When I was deciding which towns to visit along the French coast on the day that we planned to make a loop from Nice to Menton and back (and stopping in lots of places along the way), it didn't even cross my mind to go to Italy. I guess if I had really thought about it, I knew that Italy was nearby, and we could theoretically go, but I don't think I realized we were really that close, so when I read some blogs suggesting that visitors go just to say they'd been (if they never had before) or to stop by just for the pasta, my interest was slightly piqued, if only just for the second reason (carbs - they always get me).
I read a lot of mixed things about the town of Ventimiglia itself, to be honest, as some said that there wasn't much to see, and that Friday (the only day we could visit) was a terrible time to visit, especially by car due to the weekly open-air market that happens on the boardwalk. So, I didn't go in with high hopes, and all I wanted was some real pasta from Pasta & Basta, a place that came highly recommended from various sources. I really didn't want to be disappointed, but at the same time, we were visiting the number one rated restaurant in town...people cross country borders for this place! Maybe I haven't spent enough time in Italy, or I just haven't visited the right places in Italy/the world, but...we left and I said, "I think that was one of my favorite meals ever....definitely." The portions were more than generous and the prices reasonable and we left really happy we'd made the trip even if it was (mostly) just for lunch.
D - After our meal at Pasta & Basta, I've since decided to try to learn how to make fresh pasta (or at least eat it as much as possible). It's a real game changer. I wish I could commute to Italy for lunch everyday...
Aside from our noteworthy lunch, we walked through both the covered market, which offers mostly produce and fish, as well as other fresh goods like pasta and flowers, and the Friday portion, which is outdoors near the water, and quite frankly, is really not worth a visit. It's full of purses, shoes, clothes, and accessories that sellers claim are being sold at great bargains, but I'm not so sure about the prices or the quality of the goods. We bought a couple of big and tasty looking apples to eat on the way back to the train station, perhaps as a way to counteract the amount of pasta and pastries that had made up our diet that day...
We didn't spend long in Ventimiglia, because it honestly just wasn't as well-kept and charming as the other towns. There were certainly some pretty buildings here and there but overall it felt more rundown, out-of-date, and less cared for than the other coastal cities and towns, so since we had other places to check out, we skipped the town's ancient ruins and churches and kept moving and took the next train back into France.
See more from our road trip around southern France: our day in Toulouse here, and all of our stops on our first day: Cahors, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Bouzies, Rocamadour, Padirac Cave, Loubressac, and Figeac. We began our second day in Marcillac-Vallon and Belcastel, made a stop at the Viaduc de Millau before heading into the Gorges du Tarn, and finally checked out the lovely Sainte-Enimie. That night, we stayed in Le-Pont-de-Montvert.
We started our third day in Labeaume before driving through the Gorges de l'Ardeche and stopping afterwards in Aiguèze and then spending some time checking out Roman remains in Orange and staying the night in Vaison-la-Romaine. The next morning we explored Vaison-la-Romaine, drove on to Sisteron and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and through the Gorges du Verdon and stayed the night in Castellane.
The morning of the fifth day of our road trip, we drove to Grasse, onto Saint-Paul-de-Vence, and then to Antibes and finally onto Nice for the night. On our first morning in Nice we took the train to Monaco and then started explored Nice in the afternoon.