There is an Italian flavor in the city of Nice on the Côte d’Azur. This is not surprising considering that the city, France’s fifth most populous after Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, and Toulouse, jockeyed back and forth over the centuries between Italian and French control. In 1561 the Duke of Savoy established Italian as the official language in Nice. In 1860 Nice, then part of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, was ceded to France as a reward for French assistance in the Italian War of Independence against Austria.
Easily accessible by hi-speed trains that run frequently (and comfortably) from Gare de Lyon station in Paris to central Nice in about 5 ½ hours, Nice is home to one of the world’s most beautiful beach scenes: its beach culture unfolds for kilometers along the Promenade des Anglais. Stroll along this paradisiacal walkway to the rhythm of the Mediterranean Sea, nature’s breathing, where plankton paint shades of blue, azure, and turquoise waters.
Nice is a place whose beach captivates you immediately, and as you come to know it beyond this initial dazzle, recognize that it is a city immensely rich in much more than beach culture. Drive 45 minutes north and you will find some of the most beautiful old French villages imaginable, like Châteauneuf de Grasse (pop. 3,000), or pristine wilderness that communes humans with a natural environment of mountains and rivers that would catch Thoreau’s envy.
Nice is home to the Musée Picasso (adjoining community of Antibes), Musée Matisse, and Musée Marc Chagall, in themselves a stand-alone reason to visit Nice. The Chagall Museum is among the most impressive museums I have been privileged to tour in the world, and I have been to most of them. Chagall donated 17 large paintings from his Biblical Messages series including 5 versions of the Song of Songs and personally assisted in the arrangement of this largest museum collection of his work.
Nice, une place magnifique!
All the best,
Warren J. Devalier