Ventimiglia, and the perils of budget travel

When I mentioned Ventimiglia, a friend said he’d never heard of it. Neither had I until a train dumped me there in July.

Early on the morning of the 9th, I left Barcelona to make my way over to Metalcamp. I had a Eurail pass, which meant I intended to crawl my way across France and Italy with free tickets and hopefully get an overnight train somewhere along the way. Things never, of course, go to plan.

I spent most of the 9th hopping on and off the trains I was entitled to free trips on, from Barcelona to Figueres-Vilafant to Montpellier to Nice. Now, you look at Nice on a map. Looks like it’s tucked right next to the Italian border, so it’s only a short hop into Italy right? LOL NOPE. A few hours on the train, and I get to the border. Ventimiglia’s just across the border, so it’s where trains going between France and Italy drop their passengers off to switch from TGV to Trenitalia. By this time, it’s mid-evening.

It takes me about twenty minutes to figure out that there aren’t any eastbound trains for the rest of the day. The next one leaves for Milan at 4:30 the next morning. So, I’m stuck in a tiny little border town.

Because this happens pretty regularly, the managers of the only two hotels in town can afford to be pains. No accommodation was available for less than €70 a night. Dear readers, I am not a wealthy man. Well yeah I saved up enough to be able to do this trip. But I had to do the entire thing on the thinnest shoestring I was capable of mustering at the time. I couldn’t afford a €70 hotel (the most expensive I ever paid for was €40, which was the cheapest place in Venice and, as I would find out, a dusty, bedbug-ridden hole). So I did what anyone would do: found the place that would be open latest, with the hopes it could tide me through for a while. It was open until 12 – this being a sleepy Italian town which only really exists so trains have somewhere to change – and it was a shitty little karaoke bar.

I swear to god, I never again want to hear a middle-aged Italian man mangling his way through the Scorpions’ “Winds of Change”. Because I heard it enough times for a lifetime that evening.

So, come midnight and fewer beers than I really needed to get through that vocal mess (because, well, €8 pints), everything in town was closed. So what could I do? Well, it was a warm summer night, and I was only going to be around for another four hours before the station opened up and I could wait on the platform. So I tuck my backpack into a corner outside the station, lay down my jacket and fall asleep on top of it with the alarm set for 4. And I quite happily did not spend a minute longer than I needed to there.

I suppose, if you had a real pressing need to sleep on the street, you could do a hell of a lot worse than a small Italian town during summer.

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