Last weekend I spent my time in French Riviera. I admit I love this part of France and that’s why I decided to write about a place that even if is not located in Italy, is very firmly connected with Liguria.
Menton (Mentone in Italian) is a French town situated in French Riviera along Franco-Italo border. In the past, it took a part of the Republic of Genoa, so it was also an Italian/Ligurian town 😉 It is located so close to the Ligurian border that if you spend your time in the western part of this region, you should visit this small, French town.
How to reach Menton
- by car
– motorway – you can cross the border driving the Italian motorway A10. Then in France, the motorway becomes A8. You exit with the first motorway exit you see in the French motorway. Then you follow the road signs to Menton and after 5 minutes you get the town. More info about Italian and French motorways you can find here, here & here.
– SS1 (Aurelia) – a state road that leads you to the border. After the border, it continues as a route nationale 7. It is very picturesque and leads along the Ligurian and French coast. I think that it is the best way to reach Menton when you drive a car from Liguria.
- by train – the best way is to arrive in Ventimiglia (the last Italian town before the border) and then take a french TER train. More info about Italian and French trains here, here & here.
The Menton area has been inhabited since the palaeolithic era. The first major settlement was built in the XI century when the Count of Ventimiglia constructed the Château de Puypin. During the XIII century, the seigneur of Puypin fell to the Vento family of Genoa. Menton was thus incorporated into the Republic of Genoa. Then the town was mentioned in the peace treaty between Provence and the Republic of Genoa. The treatment stabilized that Menton became a part of Liguria. However, in the XIV century the town was acquired by the Lords of Monaco and again became a part of France. It remained French until the XIX century. Then, together with the Republic of Genoa became a part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. However, in 1860 France called for the annexation of Menton and the whole County of Nice to France. For this reason, a plebiscite was organized and as its result, Menton and County of Nice became a part of France.
Even if the name’s spelling and pronunciation in French are identical to the word that means “chin”, there isn’t any link with this French word. It is possible that the name of the town comes from Mons Ottonis (reconstituted) from the name of Otton II, the Count of Ventimiglia.
The things to see & do
Menton’s old town is very similar to the old town of the Ligurian Sanremo. Both towns are built on the hill in the Genoas/Ligurian style. When you start going up the hill with Rue de Bréa and then Rue de Grenadiers you will arrive at the small square. This is the Place de la Conception where you can visit the most important church of the town.
It was built in XII century by the Genoese architect Lorenzo Lavagna. Inside the church is richly decorated in the baroque style.
From the square, you can admire a beautiful view of the sea and the Ligurian coast. Then you can continue to go up through the narrow, romantic streets of the town. On the top of the hill, you can visit a local, monumental cemetery.
Jean Cocteau Museum
2 Quai de Monleon
Wednesday – Monday
10.00 am-6.00 pm
Entrance: 8€; 6€
When you come back down the hill you can find Jean Cocteau Museum. Menton was chosen to host this museum because Jean Cocteau loved very much this town and spent much time here. The museum contains almost 1000 graphic works by Cocteau.
The Lemon Festival
Menton has very mild climate that is very favourable to lemon, tangerine and orange groves. That’s why every February takes place the Lemon Festival. It lasts a few days, with different bands passing through Menton’s streets. The centre of the town is decorated in the theme of the festival, using lemons to cover the exhibits, and huge temporary statues are built and covered with citrus fruit!
Well, even if Menton is not the Ligurian town it is worth to be seen anyway. Especially if you spend your time in the western Liguria!