When Ventimiglia Alta was still a fortified town the military would patrol behind the walls, checking the surroundings and approaches to the town from various strategically placed lookout towers. The route that defined their beat is called la ronda in Italian.
Vico della Ronda, turns into Salita alla Mura
Even though over the years houses have been built backing onto the fortification wall, the alley named Vico della Ronda recalls those less peaceful times. It opens into Salita alle Mura, an alley that rises steadily towards the highest part of the wall. Behind the houses we catch glimpses of the wall and its many loopholes. When we’ve nearly reached the highest point another alley, Via Appio, plunges away steeply on our right.
Salita alle Mura widens at a point where the wall has broken away so that we can see the Roya Valley lying spread out far below. Immediately outside the wall the hillside is terraced for ease of cultivation but further north the hills give way to mountains: bare now in early autumn but they’ll be powdered with snow any time soon.
looking north up the Roya valley from Salita alla Mura
Around to the left Porta Morro de Bo comes into view. It gets its name – Ox Nose Gateway – from the fact that it opens in the top northwest corner of the fortifications where the wall was angled in such a way as to allow the stocky lookout tower to protrude from the wall on three sides. From inside the walls, the area above the gateway is an intriguing construction of arches and ramps, layered one upon the other like the pieces of a puzzle. A door on the right of the wall gave access to the stairs to the lookout tower. This would have commanded a fantastic view not only up and down the valley from the mountains to the river mouth, but also of the flat land to the east where the modern town of Ventimiglia now lies.
The Morro de Bo Gateway itself is a relatively recent feature. It was opened in the wall in August 1892. By then the military garrison had withdrawn and the tower was no longer needed for defense purposes. This new gateway gave the inhabitants of Ventimiglia Alta easier access to their farmland, olive, fig and citrus groves and to their orti – vegetable gardens.
I love walking out here. It has an immediate country feel to it, and even today any little piece of cultivatable land has been given over to growing vegetables. Where in other countries we might have planted flowers or laid a lawn, here there are, for example, the last of summer’s tomatoes and eggplants already interspersed with thriving cauliflowers and broccoli (photo below).
In the photos below artichokes and chard alongside lettuce with marigolds to deter insect pests. Nowadays no orto would be complete without a table and chairs under a shady tree – a place to relax with friends after the exertions of gardening or maybe have cheese and salami with a glass of wine on a summer evening.
A lane, Via Mon. Daffra, continues up to the right past houses, vegetables gardens and olive groves, while to the left it follows the outside of the town wall down a ramp to Piazza Funtanin.
The little sentry box is within sight of both Porta Morro de Bo (just out of sight to left of photo) and Porta Nizza (about 50m to right).
Before motorized transport became widespread, these ramps, with their low gradient and wide, shallow steps, were routes used by mule trains: who knows if maybe one day, as in a village not far from here, the mules will be brought back to do the door-to-door recycled rubbish collection!