There are places with evocative names whose attraction transcends borders. They evoke beauty, lifestyle and history. The ancient city of Nice is one of them. And the whole region known as the French, or “Côte d’Azur” in France.
Famous today for its beaches, its landscapes nestled between sea and mountains, its idyllic climate, the Riviera evokes thousands of tastes and smells. Fig trees, olive trees, mimosa, and lavender are sublimated by the song of cicadas and locusts. This festival of colours can be found on the plates with colourful and tasty specialities. But where does the myth of the French Riviera come from?
In the 19th century, the French Riviera was still just countryside and life was still tough for the locals. Yet rich foreigners stayed there in winter attracted by the exceptional Mediterranean climate. English, Russians, European aristocrats and bourgeois… they bought estates, had villas built and met for flamboyant receptions. Artists, literary figures and thinkers then come to the region to stay in their turn and find inspiration in this resourcing place. The small city of Nice, with 48,000 inhabitants in 1860, experienced an urban and economic boom comparable to the cities of the New World; it was a driving force for the region. It must be said that, formerly Italian, the attachment of Nice to France, following the Treaty of Turin between France and the King of Sardinia Victoire-Emmanuel 2, ceding the city is a godsend for Napoleon III who saw economic and diplomatic advantages in this development.
The Mediterranean city then became one of the favourite places of all the European nobility and bourgeoisie who were fleeing the harsher winters of Northern Europe, and it was with Nice that the term “Riviera” developed and became popular. A new architecture started there giving the city buildings that still today give it its international reputation.
However, it was not until the 20th century that the tourist city extended its period of activity over the summer. The legendary French Riviera built French cuisine notoriety all around the world, and some classical journeys became cook travel, to discover culinary art from France.
Thus in the 1920s, American artists, led by Francis Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, made Nice their summer holiday resort, truly creating the French Riviera as we know it today, and creating the stories of parties and lifestyles that literature and movies have turned into legends.
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