Nice is the fifth most populous city in France and the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast after Marseille.
The city is called Nice la Belle (Nissa La Bella in Niçard), which means Nice the Beautiful, which is also the title of the unofficial anthem of Nice, written by Menica Rondelly in 1912. Nice is the capital of the Alpes Maritimes département and the second biggest city of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region after Marseille.
The first known hominid settlements in the Nice area date back approximately 400,000 years; the Terra Amata archeological site shows one of the earliest uses of fire and construction of houses and flint findings are dated as around 230,000 years old. Nice (Nicaea) was probably founded around 350 BC by the Greeks of Massilia (Marseille), and was given the name of Νικαία ("Nikaia") in honour of a victory over the neighbouring Ligurians (Nike is the Greek goddess of victory). The city soon became one of the busiest trading ports on the Ligurian coast; but it had an important rival in the Roman town of Cemenelum, which continued to exist as a separate city until the time of the Lombard invasions. The ruins of Cemenelum are located in Cimiez, which is now a district in Nice.
During the Middle Ages, Nice participated in the wars and history of Italy. As an ally of Pisa it was the enemy of Genoa, and both the King of France and the Emperor endeavoured to subjugate it; but in spite of this it maintained its municipal liberties. During the course of the 13th and 14th centuries the city fell more than once into the hands of the Counts of Provence, but finally remained independent even if related to Genoa.
The maritime strength of Nice now rapidly increased until it was able to cope with the Barbary pirates; the fortifications were largely extended and the roads to the city improved. In 1561 Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, abolished the use of Latin as an administrative language and established the Italian language as the official language of government affairs in Nice.
In 1600, Nice was briefly taken by the duke of Guise. By opening the ports of the county to all nations, and proclaiming full freedom of trade (1626), the commerce of the city was given great stimulus, the noble families taking part in its mercantile enterprises.
Captured by Nicolas Catinat in 1691, Nice was restored to Savoy in 1696; but it was again besieged by the French in 1705, and in the following year its citadel and ramparts were demolished.
The treaty of Utrecht in 1713 once more gave the city back to the Duke of Savoy who was on that same occasion recognized as King of Sicily. In the peaceful years which followed the "new town" was built. From 1744 till the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) the French and Spaniards were again in possession. In 1775 the king, who in 1718 had swapped his sovereignty of Sicily for the Kingdom of Sardinia, destroyed all that remained of the ancient liberties of the commune. Conquered in 1792 by the armies of the First French Republic, the County of Nice continued to be part of France until 1814; but after that date it reverted to the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont.
By a treaty concluded in 1860 between the Sardinian king and Napoleon III, the County was again ceded to France as a territorial reward for French assistance in the Second Italian War of Independence against Austria, which saw Lombardy unified with Piedmont-Sardinia. The cession was ratified by over 25,000 electors out of a total of 30,700. Savoy was also transferred to the French crown by similar means. Giuseppe Garibaldi, born in Nice, strongly opposed the cession to France (arguing that the ballot was rigged by the French). Italian irredentists considered Nice one of their main nationalist goals, along with Istria, Dalmatia, Corsica and the South Tyrol. In 1942–1943 the city was occupied and administered by Italy during World War II.
|The Monument to the Dead at the foot of Castle Hill|
The central Nice Etoiles is available for anyone pining for a visit to a shopping mall, including three floors of an old British brand not seen for twenty years that is still big in France - C&A. More nostalgia can also be found in av Jean Medecins' "Damart" - yes, the people that gave you "thermoclactic underwear" to keep you warm in Winter are also big here. About as sensible as the local "Bronzage" tanning parlours.
The cuisine of Nice is especially close to those of Provence but also Liguria and Piedmont and uses local ingredients (olive oil, anchovies, fruit and vegetables) but also those from more remote regions, in particular from Northern Europe, because ships which came to pick up olive oil arrived full of food products, such as dried haddock.
