Hanging Out in Heaven: THE VILLA EPHRUSSI DE ROTHSCHILD on the Cote d’Azur

Halfway between Nice and Monaco on the Cote d’Azur lies Heaven. Call it Heaven on Earth or call it what you want, but for Beatrice Rothschild, an heiress of a wealthy French banking family, this was her vision of Heaven. Clinging firmly to the peninsula called Cap Ferrat, this villa and gardens are a must-see, a must-be-there-and-experience-it, a great place to spend a morning or afternoon bathing in architectural and garden delights.

Cap Ferrat, a small and sleepy lug of land which attaches itself like a hanging ornament to the Cote d’Azur just across the bay from Villefranche-Sur-Mer is mostly populated by Belle Epoch estates of the rich and wealthy, all of which are fully surrounded by tall and solid privacy/security walls keeping people out. Thankfully, the Villa as well as the gardens, which are set up on the highest grounds of the Cap and enjoy fantastic vistas to the Mediterranean Sea and to Villefranche-Sur-Mer across a wide bay, is open (for a fee) to the public.
The pastel pink (not the original color) villa was built in the early 1900’s in the Renaissance style with lots of symmetry and formalism and arches. Upon entering, visitors are immediately drawn to a large grand two story central space lined with graceful Renaissance arches which are skillfully scaled down to more slender and graceful arches lining the upper arcaded hallways. The whole space is topped with a balustrade and clay roof tiles  and then an illuminated dome so that it gives the illusion of an open outdoor courtyard. The decoration and furnishings of the many rooms of the villa are all baroque. Beatrice Rothschild, an avid collector of art, furnishings, and porcelain, all by the Great Masters, personally kept the interior under her direct supervision, and developed the “Rothschild Style”, which includes work from many periods which changes from one room to the next. The result is a very eclectic mix which keeps visitors eagerly anticipating what might come next while strolling through. All of the rooms have apparently maintained the look and layout as originally envisioned by Beatrice.

The meticuously maintained gardens include an impressive and lovely large formal French garden with one long vista of fountains which leads to a cascading fountain which gently falls from a gazebo topped hill in the distance. Off to one side of the estate, four themed gardens: Spanish, Florentine, Japanese, and Mexican, were added beginning in 1934 just after Beatrice passed away. Upon her passing Beatrice bequeathed her masterpiece villa and gardens to the Académie des Beaux-Arts which is responsible for its operation and maintenance to this day. As a grand finale to a visit, not to be missed is a fountain performance starring water which pulsates and dances while choreographed to music. It is quite a show.


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