Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Not one garden but nine!

When you have a spectacular site of 7 hectares (17 acres) in the Mediterranean, the means of a millionaire and the mind of a true aesthete how could you possibly settle for one garden? Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild had travelled extensively and seen different kinds of gardens around the world. So she set her mind on creating all her favourite gardens to complement the dream palace she built on the peninsula of Cap Ferrat about 10 kilometres to the east of Nice.

The most fabulous of the nine gardens of the Musée Ephrussi de Rothschild is the formal French garden that faces the Villa and was designed to resemble a ship’s deck. There is a canal in the middle with ponds, lawns, large flowerbeds, trees and other plants, antique statues and urns, etc,  arranged symmetrically on both sides. The canal leads the eye to the Temple of Love that serves as the focal point representing the bow in the ship-like shape. In Béatrice’s time when the trees and other plantings were younger and smaller the resemblance must have been rather striking.

But why settle for water if you can have fountains, too? There are fountains springing from the canal and ponds, dancing to the sound of music. During high season this happens every 20 minutes. The look and sound of the performance was most relaxing and refreshing even on a hot August day and a few of the younger visitors took the most of it.

The rest of the marvelous gardens are built on the hillside to the west and south of the French garden. There is a Spanish, Florentine, Japanese, Exotic and Provencal garden plus a Stone garden with arches, reliefs and other large items that could not be used inside the Villa, and a garden with Sèvres porcelain pieces. (Sorry, no photos of them all. It was too hot and most of the time there would have been too many people to spoil the view anyway.)

A guided path leads through the area towards what is probably the second most photographed of the gardens, the roseraie at the far end of the site. A small stone temple overlooks the Rose garden that boasts more than a hundred varieties. 

Even without the exotic birds, flamingos, gazelles, antelopes, monkeys and other wild animals Béatrice used to have on the grounds, the gardens of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild are such an endless pleasure to your senses you could stay there for hours admiring the changing landscape as you walk along the path, every now and then turning your eye to the breathtaking views towards the sea. Should you be a garden enthusiast you will wish you could stay there forever.

This was my fifth proper holiday in and around Nice 
but for some curious reason I never made it to the Villa before. I will definitely return one fine spring day, most likely in April or May, to witness an even greater abundance of blossoms. Who knows, I may have turned into a bit of a gardener by then in which case I would enjoy the enchanting place even more than the pure amateur stepping the stones a few weeks ago.

Have a look also on my two previous posts on the magnificent Villa and its interior.


  1. Just beautiful ... looks like a paradise to me!

  2. Thanks for telling me about this. I'll try to get there - as you say, just a short bike ride (or walk) from Villefranche.