The area around Nice is believed to be among the oldest of human settlements in Europe. A local archaeological site, Terra Amata, documents this fact based on early evidence of productive use of fire.
In about 350 BC, Greeks from Marseille founded a permanent settlement naming it Nikaia after the goddess Nike.
In part because of the combined strategic location and fine port, Nice has changed hands many times throughout its history. For centuries Nice was an Italian dominion. During the Middle Ages, as an ally of Pisa, it was the enemy of Genoa. Both the King of France and the Emperor attempted to subjugate the city but in spite of this Nice maintained its municipal independence. During the 13th and 14th centuries the city periodically fell into the hands of the Counts of Provence, but finally remained independent although associated with Genoa.
Nice then became part of France in 1860. Spectacular natural beauty of the area and its mild Mediterranean climate attracted European royalty as well as English aristocracy to Nice in the second half of the 18th century, when an increasing number of privileged families wintered here. The city’s main seaside promenade, the Promenade des Anglais owes its name to these English visitors.
Meanwhile the Barbary or Corsair pirates were running rampant over Mediterranean trade routes from the 16th to the 19th century. In the middle of the 19th century Nice’ prime location played a significant role in bringing these Ottoman renegades under control.
Nice’ clear air and soft light has attracted some of the world’s outstanding painters, such as Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Niki de Saint Phalle (remember Queen Callifia’s Magical Circle in Escondido) and Arman. Their work is commemorated in many of the city’s museums, including Musée Marc Chagall, Musée Matisse and Musée des Beaux-Arts Jules Chéret.
This was an exceptionally long driving day and we pulled into Nice tired and wishing we were going straight to the airport. We yet again squeezed a way too big Peugeot into a SmartCar sized parking space and fell into our hotel room not planning on coming out until tomorrow. Yet as you will see we did the “Intro to Nice” by dusk and early dark and cannot wait to explore it in full tomorrow.