A Brief History
Ventimiglia has a rich history dating back to the first permanent settlement around the 6th century BC. This early settlement was located on the ridge which separates the Roja and Nervia valleys. Several hundred years later these same Ligurian inhabitants, known as the Intemelii, moved the main town to the mouth of the Nervia River where they engaged in sea trade with the neighboring Greek colonies.
Around 180 BC the Intemelii people were subdued by the Romans and by 89 BC a true Roman style town of Albintimilium was established with a theatre, thermae, fortress walls, and tower gates. Albintimilium’s privileged location at the crossroads of Via Giulia Augusta and the Roja & Nervia valleys assured its development to become a dominant regional trading, market, civic and cultural center.
Toward the end of the 4th century AD, as consequence of continued Barbarian and Saracen invasions, the inhabitants abandoned Albintimilium and moved to the promontory on the west side of the Roja River and built a new fortified city, or castrum. This castrum later assumed the name of Vintimilium and is today’s Ventimiglia Alta.
By the Byzantine Period Vintimilium had become one of the most important episcopal centers in Liguria. This medieval town grew steadily with its security provided for by the Counts of Ventimiglia and its strong fortified walls and gates. Between the 10th and 12th century the Romanesque cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption was built on the site of an ancient Pagan temple dedicated to Giunome Regina – the goddess Juno.
During Ventimiglia’s domination under the Republic of Genoa, which began in 1251, impressive religious and civil architecture was constructed. These buildings included the San Paolo Fortress, the Bishops Palace, the convent, the City Hall and the palaces you see today along the via Garibaldi. In fact, Ventimiglia Alta has seen no fundamental modification inside the walled town since the period of the Republic of Genoa.
In 1797 Ventimiglia was included in the Province of San Remo and was under the rule of the Democratic Ligurian Republic. In 1831-37 under the reign of the Dukes of Savoy the Fort of the Annunciata was built on the site of an earlier Franciscan convent. Fort Annunciata currently houses the Girolamo Rossi Archaeological Museum.
The arrival of the railway line in 1871 initiated the rapid growth of Ventimiglia on the east side of the river and the establishment of all public and commercial activities along the plain between the Roja and Nervia rivers – in the same area where the Romans founded ancient Abintimilium – 2,100 years earlier.