Monday, January 27, 2014

The market at Ventimiglia



"Wait until you see how different it is. Only a fifteen minute drive over the border and yet the ambiance completely changes!" My friend Jennifer is not one to make casual promises, especially when food is concerned. Already, during our visit to Menton, she had delivered me to a bakery that had been voted the best in all of the South and South-West of France! Can you imagine? That is quite impressive - as was the pesto and tomato stuffed roll that I munched on with delight.


I had been secretly hoping that we would make it to the market at Ventimiglia as I have always enjoyed  her various posts on the subject. Italy makes me dream. Shhh! Don't tell Remi. But it does. 

After several rainy days, the clouds were ripped away to reveal a blinding sky. It was the perfect benediction to "Go! Avanti!" And oh, the town itself! Sandwiched in between the snowy peaks of the Alps and a surfer-studded sea with frothy palms lining the boulevards? I believe that stunning is the proper word to describe the scene.


The indoor market was decked out for the holidays, even if many of the agricoltore were still home for Natale...


...and yet a distinctively low-key vibe whistled through the air. Yes, Jennifer was right--what a change from the bling of the Côte d'Azur! There was no hurry. Why hurry under such a sun?


Take time! Eat socca! So we did. I loved the people-watching. A lot of beautifully dressed women and men...


...who carefully eyed the goods at each stand, pinching and smelling as they went.


And yes, even though Ventimiglia is only a three hour drive from Arles, the items on offer were quite different. Such as these beautifully prepared artichokes...


...and mandarines gift-wrapped with the name of La Fortunella.


If I had been staying in the region longer I would have pounced on the little pre-made Minestrone packets and the tender zucchini's with their delicate flowers! Sadly, we won't see those in Provence for several months to come.


And of course there is mozzarella, the vera mozarella di buffala that has absolutely nothing to do with the rubbery softballs that I buy...


...not to mention the artisanal cured meats from Calabresi...


...or house-made pillowy panettoni (will someone explain to me why I didn't buy this?).


I did finally cave for the parmesan that you see above and oh I wish that I had taken home more! Two absolutely giant wedges of 18 month old parmigiano reggiano (Jennifer helped choose them for me, she says that they should have a slightly sweet fragrance) were only a little over 10 Euros! Less than half the price in France, plus, the kind vendor gave me a little salame to boot. When does that happen at the market in Arles? Never, that's when. She also put their card in with my purchases as she knew that I will be back. And I will. The cheese exceeded my expectations.


The flower section offered similarly surprising bargains. One Euro a stem for wild orchids? It began to be overwhelming...


So, purchases in hand, we dived back into the blue, strolling past the leather goods and cashmere vendors (I had to stop often to touch various sweaters and scarves but alas was "good")...


...until Jennifer installed us on the terrace of a café. At the end of December! We finally had to move inside as I was getting sun-burned. Isn't that something?


PS. A tip for the wise: when dining out with a vegetarian friend, if you are given a plate of focaccia and prosciutto for the aperitivo, well then that means prosciutto jackpot for you!


This wonderful afternoon left us both feeling very happy and more than a little hungry.

Ciao, ciao Ventimiglia! Arrividerci! Baci!

44 comments:

  1. I am so happy to read about your happy jaunt in the Italian sunshine. It is amazing how different things can be in just a few kilometers. If I travel just an hour from Rome the types of pasta and their appropriate sauces all change. I can only imagine Ventimiglia would be like a foreign country to me :)

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    1. Isn't that amazing?? I see it in France too but not often such drastic changes in SUCH a short distance. Italy is fascinating. And Gillian? Everyone was nice to me, everyone.

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  2. Dear Heather, Your first photograph stole my heart and also sealed the rest of the journey we are going to take beginning in Paris, the Canal du Midi, Arles and Ventimiglia and back to Paris. Thank you for taking us along on your journeys. It is almost like being there. ox, Gina

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    1. Wow, Gina! Really??? That is going to be ONE AMAZING trip. When are you coming? Are you renting a boat for the Canal du Midi or taking a tour? If you want any suggestions for Arles beyond what you have already seen here, feel free to email me at robinsonheather (at) yahoo.com. And whew is Ventimiglia/Menton gorgeous. You won't be disappointed...Oh, I am so excited for you! :)

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    2. Dear Heather, We are going in early October. We are not renting a boat for the canal. Only want to see a part of the canal before all of the trees are gone. In the meantime I will be following your posts. Thank you so much for your kind offer. I may want to contact you a little later in the year. ox, Gina

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    3. By all means do, Gina. I love to help. And trust me, everything will be gorgeous in early October!!!

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    4. Le Canal du Midi! Quel beau rêve! Try to stop at Sallelès d'Aude a sweet little village which provides one of the nicest watergates. A recommendation for a place to stay there: la fondelon.fr. An ancient wine domaine, park, pool, peace! "La famille Granel" who still runs the domain are the coolest hosts!

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    5. Whoa! J'adore! Quelle belle addresse!!! I wonder if they take doggies... ;)

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  3. I LOVE a market, Heather...I can smell the mandarins from here :)
    Now, if you were sharing with me you would have hit the proscuitto jackpot too!
    Have a good week xx

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    1. Ooh good to know, Catherine! When we finally meet someday, I will be sure to invite you to a trattoria... ;)
      Have a wonderful week as well...

