Tag Archives: Parmesan

Ventimiglia, Italy (just about!)

9 Nov

This afternoon, a 45 minute train journey along the Riviera (worth a trip just for the scenery to be honest) had taken me through two countries (Monaco, then back into France!) and finally into Ventimiglia, a  coastal town just across the border in Italy. 

I had decided to visit Ventimiglia because A) I wanted to say oh so casually that I had been to Italy for the afternoon and B) I wanted to visit the food/goods market to see if the alleged rock-bottom prices for pasta and parmesan was true!

The ‘bit of a mess’ that Italy is in economically and politically is evident as soon as you cross the border. It’s a little more shabby and run down than the French Riviera. But as I sat with Ollie, we mused that it actually had an honest, relaxing charm about it.  The beach was a little rough compared to the manicured beaches of the Cote d’Azur, but as it is not a tourist destination, it was a breath of fresh air compared to any of the nearby bustling French towns.

We didn’t actually need to stock up on any food, but in the future it would be well worth a train ticket to do your pasta/cheese/vegetable/fish/meat shopping in the undercover market. There are tens of fruit and veg stalls, selling bargain priced goods from aubergines to star fruits. And, only in Italy will you find mounds of sundried tomatoes and olives for about half the price as in the UK. Also, if you are a mushroom lover, then are stalls selling different varieties of porcini and truffles.

The cheese. I love cheese! The variety available in France (even the smallest supermarket will have a huge selection of cheese, even if it takes up half the shop!) has slowly seduced me into buying multiple varieties  so I have ended up with about 7 different cheeses in the fridge at any one time. Italian cheese such as mozzarella and parmesan is about the same price in France as it is in the UK. Over the border however, there were huge cliff-like triangles of parmesan being sold at a mere 11 euros per kg (in a UK supermarket, the average price is around £18 per kg). Fresh mozzarella is available by the ball, you won’t find any pre-packed mozzarella here!

My favourite find however was the fresh pasta stalls. As well as having a take away service for any pasta variety and home made sauce, about 15 different types of fresh gnocchi, tortellini and ravioli were available to buy in any quantity desired.  After much deliberation (we could have happily bought a portion of each – basil, truffle, salmon, Gorgonzola ..) we opted for the porcini mushroom ravioli, and a portion of the  asparagus and parmesan ravioli. Cannot wait to try them! Prices were above your average packet of supermarket ravioli, but compared to British delis, 500g at 5.50 euros is not bad at all! We will most definitely be returning. 

After wandering around the food market, we made our way to the seafront, where rows and rows of stalls sell leather goods and clothes. To be quite honest most of the clothes were incredibly chavvy. Yes, even though Italians have their stylish stereotype, i’m not so sure if it comes down to coastal border towns (sorry any Italians out there!)

Initially attracted by tack-shop smell of leather (such a bad vegetarian), I came across some high quality leather weekend bags that I found in one stall that I would have loved to buy. Although alas, my purse couldn’t answer my request.

I hadn’t been aware of it, but Italy’s tax on alcohol is even smaller than the one imposed in France. As a result there are a few shops catering for the cross-border shoppers selling cheap as chips vodka, rum, whiskey  pastis and so forth. So cheap that we just had to buy a litre each of Bombay Sapphire, Captain Morgan’s and Jim Bean’s, all for under 40 euros. As a UK student, used to paying £10 for 70cl of Tesco Value’s finest vodka, it was well worth a trip. We now have a little bar in our apartment to last us the year (we say optimistically…)

It was about 3.30 before we headed to find somewhere to eat (fault of the student mealtime pattern, most unhelpful!) however most restaurants were closed. We did manage to find a little place on the market street and after a late lunch of a pizza siciliana (bargain at a mere 6euros, yay for Italian prices once again!) we headed back to Nice as the sun slowly descended into the sea. I’m still not used to complete darkness by 6pm when you can still wear a t-shirt and jumper quite comfortably in the day. So weird. I’m already mentally preparing myself for the cold of Exeter.  Hardly the coldest place on earth, but for a girl who in the UK, spends most of the time getting circulation back into hands and feet, I imagine it will be as if I have been dropped naked into the icy Artic Ocean.

Anyway, time to research what I can cook with my fabulous fresh pasta! I am so excited for tomorrows lunch already 😀