The most beautiful natural sites in the French Riviera - Citimarks

Matisse’s garden

fuschia peonies
sunset in Nice


“When I thought, opening the window, that I was going to have this light every single day, I couldn’t believe my good fortune”
Henri Matisse, Correspondance entre Charles Camoin et Henri Matisse, La Bibliothèque des Arts, 1997.
chapter 1

An irresistible blue

Here, under the hot blue sky of December, the climate is lukewarm; the winter is dressed in sunrays; a magical, fairylike flowering persists and above all…the sea; this sea with its enchanted lullaby song…Everything here tells us: “fall asleep, nothing is worth the pain of nothing; let yourself die, let yourself live!” Who could recount the irresistible seduction of a Mediterranean Sea barely pleated by the wind in tiny undulating folds like the airy tunic of a sleeping nymph? Near the coast, a sea -enveloped in Azure and lapis lazuli- succumbs under the soft blue sky; while, further away, it bathes in a splendid darkness. No matter how near or far, these adorable blue waters are always serene and implacably joyful, and it cares to know nothing about the melancholy that tears us apart. […]

This ineffable blue is everywhere: in front of me, around me, in the distance, in the infinite horizon; an abyss of burning light will open up somewhere inside its gut, like a blazing sheet, like a lake of molten gold, drowned in an azure devoured by its bright flames […] It wants nothing that calls the human being to mind:

It is the azure sea of the gods, made to carry the Venuses and the Amphitrites with hands that caress garlands and bouquets of stars.

Sometimes, a small white boat happens to sail in peaceful waves, like an Aphrodite’s dove fleeing to the bosque of Cyprus […].

In the middle of a swell in celestial blue, it looks as if a few verdant islands, bathed in light, call the vanquished walker and tell him: “Come to us, forget all the rest, we have never known anything but rest, bliss, silence, peace and love chats of the night under groves of perfume and shade.”

Théodore de Banville,

La mer de Nice : Lettre à un ami. Poulet-Malassis et De Broise, 1861.

people on promenade des anglais

The iconic blue chairs adorn the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.

bay of angels at dusk

The fabulous colors of the Niçois sky in the blue hour, at the Promenade des Anglais.

boy fishing
Port Lympia, Nice

Port Lympia, the harbor of Nice.

chapter 2

Color explosion

Nice, February 12, 1888. 


It has not been a “proud silence” that has sealed my lips to everyone all this time, but rather the humble silence of a sufferer who was ashamed of betraying the extent of his pain. When an animal is ill it crawls into its cave -so does la bete philosophe. […] In these circumstances one has to live at Nice (sic). This season it is again full of idlers, grecs and other philosophers -it is full of my like. And, with his own peculiar cynicism, God allows his sun to shine more brightly on us than on the more respectable Europe of Herr von Bismarck […] 

The days seem to dawn here with unblushing beauty; never have we had a more beautiful winter. How I should like to send you some of the coloring of Nice! It is all besprinkled with a glittering silver grey; intellectual, highly intellectual coloring; free from every vestige of the brutal ground tone. The advantage of this small stretch of coast between Alassio and Nice is the suggestion of Africa in the colouring, the vegetation, and the dryness of the air. This is not to be found in other parts of Europe. 

Friedrich Nietzsche,

Letter to Seydlitz in Selected Letters, 1909, translated by Anthony Ludovici, Doubleday, Page & Company, 1921.

Many hidden corners and heights in the country round about Nice are hallowed for me by moments that I can never forget. That decisive chapter, entitled “Old and New Tables,” was composed during the arduous ascent from the station to Eza—that wonderful Moorish village in the rocks. During those moments when my creative energy flowed most plentifully, my muscular activity was always greatest. The body is inspired: let us waive the question of “soul”. I might often have been seen dancing in those days, and I could then walk for seven or eight hours on end over the hills without a suggestion of fatigue. I slept well and laughed a good deal—I was perfectly robust and patient.

Friedrich Nietzsche,

Ecce Homo, Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, 1908, translated by Anthony Ludovici, Paul V. Cohn for Project Gutenberg Ebook, 2016.

A flashy sculpture of Miles Davis in the garden of Hotel Negreso

A colorful mosaic sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle, representing jazz player Miles Davis, at the garden of Hotel Negresco in Nice. Since the roaring ’20s,  the French Coast has been considered a major capital of the jazz scene in Europe.

art gallery in Saint Paul de Vence

Flashy sculpture showcased in one of the numerous art galleries gathered in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, a picturesque village north of the Riviera.

Bird's-eye view from the top of Eze Village to the sea

The mountainous village of Eze offers breathtaking views to the Mediterranean. There is a wonderful steep trail bearing the name of Eze’s most renowned fan: Friedrich Nietzsche.

