Porta Canarda

Art & Culture, Sea & Land

The Western access to the medieval Ventimiglia

In Ventimiglia history has layered leaving traces of its passage: the Middle Ages are told by the cathedral of the Assunta, the baptistry, the alleys network. And also by the city walls that gathered and protected the city. Eight were the access doors installed along the city walls and traceable back to the XII century more or less. And if Ventimiglia has always been known for being the Western Door of Italy, one of the evidences is precisely in one of those access routes: Porta Canarda, the entrance to the city of the road Julia Augusta, the Roman path that connected Piacenza to Arles.

For the wayfarers coming from France, the ancient road “of Provence” lead to the Genoese outpost, the last fortification external to the Western limit of Ventimiglia: the “door of deception”, as the etymology of the French “canard” suggests. An entrance door and a defence bastion, in the shape of a truncated tower, still visible today, going up to the Fort of Annunziata after a steep road. Built up by the Genoese in the XIII century, and serving for a long time as control function (due to its strategical position), on the façade looking at the West it is still decorated with a marble bas-relief where the arms of the Ventimiglia earls are depicted.

But the real gem is the tombstone remembering the passage, under the Gothic arch of the Door, of illustrious characters. In fact, Pope Innocent IV passed through on the from the Western access to Ventimiglia on May 7, 1251, as well as Nicolò Machiavelli on May 1511, and also the Emperor Charles V on November 1536, Pope Paul III on July 1538 and Napoleon Bonaparte on March 2, 1796. Thomas Hanbury contributed to the restoration of the Door, in whose lush villa at Mortola Angelo Vernazza depicted in 1903 a fresco portraying Charles V in the act of entering in Ventimiglia.

Outpost border since ancient times, Porta Canarda remains today a small but important page of history overlooking on the enchanting gulf of Latte, from which the French-Italian customs can be seen, the modern Western Door of Italy.

Alessandra Chiappori