Ventimiglia Market and Menton 2020 Lemon Festival

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Taking the Train to Ventimiglia, Italy from Nice, France 

I’ve heard so much about the Friday Market in Ventimiglia, Italy. Today I’m off to see what it’s all about.

Ventimiglia is just over the France/Italy border about 30 miles from Nice. The trip takes about an hour by train, and I paid 14 euro (about $15) roundtrip.

The Nice train station was busier than usual due to the strike yesterday. The ordinarily serene ticket office looks like the waiting room at the DMV. There are people taking tickets from a machine like at a deli counter. Although I missed the 9:06 train, I’m able to get on the 9:37. The Nice to Ventimiglia line is popular so trains leave and return often. Ventimiglia is a hub for further train travel around Italy.  

The train runs along the coast with lovely sea views. However, the views are interrupted quite often by tunnels. As we cross the invisible border into Italy, I receive a text reminder that I’m now roaming on my French SIM card. I’m glad for the reminder—time to turn off roaming.

Ventimiglia 

Arriving in Ventimiglia is like entering a different country — oh wait, it is a different country. I’m not sure I prepared myself sufficiently for the transition.

Italy is a beautiful and fascinating country, but the Italians seem to have a unique way of looking at the world. Just breathe and repeat your patience mantra over and over.  

The market is a short distance from the train station and goes on for blocks along the waterfront. It’s February and its mobbed! I mean shoulder to shoulder hang on to your handbag mobbed! If it’s like this in February, I can’t imagine what it’s like in July and August?

There is something for everyone – from pillows to wrenches and socks to fur coats. However, at this time of year, most of the clothing is for winter, jackets, scarves, sweaters, boots, etc. Spring and summer haven’t arrived yet in Ventimiglia. I don’t need warm clothing, so after about an hour of elbowing my way through crowds, I head back to the station. I’m glad I came and would like to return another time but for today. Allons-y!

A Stop in Menton, France for the 2020 Lemon Festival

Back on the train, it’s 1:15, and I haven’t eaten all day. Although this wasn’t originally the plan, Menton is only two stops from Ventimiglia. The Menton Lemon Festival is on for two weeks, and this would be a good day to see the floats/sculptures. 

The theme for the 2020 festival is “Les FĂȘtes du Monde,” translated as “Parties around the World.” The event draws large crowds, especially as the Nice Carnaval is running at the same time, and it’s possible to visit both. However, Menton is a much smaller city compared to Nice, so the impact of the crowds on the town is more significant.  

There are afternoon and evening parades and events just as there are for Nice Carnaval. Temporary seating stands are set up along the parade route and will remain there until the beginning of March. The official website says the festival welcomes over 240,000 visitors a year, uses 180 tons of fruit, 1 million elastic bands, and 15 tons of metal to make the sculptures, some are 30 feet high. 

Today isn’t a parade day, but the sculptures are on display in Les Jardin Bioves. However, first a little tour around the town and something to eat!  

Menton is right on the Cote d’azur. 

There are many charming shops along the pedestrian alleys downtown. February is indeed lemon time in Menton, so Limoncello, lemon-scented soaps, candied lemon peel, and lemon-infused olive oil, etc. are front and center in the shops.  

This guy was drawing a large crowd.

After a quick bite to eat, I follow my GPS to the entrance of Les Jardins Boives in the center of town. The cost is 12 Euro. 

The Sculptures in Boives Garden

The attention to detail is impressive

Elastic bands are used to hold the fruit in place. Orange for the oranges and yellow for lemons. 

There are orange trees for sale for festival goers. If I was living here I’d be tempted!

Returning to Nice after a great day.  

I enjoyed looking at the sculptures, but by this time I was quite exhausted. The 4:30 train understandably is full of not only tourists but also commuters. Standing room only for most of the way. It was a relief to get off the train in Nice – with most of the other passengers! The train was now on its way toward Cannes with plenty of seats. 

About

I'm in my sixties with the world at my feet and thoughts mostly of "where to next?". I retired in 2017, sold my house in Massachusetts and most of my furniture and "stuff." When not traveling you can find me in Florida in the winter and Rhode Island in the summer. Travel has been a passion from a young age, over the years I've discovered I'm a traveler, not a tourist. I prefer traveling solo, with a travel friend, or small groups. Whenever possible I would rather spend time in one place rather than moving around. I'll never turn down an opportunity to go to France, but my travels have taken me all over the world. I've met some incredible people and had some fantastic experiences.

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