We had a free day on Tuesday and the weather was again cooperating so we decided to check out the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild which is just up the road from our house. I had visited 12 years ago when I was in Nice with my parents for Molly and Chris’ wedding, and I really wanted to show it to Jared. I had also been thinking of a photo my parents took of me walking in the gardens (which I wish I had a scan of so that I could show you) and I kind of wanted to recreate it since it’s one of my favorites.
The villa was built by Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, who was somewhat of an eccentric Baroness. She traveled the world collecting massive amounts of art, and meticulously designed (she was a notoriously difficult client) a giant pink Venetian-style mansion that straddles Cap Ferrat and enjoys spectacular views of both Villefrance and Beaulieu-sur-Mer. In her will she bequeathed the property to the Académie des Beaux-Arts to ensure its preservation and to open the grounds for public enjoyment.
We were both immediately drawn to the level of detail in the house. Every corner was carefully considered, each ceiling painted and every wall bedecked with tapestry.
Next, we marveled at the spectacular views. Béatrice apparently yanked the land from under the nose of another very prominent buyer – I think the video we watched said it was King Leopold II of Belgium, who already owned a considerable amount of property around Cap Ferrat.
I also really loved the amount of pure eccentricity that only a wildly wealthy widowed Baroness could get away with. An entryway made to look like an open air Venetian palazzo? I can’t believe you don’t have one. A room full of decorative ceramic monkeys (which were apparently all the rage)? Sure! Tiny chaises for her dogs? But of course! Everything in her beloved pink? Naturally! I think in my next life I’d like to be an eccentric Baroness. I could rock a pink house like nobody’s business.
The house is beautiful but the real jewel of the property is the landscaping. Béatrice surrounded the house with nine gardens – each with a different theme – and was so detail-oriented that she even sent an emissary to Japan to copy plans so she could re-create a Japanese Zen garden.
The main gardens were “conceived in the form of a ship, to be viewed from the loggia of the house, which was like the bridge of a vessel, with the sea visible on all sides. It was inspired by voyage she made on the liner ‘Île de France, and the villa was given that name. The thirty gardeners who maintained the garden were dressed as sailors, with berets with red pom poms.“(from here)
I really wish they still required that uniform.
And because we’ve gone a few days without mentioning cats, I’ll throw in some photos of the fluffiest, friendliest cat in the world, who lives in the gardens. Such a lover.
So, to summarize, I’d be totally fine living here. Well done, Bea.
I haven’t bought many souvenirs on this trip, but I couldn’t resist this adorable tiny paper model of the property (only about 3″ across!). It packs flat so I can easily stow it or send it home. So cute! I guess if I can’t have the real thing then this will do.