During the 18th century, a trend developed amongst the English aristocracy, the new class of wealthy merchants and factory owners, to visit Italy and see the great sites of the ancient classical world. A popular way for travellers to reach Italy on their “Grand Tour”, as it was called, was to cross France to the city of Marseilles, then take a boat along the coast. Among the stopping places on this journey the small port of Nice. The coast here had an exceptionally mild climate, and it was not long before English visitors took to the idea of wintering in this idyllic spot between the Alps and the Mediterranean sea. In an age when modern central heating had not been invented, it was more pleasant to stay in Nice than return to a cold, damp English winter. Mediterranean tourism had begun.
By 1820 there was a sizeable British colony in Nice and in 1822, during a bad winter, the Rev. Lewis Way decided to employ local workmen to build a fine walkway along the beach. Locals called it the “Promenade des Anglais” the Promenade of the English, a seaside esplanade that was thus, apart from hotels and inns, France’s first custom-built piece of tourism infrastructure. Later in 1864, the railway arrived, making Nice far more accessible from the capital Paris and northern Europe.
Since then, Nice, with its likeable climate has continued to attract wealthy visitors, and more recently mass tourism from all over Europe and the world. The Russian community were among the early visitors, and since the nineteenth century, Nice has been home or secondary residence to many Russians. Nice’s Russian Orthodox cathedral, which is now the property of the Russian Federation, is one of the city’s fine buildings. Also, the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in western Europe.
In the days when the early English tourists began visiting Nice, the city was not part of France, but part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which covered an area that is now mostly in Italy. It was not until the signing of the Treaty of Turin in 1860 that the Duchy of Savoy and the County of Nice were ceded to France. Consequently, Nice’s culture and traditions have much in common with those of Italy. While the city’s many fine restaurants and hotels serve the best food in the French tradition, local specialities in and around Nice have a distinctly Mediterranean flavour.
Possibly the most celebrated suburb of Nice, Mont Boron is perhaps the best located regarding access to the French Riviera’s hot spots. It crowns the hill overlooking Nice and the bay of angels, tumbling slowly down to Nice Port on one side, and the bay of Villefranche on the other. There are plenty of places to buy bread, drink a coffee and pick up the daily newspaper, and public transport is also of a high standard in this area, with two bus routes wheeling their way around the tangle of villas and upscale apartment blocks every 20 minutes or so.
Mont Boron is as elegant as they come with its heritage villas and apartments, grand architectural objects including several castles, a Floridian mansion and a Rajasthani fort. The famous Matisse adored this area and was a member of the local yacht club. Wealthy modern-day residents including Elton John, who lives by Mont Boron’s panoramic park on the centre of the plateau.