

Last year I think I slept in 187 different beds. The disproportionate significance of my large single on the second floor, cheapest – no sea view – is therefore apparent to the reader. The fact that on Friday a dear friend may need me, at least to be able to call me and without fear of the still in this age, extortionate fees for phoning abroad, keeps me firmly on the Vodaphone Italia network. In the distance, at sunset I can see the sheer face dog-shaped rock, which signifies Monaco must lie somewhere below. Yet I move no closer.

The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man

It will be July before I return to Italy, to that network and the prospect of more regular contact. I may no longer be needed in the same way. Over the past weeks it has been nice to me on a personal level to be somewhat of a constant in the life of someone. For once someone to be relied on when the chips were down. Fridays call has already been pushed back from Monday, then Wednesday to its current date and I think for both, used to being alone, it has become somewhat more significant. It has in a way been an excuse for contact. As such a excuse that afterwards will no longer exist. This is in Hemingway’s words, is the part that ‘hurts’.

Old Men And The Sea...

Old Men And The Sea…

I am on the Via Aurelia, began in 241 BC by the Romans, and much later extended by Augustus to this part of the world as the Ligurian tribes were defeated and Provence (from ‘province’) settled. Until Nice was gifted to the Napoleon III and the French by Cavour and Garibaldi as a thanks for his help in the unification of Italy, I’d have been able to travel further than the 4 miles East that now separate me from France. I read recently how history is so often made through coincidence. My sojourn here in Ventimiglia can hardly be described in such lofty terms, but sure had a certain exam board not delayed and delayed the publication of their results, my history would have been different.

Can a Boat Made of Stone do the Trick?

Can a Boat Made of Stone do the Trick?

And I am happy I have come. There are things to see; the remains of a Roman amphitheatre, ancient city walls, the church perched high up above the sea, safe they hoped from marauding pirates, dates from the 10th Century and contains remarkable old Roman mile posts; the locals tell me Friday there will be a market – this always causes so much casino (a mess) they say.

Rolling Stones Gather...

Rolling Stones Gather…

In the mornings I can see snow on the Alps to the North as I sit on the beach. I like it here. For whichever reason any tourist or traveller that decides to come, I am confident will do too…

An Escape?

An Escape?

As Friday approaches, it becomes hard to focus on much else. If the news is bad, I wonder what will happen. My friend is strong and will cope and carry on as they always have, I have no doubt. But it is sometimes extremely hard to wish to help someone and be there and not know if one is doing any good. If the news is good, I can cross into France with less pressure. For awhile, until the next challenge I will no longer be needed. Should things not work out, I hope I will have what it takes comfort and just well, help

Two Palms...

Two Palms…

Ventimiglia, you have to me felt like a friend in these days as I have travelled through. I expected nothing and received so much, simply from the stones on your beach, the last rays of sun each day, that amazing spaghetti alle vongole I discovered, the smile of the signora in the SeaGull every morning. In these 12 photos I hope to have done you justice and in the inspiration you gave to this piece, to pass on that strength to my friend who will one day read these words…

‘A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down’.
– Arnold H. Glasow

For you; How many times do I have to tell you
Even when you’re crying you’re beautiful too
The world is beating you down, I’m around

Press Play

~ by 2ndcupoftea on May 1, 2014.

9 Responses to “Ventimiglia in 12 Photos… A Reason to Stay”

  1. Beautiful.

    • Thank you Anna. And thank you as always for ready… It is truly appreciated 🙂

  2. Hope all turned out well for your friend.You clearly loved discovering Ventimiglia and as a writer, are an artist.

    • Hi Jeff… You would not believe what happened if I told you. Such bad luck. Oh well, anyway your comment is truly one of the most amazing I have ever had! Thank you so much…

  3. […] you might find inspiration in this reflective post by Thomas Randall of, about his discovery of Ventimiglia in […]

    • Thank you Go Euro Blog – kind of you to read and even kinder to take the time to comment… 😉

  4. Thomas! I had no idea you were such a beautiful writer!

    • Erin, you have made my day! Thank you so much… I know you are only trying to get me to send those shoes 😉 – just kidding. Flattery will get you everywhere. Thanks for reading and many hugs. See you in London.

      • A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do :-). But it was written with full sincerity! Well, maybe 10% flattery and 90% sincerity…

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