Eze Botanical Garden
If you have made it up to the top of Eze village, may we suggest you go a little further and visit ‘Le Jardin d’Eze’? Granted it’s more climbing but I can assure you the magnificent panorama of the surrounding hills, the beauty of the exotic garden and the spell-binding views down to the Mediterranean Sea and beyond will take your breath away.
The views from the top of the Eze Botanical Garden is absolutely spectacular. From here you the most astonishing views across to Italy, down to the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer (and your cruise ship), the Baies des Anges in Nice, the landing strip of Nice airport and even across to St Tropez; on exceedingly clear, bright days it’s said that you can see Corsica (normally a bank of clouds indicate its position).
You’ll need to count well over half an hour to explore the garden, more if you want to stop and take photos. A panoramic table made from enamelled lava and located in the remains of the fortress will help you locate the principal places and sites along the coast.
Sheltered from winds by the Revère Mount the site offers a truly remarkable micro-climate which ensures the growth of the garden’s fascinating plants.
It all began in the winter of 1949 when Mayor René Gianton decided to create a garden within the remains of the 12th century medieval fortress located at the top of Eze village. He turned to Jean Gastaud, one of the founding fathers of the Exotic Garden in Monaco, for inspiration and design.
Under Gastaud’s supervision, scores of men laden with bags heavy with boulders and stones walked up the narrow sandy paths leading to the fortress. Terraces were set up, beds traced, and rock-work arrangements made. Countless plants, agaves, aloes, and cacti were carried up and planted, some no more than seedlings, others fully grown. Amongst the latter, a Crown of Thorns 130 years old and weighing nearly half a ton.
The first stage of the project turned out so successful that it was soon followed by a second one. Eze Botanical Garden grew rich with numerous new varieties: Crassulaceas, Mesembryanthemum, and Yuccas, all of which enhanced the flower beds and the general feel of the garden. This rich and varied environment encouraged a wonderful variety of wildlife – notably the Red Admiral, Swallowtail, Provençal Fritillary and Marbled White butterflies.
In winter 2004 the botanical garden was further enhanced by the creation of a secluded and very pleasant deck area comprising a pretty water feature and reclining wooden deckchairs. The blend of all these natural elements plus the soft gentle sound of water gives a very “earthy” feel to the site – with views towards the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer and Cap Ferrat – and is a lovely place to relax. Congenial wooden seating and lights were also installed along the paths and within the ruins of the fortress.
Additional beauty was added by the inclusion of 14 gorgeous sculptures made out of clay and representing earth goddesses. Created by the French sculptor Jean-Philippe Richard these tall elegant statues adorn the garden and create a harmonious, intimate and contemplative display. Each one has a name and a small poem dedicated to it that is written in both French and English.
Thematic signs, also written in French and English, are dotted along the pink cobbled pathways giving the visitor an understanding as to the creation of this stunning garden. And, as in Eze village, a rod-like handrail runs along the steep pathways and steps connecting the different terraced levels. Here we add a little note of caution as some very prickly cacti and succulents have chosen to lean close to the handrail and will “sting” you if you’re not careful where you place your hand. While you breathe in the beauty of the garden you’ll probably wonder about the vast number of greenhouses hugging the contours of the terraced hills. They tell of the persistence of flower cultivation in Eze. Initially devoted to perfumes in the area of Grasse, cultivation developed in the surroundings of Nice at the same time as tourism and traditional agricultural activities.
In Eze, besides wine-growing, olive farming was a major economic and agricultural activity, as prove the 40 tons of oil produced in 1853. Dried fruits and vegetables, figs, almonds, nuts, beans chickpeas, also used to be significantly produced alongside carob, kelp, cereal, fruit trees and citrus fruits: the Eze tangerine was particularly well-known for its mellowness.
At one time even Mulberry trees were grown in and around Eze for the cultivation of silk worms, once an important trade for the region. Silk production was given up in the 19th century but one last mulberry tree still remains and can be found just at the entrance of the botanical garden. It is said to be at least 300 years old, if not more, and continues to produce its beautiful leaves and white fruit still today.
While Eze’s botanical garden is beautiful any time of year, truly stunning views across the Mediterranean are to be had during the months of February and March when the skies are crystal clear. However, you’ll find some of the plants carefully wrapped in protective winter blankets as frost is always a danger at that time of year.
If you do go and the day turns out to be rather cold and windy, reward yourself after your visit by gently strolling down to Château Eza and partake of their utterly wonderful hot chocolate. Absolutely gorgeous!
January, February & March: 09h00 to 17h00
April, May & June: 09h00 to 19h00
July, August & September: 09h00 to 20h00
October, November & December: 09h00 to 17h00
Admission Fee: €6.00
Bundled tickets with Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild