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Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

This is the peninsula forming the east side of Villefranche’s bay, just joined to the mainland by a thin strip of land. It has been preserved through the years by the rich owners who have lived here, notably Léopold II, King of Belgium, who owned much of the land; his villa Les Cèdres could be the most expensive villa ever for sale on the Côte d’Azur (perhaps even in the world, at 350 million euros), intended for his 16 year old lover, to whom he was married 5 days before his death, at 64 years of age. This magnificent spot on the coast, with its splendid beaches, although mostly stony with little sand such as Paloma near to the port, is covered with pine trees, dotted with luxury villas, although these are few and far between and well protected. Celebrities of international renown have spent time here, such as Charlie Chaplin, Nietzsche, Scott Fitzgerald, Gregory Peck, Jean Cocteau, and French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo… Together they have contributed in preserving the beautiful natural heritage of this haven of tranquillity, which is at the same time the wealthiest and most exclusive spot on the whole of the Côte d’Azur. A little idyllic fishing village also awaits discovery on the eastern side.




St-Jean-cap-Ferrat




You will find the port here, as well as the shell museum, and not far away the St Hospice headland with its luxury villas (as a rule, villas on the peninsula are set in a minimum of one hectare!) and its touristic footpath with superb views. The former fishing village has become a small seaside resort, very peaceful and welcoming all year round. Boat trips in search of cetaceans are on offer, as well as scuba diving and even a snorkelling route, in an open-air aquarium, from Fossettes beach.




St-Jean-cap-Ferrat




The beaches are small and stony, but there are numerous lovely rocky creeks with translucent waters. It is possible to walk around the entire peninsula in just over two hours, an easy route about 7km long, through typical Mediterranean vegetation. You will be able to take in the view from Eze to Monaco, and even see the French-Italian Alps in the distance. Special mention must be made of the Belle Epoque palace, the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, worthy of the biggest Hollywood movies, with a funicular railway down to the beach, a sea view, seven hectares of parkland, an disproportionately large swimming pool, one of the most sumptuous buildings in the world and on this coastline. A jazz and classical music festival takes place here in summer as well with, it goes without saying, some of the best artists in the world.




Paloma Beach
Paloma beach



The Ephrussi-de-Rothschild villa and gardens are a delight to visit. Construction began in 1905 on the Venetian-inspired white and pink gem of a villa, realising the dream of the eponymous Baroness. Over the seven years of construction, until 1912, at least 15 architects worked on the project; when something wasn’t quite right the architect was dismissed by the multimillionaire, who would simply rebuild. The property is set at the heart of a seven hectare estate beside the sea, with a magnificent view over the harbour of Villefranche-sur-Mer on one side and the bay of Beaulieu on the other, and dominating the sea from the top of Cap-Ferrat.




Ephrussi-de-Rothschild Villa
Ephrussi-de-Rothschild Villa, photo by Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com



Inside the property are over 5000 objects and works of art, rare pieces of furniture, and porcelain pieces from the royal Sèvres manufacturers, and from Saxe and Vincennes. The property’s principal purposes were to bring together the collections acquired by several generations of the family, and to host parties; the Baroness did not stay here very often, preferring Monaco. The nine gardens are true masterpieces, displaying inspirations from around the world: Spanish, Japanese, exotic, Provençal, Florentine… and of course ‘à la française’. The gardens include a staircase and a musical water feature, a rose garden, and even a replica of the Temple of Love found in the Petit Trianon at Versailles.

As is clear by now, St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat takes you somewhere else, a place of dreams, which has been preserved by the biggest fortunes in the world, who have come here in search of peace and calm, which the Côte d’Azur generally used to offer before tourism. Having remained this way makes it unique and very special therefore, quite simply marvellous!