Sunday, 22 February 2009

Nice old town

The flower market in the Cours Saleya

We know Nice pretty well but, inspired by our recent city walk around Liverpool, we thought it might be rewarding to do a planned walk around the old town. We worked out a route inspired by a delightful booklet called Strolling through old Nice which we bought in the market last year.

We began at the western end of the Cours Saleya, where the flower market was in full swing, with mimosa in abundance. As you walk along, there are several passageways on the right through which you can see the sea. This, the first, is the most interesting.

Further along on the right we noticed - for the first time in years - this fine shop front.

At the end is the former Cais de Pierlas palace, once the home of Henri Matisse. I cheated slightly and took this picture in the early evening to maximise the golden colour.

Turning left into Rue de la Poisonnerie, you look up to see this wonderful relief of Adam and Eve ...

... and then the Church of the Annunciation, known locally as Sainte-Rita. St Rita of Cascia is apparently the patron saint of desperate causes and her church is said to be Nice's most frequented. It is not clear what construction should be put on this.

Turning right then left brings you to Rue Droite, one of Nice's oldest streets. On the right is another church, the mid-17th century Gesu. The street is very narrow and the church can only be seen clearly by standing at the back of the small courtyard in front of it.

Further up on the left you could easily pass the Palace Lascaris. Once the home of the Lasacaris-Ventimiglia family it was built from older existing buildings and decorated in the 17th and 18th centuries. It later became flats. It was purchased by the city in 1942 and restoration began in 1963. The main rooms are quite interesting, but its main glory is the wonderful frescoed staircase.

At the end of Rue Droite you arrive at Place St Francois, where the former town hall faces you. It was built in 1580, but given its present appearance in the 18th century. The tour de l'horloge can be seen to the left.

From here, the rue Pairoliere leads to Place Garibaldi, which lies beyond the old town. This harmonious square, dating from 1780-84, but now crossed by the new tramway is bordered by arcaded blocks and graced by a statue of the great man with a fountain. One side of the square is enlivened by the Chapel du St-Sepulchre.

The return leg passes by the tour de l'horloge ...

... and continues on to Place Rossetti, where you find the cathedral of Sainte-Reparate. Its faceade was decorated in 1825 and restored in 1980. The dome, invisible from below, is covered in glazed tiles and is a landmark of the old town. The fine bell tower, completed in 1757, is currently being restored.

Rating: four stars.


Even places you think you know well have new surprises if you do some research and/or walk around with fresh eyes. Apart from individual sites, the most striking thing was the stylistic consistency of most of the buildings, especially the churches - old Nice is a baroque city to rival Prague, Salzburg or Vilnius.

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