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Nice - France - A Multiple Of Facets
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© Christine Till
Nice, the fifth largest city in France, radiates a relaxed atmosphere and exudes the climate of the French Riviera with its carefree lifestyle and tangible Corsican and Italian influences. Being historic, eventful and housing a number of stately residences, Nice quite easily manages to mix a multiple of facets.
Like just about every important settlement along this coast, Nice was founded around 350 BC by the Greek seafarers who had settled in Marseille. They named the colony, probably located at the present old town Vieux Nice, Nikaia. In 154 BC, the Greeks were followed by the Romans, who settled farther uphill around what is now Cimiez, site of several Roman ruins. By the 10th century AD, Nice was ruled by the counts of Provence. In 1388 the city pretty much gave itself to the Savoyards and enjoyed relative stability as part of the Kingdom of Savoy which lasted for nearly 500 years, until 1860, the people voted to join France. Perhaps this is why so much of the city’s culture has such distinctive Niçois character, most visible to visitors in language and foods.
Much of what is attractive and alluring about Nice today is a result of the waves of visitors who have come here and shaped their surroundings for their own pleasure. From the Victorian period onward, Nice attracted wealthy foreign tourists. English aristocrats came first, building their gingerbread mansions in the Cimiez quarter and their sparkling Belle Époque hotels along the seafront named in their honor – The Promenade des Anglais.
American millionaires came later and then Czarist Russians. After the Russian Revolution, many came back to establish a Russian community and to build their elaborate mansions around the city’s remarkable Russian Orthodox Church.
Countless important artists came here to work and some, like Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse, stayed – Matisse remaining for the rest of his life.
December 17th, 2012
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