Wednesday, June 5, 2013


There's a pattern developing here.  Riccardo and I tour some nearby town in the morning, then go eat one of Marina's delicious lunches, and after lunch, she joins us for touring in the afternoon.  This Sunday morning it was Ventimiglia, population around 25,000 and the last Italian town in Liguria before crossing the border into France.  

You pass by this 2nd century Roman theater on the way into the town.

This is a really ancient town which dates back to BC times.

Our first stop was Ventimiglia Cathedral.  A wedding was about to take place, so we slipped in for a quick tour.

This church was erected in the 10th century on the ruins of an earlier church, which in turn was built on the site of what was possibly a Roman pagan temple.

Some old frescoes have survived the ages.

There were some really old columns that were supports for the Roman building.

Afterward, we climbed up to the remains of a fortress at the hilltop.  

This is one of the old city walls.

And here's another part of a remaining wall.  It's become a parking lot up here.

Then it was yet another delicious lunch.  Marina made a really delicious pasta with pesto, potatoes, and skinny green beans.  Pesto originated in Liguria, and Marina put the perfect amount in the pasta.  Often, in restaurants, the pesto overwhelms, but the flavors in her creation were subtle and delicious.  She also made me a lover of ratatouille.  For the second plate, she paired a sauteed chicken breast with it.  Yum.  

The afternoon was pretty splendid, because I was in three countries in a matter of a few hours!  We drove along the Italian coast, then continued along the French coast, arriving at our final destination, the principality of Monaco, which is pretty ritzy.

We headed upward for Le Rocher, The Rock, where the royal palace and some other pretty spectacular buildings are located.  

If you're not a resident of the principality, you can't drive your car up to Le Rocher, so you stiffen your mountain goat muscles and start climbing up this tiered walkway.  We discovered later that there was bus service to the top.  

But you couldn't get a beautiful shot like this from a bus seat.

At the top, entering a huge piazza, we are greeted by this fellow, Francois Grimaldi, who is said to have disguised himself as a monk to gain entry to the fortress and capture it.  The Grimaldi family has ruled Monaco, with brief interruptions, since that time in 1297.

I couldn't capture the palace in one shot--I found this one on the Net.

Here's a close-up of St. Mary's Tower on the right of the palace, built to resemble a medieval fortress, and Prince Albert's white clock tower on its right.

The palace is the Prince's private residence, but there are state apartments open for public visits, and we decided to take the tour.  No pictures were allowed inside, but I wanted to show the splendor of some of these rooms.

We started our tour at the Gallery of Hercules, where there were frescoes depicting his various feats of strength.

This is the Blue Room, and it's not difficult to figure out how it got its name.  The blue brocade lining the walls is posh and the chandeliers are Murano glass.

This is the Throne Room, where all state ceremonies have been held since the 1600's.  

A final peek--the Mazarin Room, which boasts the best of ornate Italian woodwork, brought to France by Cardinal Mazarin, whose picture hangs over the fireplace.

I think we saw about a dozen rooms, all equally grand, using an audio guide.  These rooms were packed with beautiful treasures, and one annoyance was that the guide only mentioned a few.  

We also visited Saint Nicholas Cathedral, where Princess Grace and Prince Rainier are buried.  It's a lovely cathedral, and I took a few pictures inside, but they didn't turn out very well.

On the walk back down to sea level we passed a large sculpture that was a picture frame.  I tried to get it in this photo of Riccardo and Marina, but a fence kept me from standing back far enough.  Anyway, I didn't notice until I downloaded this picture that Marina grew a couple of inches during this tour.

We also passed a beautiful garden area, but you had to go down and then come back up, and my body screamed, "NO". 

Being such a densely populated area, it isn't surprising to see skyscapers crammed together like this.

There's some interesting modern architecture to be seen.  I thought this white building, the tallest here, was pretty unique.

And the seascapes are endlessly breathtaking.

Back at sea level we passed by the Oceanographic Museum.  The guy looks a little out of place in a bed of flowers.

The building is huge and the architecture is really beautiful.  This isn't even half of the building.

I wish someone would decorate my balcony like this...well, if I had a balcony.

It was a wonderful afternoon, and we ended the day with dinner at a seaside restaurant in Camporosso, where we shared a delicious assortment of appetizers, followed by, for me, a mixed grilled seafood platter with swordfish, prawns, calamari (very tender), and another unknown fish.  The fish was cooked almost to perfection (small stumble on the swordfish), and everything tasted like it had been caught that day.  It was lucious.  

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