France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Sometimes called the Jewel of the Côte d'Azur, the Villa and Gardens Ephrussi de Rothschild present a stunning offering of architecture, art, and horticulture.





Located only about 10 kilometers from Nice, on the lovely St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula, the Villa et Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild make a wonderful day trip from Nice.

Where did this pink villa, a stunning example of Belle Époque architecture, and its profusion of gardens, come from? How does it happen to be open to the public? Here's the story.

Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild was born in 1864, daughter of Baron Alphonse de Rothschild, a wealthy banker and art collector. She grew up surrounded by artwork and riches. When she was only 19, she married Maurice Ephrussi, a Russian banker living in Paris. A friend of her family, he was 15 years older than Béatrice and much more worldly.

Sadly, it was not a happy marriage. Six years later, Maurice infected Béatrice with a serious illness that sent her to bed for over a year and made it impossible for her to bear children. He was also a gambler and had significant debts, leading Béatrice to pursue a legal separation from him in 1904. When her father died the following year she inherited a fortune and lived her life surrounded by the things she loved. She invested in Impressionist art and other fine works.

The Belle Époque villa occupies a choice location on the Peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, with views of the Bay of Villefranche and the Bay of Beaulieu. The furnishings, artwork and other decor reflect Béatrice's taste and that of the era. The phrase "over the top" kept coming into my mind as we moved from one sumptuous and overdone room to another, with their elaborate decor, fine furnishings, tapestries, and large collections of porcelain, sculptures, and other decorative objects.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Nice
Villa Ephrussi, seen from the formal French garden,
with the fountains in play.

An audio guide (available as an app on your phone) tells of Béatrice's history and life, and narrates each room of the villa. Be sure to go upstairs and enjoy the view of the gardens from the lovely loggia. Once you have visited the inside of the villa, head to the gardens for a delightful treat.

The garden most visible from the villa is the French formal garden, with its symmetrical plantings and its many fountains and waterways, as well as a small Temple of Love reminiscent of the one at Versailles. Periodically throughout the day classical music accompanies the "dancing" of the fountains.

You can stroll through the other gardens, starting with the Jardin de Sèvres right next to the villa. From here you'll pass through the Spanish Garden, the Florentine Garden, the Stone Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Provencal Garden the Exotic Garden, and the Rose Garden. As you can tell from the names, each has a unique "personality" and together they offer a wide range of experiences and sensations. A variety of paths wend through the gardens, giving you different options for your stroll.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Nice
The rose garden, with the sea in the background.

In 1933 Béatrice left the villa and her collections to the Académie des Beaux Arts and it passed to the Académie when she died in 1934; in 1991 management of the estate was entrusted to Culturespaces.

The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is open every day; hours may vary by season. It is easily accessible by car or by bus #15 (stop Passable/Rothschild) from Nice. Admission to the villa and gardens is included on the French Riviera Pass.

The villa has a small tea room where you can enjoy lunch or afternoon tea. Or, if you want something more casual, head down the hill to the Port de Saint-Jean (last stop on the #15 bus, or you can walk if you're feeling ambitious). We had a lovely seafood lunch by the port and enjoyed strolling in the village and seeing the views.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France

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Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Nice

Above, The French formal garden at Villa Ephrussi.

Below, An ornately decorated room in the villa.


Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Nice

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Nice
Above, Beautiful flowers in the Spanish Garden.

Below, Yes, Béatrice had little chairs for her dogs!

Villa Ephrussi, Nice

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