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  4. what a seductive post Heather. I like Italy very much too and spent my last holiday in Vence I went to Ventimiglia
    for shopping. Food and clothes ..both well priced and tres chic. Yesterday I have seat also on a terrace in the
    sun looking at the Med. Sea and the snowy Sierra. Life...as good as it get's.

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    1. Really??? Oh Mumbai, I will admit it, I am so curious about where you are! Shame on me but I can't help it! But I am not surprised at all to know that you enjoyed that moment on the terrace. And yes, the women were so chic! I loved it...ahead of French fashion I have to say (shhh!). It was just all so lovely.

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  5. Love a market - and I must say that not even the fanciest market nor Harrods food hall in London does prepared artichokes like that Heather!!! x

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    1. Not only are they stripped and ready to go but I am pretty sure that Jennifer said that they are also coated in olive oil...could that be possible? I wanted to just pop them all in my mouth right then and there.

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  6. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S! And so sunny still in December!

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  7. I loved reading about your italian adventure and seeing the photos of the food market. I don't know what it is, but seeing all the fresh produce at a market is ever so much more enticing and romantic even, than buying veggies and meat from a supermarket, where it is all under glaring white lighting and everything offered on polystyrene trays and wrapped in plastic cling wrap. I always buy so much more when I'm at a farmers' market, because it all looks so much more real and earthy. The vendor is also the grower and there is that connection, which is not possible at all when buying from a supermarche. This is a lovely post. It is brimming with produce, one can almost smell! I'm afraid if we were to meet for a coffee date, we would both be eyeing off the proscuitto, but we could also share a piece of the panettoni. Why did you leave that behind?
    Love the smiley face! Very clever! Sounds like you had fun!
    Cheers,
    Deb C from Melbourne

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    1. I can't take credit for the smiley face--that was Jennifer's quick eye! But yes, it was such a fun day, I loved every minute of it. And don't worry I would be so happy to meet you that you could have ALL of the prosciutto!

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  8. Wow! What a feast for the eyes ... thank you, Heather, a beautiful post. Aloha

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    1. *waving to Hawaii* Glad you liked it Bill!

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    1. It's big but not too huge. Just right. And the socca we had would have tickled your palette as well!

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  10. Looks pretty darn good!That was a PANDORO on the left of the PANETTONE……..MY FAVORITE!You sprinkle the sugar packet on top and shake the bag so it covers the whole thing!How fun to be so close to the border……..perhaps you could get a small group say 3 woman one who drives to go down and do some shopping once every few months or so…………time would fly chit chatting, etc………….

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    1. Don't forget that gas is five times more here--so that would be one expensive market trip! But worth it, especially to see Jenn. :) And the food....yes, that Pandoro caught my eye too!

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    2. I did think of that………..TRAIN??More talk less shop……….

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  11. Ventimiglia feast for the eyes, palate, for everything. Different atmosphere and things but complimentary where one comes from. What delightful visit.The farewell with a hint of return.

    Montaigne was right. Travel (if I can call your 3-hour drive, travel) to another country is an education. Although yours is really a visit to the neighborhood, it's still a beautiful way to study geography and all its accoutrements.

    Thank you for the colorful photos.

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    1. Welcome, Edgar. And travel -along with reading fine literature- has been the most important part of my education so far. Certainly THE most important as far as learning about our fellow man...

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  12. You reminded me what a brilliantly clear and beautiful day it was after all that messy rain. It was a fun visit wasn't it? I should have bought that purse! It haunts me still. Next time.....

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    1. Aaagh! It does? Oh my, I take responsibility for your not buying it. All of that "alcantara" business!

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    2. PS. I had to tune down the "brightness" levels on the outdoor photos for them to readable onscreen!!

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  13. What a pleasure to visit Ventimiglia through your eyes. When living in Eze we would take the train there every other week to stock up on the wonderful produce, meats, cheeses and flowers. Such a treasure. You captured it beautifully.

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    1. Oh thank you. What a wonderful experience that must have been. I know that I have said it before but I have to say it again!!!

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    1. I did! Alas not to Rome or I would have invited you and Gillian to the sushi+cocktails+cake place. :)

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  15. I would have taken home all the mozzarella plus the parmesan.

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  16. These are 'gotcha' pics...from the first photo to the last...ummm....hmmm....so yummy..colours and food to delight the eye and tummy!
    Thank you Heather.
    Another magical journey with you....

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  17. Hi, I found your blog some time ago and I still like to read your posts.
    I giggled at your question on why didn't you buy panettone. This is a delicious but monstrous cake unless if you do not live with a huge Italian family.

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    1. Hi Sasha! I don't know why I didn't see these last few comments on this post until today--sorry about that! And of course, your remark made me smile...with just Remi and I it would be a LOT to eat!

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  18. I think italy makes everybody dream :) Tanti baci xxx

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  19. I absolutely love popping over to Ventimiglia, it's one of the things I'm really going to miss.

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    1. I love how you two get around. I can't believe that you "pop over" to Ventimiglia! How I loved it there...and you will find new things to "pop over" to, I know it.

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