The house of writer Nikos Kazantzakis in Antibes

In 1948, Nikos Kazantzakis, one of the most influential Greek writers of all time, discovered the French Coast. A restless traveler of the world throughout his life, he found in Antibes a haven of peace. Some of his best-known works were written there, namely “Zorba the Greek,” “Christ Recrucified” and “Captain Michalis”.

chapter 3

Flowers in ecstasy

Nice, September 10, 1935

Nice remains an exquisite place: every day, I congratulate myself for having chosen this city to shelter my solitude. The season is exhilarating in this city. I only go out at night, but the nights are magical! Squares are filled with perfumes. There are fields of petunias of a scent so sweet it envelops you like an opium dens.  

It is a time when, in the gardens, the blessed aloes -that Demeter, your friend, condemned- are now in their death throes, pushing their unique and gigantic erection towards the sky!

A time when, on the promenade, boys are strutting in their little knitwear without collars or sleeves; where pretty girls wiggle around in their “shorts”… Life seems so sweet to everyone.

The luxury of lights, of palm trees, of raging orchestras on the terraces, is by no means insolent because it belongs to everyone: the less fortunate can enjoy it as much as the richer. At the back of a marvelous, dirt-cheap armchair where I digest a handful of peanuts -in front of one of the most beautiful and funniest shows in the world- I am as happy as my neighbor, the billionaire who watches the same parade from the same armchair, after having dined at Negresco (note: a luxurious historic hotel). 

Roger Martin du Gard,

Correspondance avec André Gide, Vol. 2- 1935-1951, Gallimard, 1968

flowers in the garden of villa Ephrussi Rothchild

The Villa Ephrussi de Rothchild counts 11 gardens, including themed ones, a fabulous rose garden, and a garden of Sevres. Most of them have splendid views to the coasts of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula.

a garden sculpture at villa Ephrussi Rothchild

The Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild commissioned numerous rennaissance-styled carvings to place at the gardens of her villa.

the spanish garden at the villa ephrussi Rothchild

The Spanish garden is one of the 9 themed gardens of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothchild.

the spanish garden at the villa ephrussi Rothchild

Bougainvilleas and a string of post-Baroque fountains in the Spanish garden of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothchild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula.

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chapter 4

Room with a view

Nice, May 23, 1918

I worked all this time in full sun, from 10 am till noon, and found myself exhausted from all that brightness. I’m going to change my schedule: as from tomorrow, I will start at 6:30 or 7:00. This way, I will have one or two hours of good work. The olive trees are so beautiful in the morning- the midday is superb, but frightening; […] I took a nap under an olive tree earlier and everything I saw was colored in a touching sweetness. It seems that it is a paradise that one does not have the right to analyze even if he is painter […]. Ah! What a gorgeous place Nice is. What a sweet and mellow light, despite its radiance! […]

Henri Matisse 

Lettre à Camoin, in Ecrits et propos sur l’art, Hermann, Editeurs des sciences et des arts, 1972.

Henri Matisse to Louis Aragon 

Do you want me to tell you about Nice…why Nice?  In my art, I have tried to create a crystalline universe for the mind: I have found this necessary clarity in several places around the world: in New York, in Oceania, in Nice. If I had painted in the North, like I did thirty years ago, my painting would have been different: there would have been mists, grays, degradations of color by perspective. While in New York, other painters over there will say: “you can’t paint here, with this zinc sky!” Well, actually, that sky is admirable!  Everything becomes sharp, crystalline, distinct, and limpid. Nice, in that sense, helped me.  One has to understand that, what I paint are objects conceived with plastic means: if I close my eyes, I can see the objects better than with my eyes opened, deprived of their small irregularities, that’s what I paint…

Louis Aragon on Henri Matisse

Nice -more particularly the Ponchettes district, where he first settled, and, later on, the heights of Cimiez- is closely linked to the glory of Matisse. […] It is Nice that the windows of Matisse open up to -in his paintings, I mean. Behind those marvelous open windows, the sky is as blue as the color of Matisse’s eyes behind his glasses. And it is a dialogue of mirrors. Nice looks at his painter and paints in his eyes. […]

There is no city in France, even counting Paris, more cosmopolitan than Nice […] In Nice, people come from the four corners of the world bringing the dust of their homeland, their customs and traditions. In this context, it must be said that this city brought to the painter yet another source of inspiration, besides its sunlight and tropical vegetation:

Nice offered to Matisse a choice of models, of types of women that he would not have found elsewhere, a breath of the vast world: the East, Russia, the North African countries, and even the South Seas. That reconstruction of the world is visible all over his work.

Louis Aragon,

Henri Matisse, Roman, Gallimard, 1971.

ocher wall in Villefranche sur Mer
kids playing around in Nice
a view to the port Lympia in Nice
ocher houses in Villefranche sur Mer

Ocher-painted houses, a typical architecture style in the picturesque Villefranche-sur-mer village and the surrounding areas, including the eastern French Coast and the Italian Liguria.

The French Riviera for nature aficionados

Places to walk, eat, and sleep surrounded by fabulous landscapes.

French Riviera