The Old Town of Nice (or Vieux Nice as the locals call it) is one of the city’s main attractions and a must-see for any visitor… Not particularly because of a huge amount of unmissable historical sites, but because it is a hive of activity, buzzing both day and night, which is ideal to wander around, to get lost in and to get a drink or a good traditional meal whilst enjoying the unmistakable baroque Mediterranean vibe. So here’s a quick walking tour to make sure you don’t miss any of the nicest parts, even though I’d advise the most adventurous to just get lost in the meander of streets and follow your instincts to make the most of the place – after all, it’s too small to get really lost and the sea is never too far away!
Last month I took advantage of a beautiful and sunny January weekend to head down the coast to the Italian town of San Remo to do something I hadn’t done in about 10 years: ride a bike! A friend had told me about the new cycling path along the coastline between San Remo and San Lorenzo al Mare, close to Imperia, the provincial capital, so I figured it would be a nice change from the normal hiking and would give me a bit of exercise, especially given that it’s pretty much flat all the way.
The cycling trail is a nice way of converting the old railway track that ran along the coastline from San Remo to Imperia, and that was replaced about 15 years ago by the new underground railway line currently in use. Instead of having it turned into a derelict strip full of debris and graffiti, the local government invested EU funds into turning into a very wide cycling trail, away from the traffic and affording great views of the little-known but scenic Ligurian coastline.
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.