Nice has a few local dishes. There is a local tart made with onions and anchovies (or anchovy paste), named "Pissaladière". Socca is a type of pancake made from chickpea flour. Farcis niçois is a dish made from vegetables stuffed with a mixture of breadcrumbs, meat (generally sausage and ground beef), and herbs; and salade niçoise is a tomato salad with green peppers of the "Corne" variety, baked eggs, tuna or anchovies, and olives.
Local meat comes from neighbouring valleys, such as the sheep of Sisteron. Local fish, such as mullets, bream, sea urchins, and anchovies (alevins) are used to a great extent, so much so that it has given birth to a proverb: "fish are born in the sea and die in oil"
|Waterfall at Colline du Chateau|
Although the beaches are mainly pebbles it is important to note that many visitors enjoy the beautiful light blue sea for a swim. If you can bear to walk for few steps on the pebbles it is definitely an opportunity for swimming rather than playing in the water as the beach drops quickly and the tidal pull can be very strong, and not for beginners. Lying on the beach for a sun tan or relaxation is also manageable as long as you rearrange the rocks/pebbles to a comfy surface for sitting and lying. Private beaches offer various services from restaurants/bars to the rental of lounge chairs and towels.
|The Basilica of Notre Dame|
- Nice Cathedral is the cathedral of the Diocese of Nice. It was built between 1650 and 1699, the year of its consecration. It is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and Saint Reparata. It has been classed as a monument historique since 9 August 1906. The first church on the site was built in the early 13th century on land belonging to the Abbey of St. Pons and became a parish church in 1246. During the first half of the 16th century a series of acts gradually effected the transfer of the seat of the bishops of Nice from Cimiez Cathedral on the hill of the castle overlooking the city to the church of Saint Reparata which in 1590, after an official ceremony presided over by the then bishop, Luigi Pallavicini, and in the presence of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy, was recognised as a chiesa-cattedrale. However, in 1649, judging the building too small, bishop Didier Palletis commissioned the architect Jean-André Guibert to produce a structure more in keeping with the importance of the city. The cathedral was declared a minor basilica on 27 May 1949.
- The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nice at 33 av. des Baumettes was built in the former private mansion built in 1878 by the Ukrainian Princess, Elisabeth Vassilievna Kotschoubey. Named for the artist Jules Chéret who lived and worked in Nice during his final years, the museum opened in 1928. The museum houses a collection of art spanning the past four centuries. There are paintings by Chéret and other artists who lived and worked on the French Riviera such as Gustav Adolf Mossa, who for many years was curator of the museum. The small museum has sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, François Rude, Michel de Tarnowsky and Auguste Rodin, plus ceramic pieces by Pablo Picasso.
- The Observatoire de Nice (Nice Observatory) is located on the summit of Mont Gros. The observatory was initiated in 1879 by the banker Raphaël Bischoffsheim. The architect was Charles Garnier, and Gustave Eiffel designed the main dome. The 76-cm (30-inch) refractor telescope that became operational in 1888 was at that time the world's largest telescope. It was outperformed one year later by the 36-inch (91-cm) refractor at the Lick Observatory at University of California, Santa Cruz.
- The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice is a Roman Catholic Neo-Gothic basilica situated on the Avenue Jean-Médecin in the centre of Nice. The basilica, built between 1864 and 1868, was designed by Louis Lenormand and is the largest church in Nice, but is not the cathedral. Inspired by Angers Cathedral, it is built in the Gothic style. Its construction was motivated by a desire to frenchify the city after the County of Nice was annexed to France from Italy, and at the time Gothic buildings were supposed to be characteristically French. Its most prominent features are the two square towers 65m high, which dominate the east front together with a large rose window featuring scenes of the Assumption of Mary.
- The Colline du Chateau overlooking the Baie des Anges and harbour offers a spectacular vantage point overlooking the city. Not much is left of its ruined castle besides crumbling walls. Still, climbing up the stairs to reach the platforms 90 metres above Nice is well worth the view. There is also an ascenseur (lift) which will take you three quarters of the way up. Be aware that the castle "park" closes at around sunset. Expect to be escorted outside if you stay longer.