History

The Old Town
The Old Town from Ventimiglia beach

Etymology of the name

It is believed that the name Ventimiglia derived from the word Liguria Albom “Capitol City” where an ethnic tribe called Intemelion resided, giving it another name: “city of the Liguri Intemeli”.

Roman times

According to some historical sources the original settlement was founded by the Ligurian Intemeli tribe from the prehistoric era Colla Sgarba in the Valley of the River Nervia. In the 2nd century BC the town was conquered by the Roman army, who renamed the settlement Intimilum Album after restoring a new Albintimilium, a walled city at the mouth of the River Nervia.

During the Roman domination the city was home to Caesar, coming back from Provence to support his followers, where he stayed with Domiziano, his supporter in the conquest of Rome.

According to the stories of the era that Domiziano was soon after killed by a certain Bellieno on the orders of Demetrius of Pompeii, the last Commander of the Roman garrison of Ventimiglia. According to Celio the correspondent of Cicero, the population and Caesar’s supporters rose up against the garrison then took the upper hand over just a few Roman guards, and Celio recounted how he himself had to intervene with a small force to quell the riot between soldiers and people. The historical fact is still honoured in the motto that today is preserved in the municipal coat of arms: Civitas ad arma iit, “the people ran to arms”.

Ventimiglia remained always faithful to Rome and that gratitude was rewarded by Caesar when he recognized the municipality, favouring prosperity and expansion. In 68AD it suffered looting caused by the havoc of pretenders to the throne that arose after the death of Emperor Nero. In a clash at a Ventimiglia farm the noblewoman Julia Procilla, mother of Gnaeus Julius Agricola, was murdered. Her son had attended the funeral and had repaired the damage caused by looting by allocating appropriate contributions to the city.

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The city limits expanded considerably, as far as today’s Sanremo to the east and Menton to the West, following the route of the “Via Julia Augusta” created by Caesar Augustus. The town underwent remarkable changes thanks to a complete urban makeover by architects and engineers from Rome, who created new squares, villas and houses, aqueducts, fountains, thermal baths, a public forum and a theatre.

The new village recalled the classic Roman design style using a straight and orthogonal technique; the new city center, very different from the existing old Ligurian town on the heights of Colla Sgarba, stretched along two main streets – the Cardo and the Decumanus – which intersected at right angles with other minor streets called vici or subvici.

Footbridge
The Old Town and the footbridge across the River Roya

The Middle Ages and the Republic of Genoa

After the invasion by the Lombard king Rotari in 644, the inhabitants of the middle ages left the ancient Roman town and took refuge on the right hand bank of the Roya River, where they built the new city under the name Vintimilia. In 744 this became part of Charlemagne’s estates and, with the fall of the Holy Roman Empire became the first county dependent on the Marquis of Susa, of which we have the first mention in 962.

In the feudal ages Ventimiglia declared itself a free commune, dominating various hamlets and villages of the Riviera di Ponente and clashing repeatedly with the other local Lordships but especially with the Republic of Genoa. The latter, after conquering the entire Riviera di Levante and part of western Liguria, moved ever closer to Ventimiglia, culminating in the 13th century with a veritable siege.

Genoa gave to the Genoese Commander Lotaringo of Martinengo the task of subduing the cities of the Intemeli and submitting them to the will of the Republic. After a long and bitter struggle, in which the city suffered constant bombardment from the heights of San Giacomo, Ventimiglia was conquered, making for an important strategic fortified frontier base.

Throughout the centuries to follow, the city was always contested by other local Lordships, despite being now Genoese territory, and among the suitors were such as the Grimaldi, the Angevins, the Visconti, the Sforza, the Savoyards and others from France, but from 1505 became definitively part of the Genoese Dominion.

The Republic later appointed a local seat of government – Capitaneato di Ventimiglia – whose subjects were the local villages, towns and neighbouring communes. In the 17th century Genoa granted fiscal and economic autonomy to handle the continuing complaints of people who, according to sources at the time, were increasingly at odds with the same local nobles.

Napoleon and the Kingdom of Italy

Ventimiglia followed the fortunes of Genoa, under which the Austrian domination of 1747 and the French invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1797. During the French occupation it was declared an independent municipality. After the fall of Napoleon, the 1814-1815 Congress of Vienna was convened to redraw political boundaries between the various nations. The Ligurian Republic, founded in 1805 by Napoleon after the fall of the ancient Genoese Republic and incorporated into the territories of the first French Empire, then became part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, and Ventimiglia became part of the County of Nice. With the unification of Italy in 1861 it found itself inside the boundaries of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy. In 1945, at the end of World War II, it was occupied by France, then came again under the control of Italy.

Translated from: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ventimiglia