They always say to question conventional wisdom. I long-ago concluded, in the height of my youthful arrogance, that Menton – a border town on the French/Italian Riviera, was without interest. Dario and his glam friend Faye from London have proven me wrong! The town’s name means chin in French, and I can assure, after a second look, that its double is worth seeing.
The coastal part is a disappointing routine of 1970s crap-architecture, fast-food joints, casinos and tourist-traps. Over this cloud, there is a silver lining. If you’re willing to huff-and-puff your way up serpentine paths into old Menton, you’ll be in for a nice surprise! Views of St Michael’s church and from the cemetery are fantastic.
Menton’s history goes way back. Remains of neanderthal and cro-magnon have been found here. Portions of the ancient Roman road from Piacenza to Arles are still visible. The first historical mention of the city goes back to the late 12th century. Since then, it has successively been governed by many, including the Grimaldi’s of Monaco, Sardinian Kings, Napoleon III, Mussolini’s Italy (during WWII), the Vichy/Nazi regime and once again by France.
In addition to the old town (Vieux Menton), of interest are the covered market (daily) and the Lemon Festivalevery February. The latter is a kitsch/flamboyant event bordering on debauchery with monuments all decked out in citrus, circus acts, flame throwers, floats with citrus-laden beauty and drag dancing queens, and many other festivities. There is a theme every year. In 2012, it’ll be all about Sports – the Fête du Citron will run from Feb 17th to March 7th.
Jean Cocteau lived in Menton, as did the English author Yeats, who passed away here in 1939. Menton is a short drive from Monaco / Nice.