Vieux Nice

Via Nissa offers a guided tour of Vieux Nice (old city) over 3 hours or longer on a walking tour led by historians and archivists whose research interest are on the History of Nice.  The visits can be general, for those who are visiting Nice for the first time, or far more detailed, for those who have been to the area many times before and now wish to understand, in much greater detail, what they are seeing.  There is a third category of participants in the Vieux Nice tour and that is those who have bought property in the Old City and wish to know much more about their building, their apartment and the neighborhood in which it is located.  All three types of visitors participate in private visits which are centered on their interests.  There are no scripts at Via Nissa and the route we can take can vary and be changed by the participants at any time.

Photo:  Guy Colliard

The Vieux Nice has a history as far back as the Greeks who 350 year before the common era founded Nikaia.  (From the Greek word, “victory”).  The Romans changed the name to Nicaea, the Savoyards, Nizza, and in the local Nissart language Nissa.  Finally, the French changed the name to Nice when it was reattached to France in 1860.  Nice is often confused with being part of Italy at various times in its history, but this is not true. 

Our visit begins at one of the two main plazas, either Place Garibaldi or Place Massena.  We then explore the interior of the old city, explain the architectural specifics of how a medieval city changed into a modern one.  We seek out the vestiges of the Medieval city and then the baroque city of the Renaissance when the Vieux Nice was changed into much of what we see today. 

Garibaldi was a hero of the Italian unification and a native of Nice but was also connected to the American Civil War and the Union Army.  Although a native of Nice, Massena was a soldier in the French Revolutionary Army which captured Nice for the French during the revolution.  He fought against his native country but was chosen by Napoleon III when Nice was reattached to France in 1860 and a French hero was sought. The City of Nice was never an industrial center, but became significant as a tourist attraction.  In fact, it was in the 18th century that the city became attractive to those with consumption in other parts of Europe and who rushed to Nice in an attempt to cure their medical ailments.    This eventually led the city to become a major winter capital for all of Europe’s aristocracy as they discovered Nice to be a paradise on earth.  This ended after WWI when the map of Europe was rewritten but Nice was rejuvenated by an influx of young, beautiful and wealthy Americans who made it the summer capital it is known for today.

Photo:  Fe Franzotti

Its beautiful landscape, the light and the weather made it ideal to attract to the old city not only the budding film industry, but also intellectuals such as the German philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche, the Russian writer Anton Chekhov, the French painter Henri Matisse and the violin virtuoso Paganini among many, many more.