Nice – France, Europe
Nice ( Italian: Nizza or Nizza Marittima, Greek: Νίκαια, Latin: Nicaea) is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, with a population of 348,721 within its administrative limits on a land area of 71.92 km2 (28 sq mi). The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of more than 955,000 on an area of 721 km2 (278 sq mi). Located on the south east coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast.
The city is called Nice la Belle (Nissa La Bella in Niçard), which means Nice the Beautiful, which is also the title of the unofficial anthem of Nice, written by Menica Rondelly in 1912. Nice is the capital of the Alpes Maritimes département and the second biggest city of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region after Marseille.
The area of today’s Nice is believed to be among the oldest human settlements in Europe. One of the archaeological sites, Terra Amata, displays evidence of a very early use of fire. Around 350 BC, Greeks of Marseille founded a permanent settlement and called it Nikaia, after Nike, the goddess of victory.
Down the ages, the town changed hands many times. Its strategic location and port significantly contributed to its maritime strength. For years it was an Italian dominion, then became part of France in 1860. Culturally and architecturally enriched over time, today Nice has become a truly cosmopolitan tourist destination. The spectacular natural beauty of the Nice area and its mild Mediterranean climate came to the attention of the English upper classes in the second half of the 18th century, when an increasing number of aristocratic families took to spending their winter there. The city’s main seaside promenade, the Promenade des Anglais (‘the Walkway of the English’) owes its name to the earliest visitors to the resort. For decades now, the picturesque Nicean surroundings have attracted not only those in search of relaxation, but also those seeking inspiration. The clear air and soft light has been of particular appeal to some of Western culture’s most outstanding painters, such as Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Niki de Saint Phalleand Arman. Their work is commemorated in many of the city’s museums, including Musée Marc Chagall, Musée Matisse and Musée des Beaux-Arts Jules Chéret. The climate and landscape are still what attracts most visitors today. It has the second largest hotel capacity in the country and it’s the second-most visited place in France after Paris, receiving 4 million tourists every year. It also has the second busiest airport in France after Paris and two convention centres dedicated to business tourism. The city also has a university, several business districts and some major cultural facilities, such as museums, a national theatre, an opera house with a regional library and several concert halls and casinos. It is the historical capital city of the County of Nice (Comté de Nice).
Nice experiences a Mediterranean climate. The summer/holiday season lasts for 6 months, from May to October, although in April and November sometimes there are temperatures above 20 °C (68 °F). Winters are mild, with average temperatures of 13.4 °C (56.1 °F)during the day and 5.8 °C (42.4 °F) at night in the period from December to February.
The first known hominid settlements in the Nice area date back approximately 400,000 years; the Terra Amata archeological site shows one of the earliest uses of fire and construction of houses and flint findings are dated as around 230,000 years old. Nice (Nicaea) was probably founded around 350 BC by the Greeks of Massilia (Marseille), and was given the name of Νικαία (“Nikaia”) in honour of a victory over the neighbouring Ligurians (Nike is the Greek goddess of victory). The city soon became one of the busiest trading ports on the Ligurian coast; but it had an important rival in the Roman town of Cemenelum, which continued to exist as a separate city until the time of the Lombard invasions. The ruins of Cemenelum are located in Cimiez, which is now a district in Nice.
In the 7th century, Nice joined the Genoese League formed by the towns of Liguria. In 729 the city repulsed the Saracens; but in 859 and again in 880 the Saracens pillaged and burned it, and for most of the 10th century remained masters of the surrounding country.
During the Middle Ages, Nice participated in the wars and history of Italy. As an ally of Pisa it was the enemy of Genoa, and both the King of France and the Emperor endeavoured to subjugate it; but in spite of this it maintained its municipal liberties. During the course of the 13th and 14th centuries the city fell more than once into the hands of the Counts of Provence, but finally remained independent even if related to Genoa.
The coat of arms of Nice appeared for the first time in a copy of the Regulations of Amadeus VIII, probably written in around 1430. The Nice is symbolized by a red eagle on white background, placed on three mountains, which can be described in French heraldic language as “d’argent à une aigle de gueule posée sur trois coupeaux”. The arms have only undergone minor changes : the eagle has become more and more stylized, it now ‘wears’ a coronet for the County (Countdom) of Nice, and the three mountains are now surrounded by a stylised sea.
The presence of the eagle, an imperial emblem, shows that these arms are related to the power of the House of Savoy.The eagle standing over the three hills is a depiction of Savoy, referring to its domination over the country around Nice. The combination of white and red (argent and gules) is a reference to the colours of the flag of Savoy. The three mountains symbolize a territorial honor, without concern for geographic realism.
Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, Nice is a commune and the prefecture (administrative capital) of the Alpes-Maritimes département. However, it is also the largest city in France that is not a regional capital; the much larger Marseille is its regional capital. The current mayor of Nice is Christian Estrosi who was elected in 2008. He is a member of the Union for a Popular Movement, the party supporting President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Nice has a Mediterranean climate, enjoying mild temperatures most of the year; rainfall is very moderate and mainly confined to the winter. Summers are warm, dry, and sunny. Rainfall is rare in this season, and a typical July month only records one or two days with measurable rainfall. The temperature is typically above 20 °C (68 °F), and frequently reaches 30 °C (86 °F). The average maximum temperature in the warmest months of July and August is about 27 °C (81 °F). The highest recorded temperature was 37.7 °C (99.9 °F) on 1 August 2006. Autumn generally starts sunny in September and becomes more cloudy and rainy towards October, while temperatures usually remain above 20 °C (68 °F) until November where days start to cool down to around 17 °C (63 °F). Winters are characterized by mild days (11 to 17 °C (52 to 63 °F)), cool nights (4 to 9 °C (39 to 48 °F)) and variable weather. Days can be either sunny and dry, or damp and rainy. Frost is unusual and snowfalls are so extremely rare that they are remembered by inhabitants as special events. The average minimum temperature in January is around 5 °C(41 °F). Spring starts mild and rainy in late March, and is increasingly warm and sunny towards June.