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Italy is not far from Nice, France, about a 1/2 hour by car or train, although it depends on which highway you take. It is definitely more scenic to take the lower coastal roads, but traffic can back-up quickly on these windy, narrow, steep roads. But there is a freeway which can get you into Italy quite quickly.

The first town you come to upon entering Italy is Ventimiglia. The Royal flows through the middle of it and is the most commonly known river. But another flows into the Med at the far end of town called the Nervia river. And if you follow this river along highway SP64 north about 10 km out of Ventimiglia, you’ll reach one of the best preserved medieval towns in this region, and which is also not overrun by tourists.

Dolceacqua rests on a steep rock cliff in which the windy Nervia river bends its way around. At the top of the rock is a 12th century castle, now mostly in ruins but recent improvement have made it so visits are available most days (costs six euros but worth doing). They’ve done a good job of building staircases and steel boardwalks to visit many areas of the castle and get an idea of what life would have been like within its walls back in those days. This was the castle of the Count of Ventimiglia for some time, before passing to the Doria family, who are responsible for most of the improvements and fortifications made over the hundreds of years that this was their home, well up into the 18th century.

Probably more fascinating is walking the narrow streets bordered by tall buildings that are kept from falling into one another by rock and concrete bridges. There are many tunnels as well throughout this medieval town that sits at the base of the castle, making it a lot of fun to explore.

Dolceacqua gives you a more realistic idea of what these medieval towns must have looked like in their day, as it has not be turned into some modern version of a Disney town, like Eze or St. Paul de Vence back in France. Great towns, but more tourist traps these days than living towns such as Dolceacqua. Highly recommended as a visit if in Ventimiglia. We had lunch consisting of a caprese salad, pizza and two glasses of wine for 19 euros. Can’t beat that back in France.