The stunning Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Cap Ferrat
Cap Ferrat is one of the three major capes of the French Riviera and in my opinion probably the most beautiful. Like a long arm jutting into the Mediterranean, it separates the bay of Villefranche and that of Beaulieu, about half way between Nice and Monaco. It is also one of the most expensive parts of the coastline in terms of real estate, dotted with the exclusive and secluded Belle Epoque style villas of the rich and famous who first discovered the Riviera in the 19th century and found that the climate and scenery were so amazing that they decided to stay.
One of the most prominent of these villas and the only one open to the public is the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, built by Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, a very wealthy French socialite, between 1905 and 1912. She was lucky enough to be able to pick one of the best sites on the Cape, at the top of a narrow isthmus dominating the sea that provides stunning views both east towards Beaulieu and Italy and west towards the deep waters of the Bay of Villefranche and its ancient harbour. Upon her death in 1934, she donated the property to the Institut de France, who have maintained it to this day.
Panoramic winter view of Eze Village and Eze sur Mer taken from the Fort de la Revère, at 700m altitude. In the distance you can see Cap Ferrat, the Bay of Villefranche and the Cape of Nice
Eze is one of the stops on the picturesque 40km stretch of railway line that runs east along the coast from Nice to Ventimiglia at the Italian border, passing through Monaco and Menton on the way. Listed in most of the guidebooks, the commune of Eze is structured on three layers up the side of a mountain and is famous for its eagle’s nest Village, perched at an altitude of 450m.
– At sea level, Eze Bord-de-Mer is mainly noted for a nice beach (rocky like most of the beaches in the area) with good surfing waves in the winter at the bottom of a beautiful bay surrounded by mountains. It is mainly a starting point for the hike up to Eze Village, as the train station is located there and the coastal buses pass along the main road.
– Eze Village is perched on a rocky promontory, just above the panoramic “Moyenne Corniche” road linking Nice to Monaco, at an altitude of about 430m.
– The Col d’Eze/Plateau de la Justice, located at 650m above sea level is a good spot for coastal hikes and picnics.
View near the start of the Mala footpath looking back towards Monaco
This is really one of my favourite walks down the coast from Monaco into the town of Cap d’Ail just west (in the direction of Nice). This small and pleasant residential town, built in several layers between sea level and the mountainside of the Tête de Chien, is not just a dormitory town for people working in Monaco, even though it is only one station away by train: there are several noteworthy attractions, notably the nice beaches, Belle Epoque architecture and various rather luxurious villas with numerous famous residents over the years, such as Greta Garbo, Winston Churchill, Lord Beaverbrook, Sacha Guitry and the Lumière Brothers. If you’re interested in this, I’d advise to check out the Cap d’Ail Tourist Office website, which has quite a lot of decent information.
This coastal footpath is part of a longer walk between Monaco and Menton, alongside the picturesque Cap Martin, a rather wild peninsula with very secluded villas separating the two towns. It affords fantastic views of Monaco, the perched village of medieval Roquebrune, Menton and the Italian coastline so is well worth a few hours on a beautiful afternoon. The most scenic part however is located between the railway stations of Carnolès and Roquebrune-Cap Martin so I will be covering this in that direction, as the views are slightly nicer. Walking at a leisurely pace, this section can be covered in about 2 hours and combined with a visit to Menton or Monaco to make a pretty complete day trip.