The Wondrous Village of Eze
The medieval village of Eze balances precariously on the edge of a small rock, hanging over a precipitous 427m drop into the deep blue Mediterranean sea. Approaching from either Monaco or Nice gives a breath-taking view of the village, justifiably making it the most famous village to visit along-side St Paul de Vence.
The village of Eze is very accessible to visitors via busy RN7, which is also known as the Moyenne Corniche, which runs between Nice and Monaco and gives stunning views over Villefranche and Cap Ferrat. In the summer, visitors are advised to get an early start and plan for traffic, and there is public parking at the foot of the village. Buses and taxis are also readily available. Train service is available all day to Eze borde-de-mer, which is the public beach, but be warned that it is an arduous and long trek up to the village.
Much of the current city, especially the tourist sites, dates from the middle ages. The ruins of a twelfth century castle still dominate the city, even though the castle was razed in 1706. The town is built around the castle. The older houses of the city remain a testament to their former glory, or beyond. Other medieval touches include narrow winding streets, high stonewalls, archways, squares and fountains.
The first recorded mention of the city that is now Eze comes from a fourth century manuscript, and names the village as Avizio. Other past names of the city have been Esa, Isia, and Ysia. The city has existed longer than memory, and much longer than written records. The Ligurian Oppidum (grouped, fortified houses, usually from the second Iron Age) is about a kilometre away from the village, and the oldest archaeological site of the village dating back to around 2000 BC. It is thought to have been built by the Phoenicians then taken over by the Romans. Other archaeological sites and artefacts include The Heraklean Way, a pillar and a Roman tomb.
One of the main tourist attractions is the Jardin Exotique, or botanical gardens,, which sits at the base of the castle. Though the admission cost may be prohibitive to some visitors, the garden is a delight and offers a wonderful view of the exquisite French countryside and coastline. Here the visitor may appreciate the lapping blue waters, the lush plant life and the artistic shapes of rocks and hills. In the garden, one will see not only normal plants, but cacti and other more exotic plants.
Fort Revère is another site that may be of interest to guest of the village of Eze. The fort sits over Col d’Eze. This offers a nature hike complete with signs identifying plants and geological wonders. These signs are in French, but there are diagrams for the linguistically challenged. This walk may take as long as two hours, though it is only 1,500 meters long. From this trail, one can marvel at both the mountains and the sea.
Visitors can walk and appreciate the Friedrich-Nietzsche pathway. This path is about an hour walk and marks the spot where Nietzsche composed part of his work: Thus Spoke Zarathustra. While walking the trail one may think deep thoughts or reflect on modern philosophy, or if one is more, a naturalist than a philosopher one may just enjoy the olive trees and other scenery that once inspired the great thinker.
The Maison de la Nature is open from 1 to 5 PM (13:00-17:00) on Wednesdays and is free to the public, and is connected to a 610 hectares park that welcomes visitors that want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the town. There is one museum in the village of Eze, the Musée d’Eze, that can be found in the upper village. The museum is not large, but it is worth an afternoon’s perusal.
Another thing that makes Eze unique is the perfume produced in the area. Both of the perfumeries have a connected shop that will give a 10% discount to anyone who has a free department of tourism map. Galimard Soap factory is not open to the public, but Fragonard, the perfume factory is. Another ancient art that is still pursued here is glass blowing. Tourist can see the warm glass as it is formed.
Other points of interest include La chapelle des Pénitents Blancs and the Parish church and its baroque nave. Both of these religious sites reflect the Christian heritage of France, built at a time when churches not only honoured God but also were the village centers. They are wonders of the architecture of the period. When you visit the church, you may want to take note of the wonderfully made and executed two-level square clock tower.
The Cemetery is not only a peaceful place with much beautiful, detailed stone work, but a testament to the history and lifestyles of the town. Among other notables, it is the final resting place of the famous comedian Francis Blanche.
The village of Eze offers two Fêtes every year. The Fête Communale-Patronaleit the fourth and fifth of August and The Fête de l’Oeillet occurs on Easter Sunday. Guests of the village are welcome to join in these celebrations, which give a sense of history and community. Tourists often find that these celebrations give them a new appreciation of the village, and even of their own places.
People who enjoy shopping will think that Eze is paradise. Hundreds of little shops sell souvenirs, local crafts, local perfumes, and herbs. A discriminating shopper may be lost for hours in the wonders of these things.
Eze village also plays host to the Chevre d’Or, which is not just a five star hotel but one of the world’s most famous restaurants, with not one but two Michelin stars. The service impeccable, the food exquisite, and the views incredible. Expect to pay around €200 per head before drinks for a typical evening meal, and you will not be allowed in wearing jeans.
Active visitors will find a range of sports and activities. There are tennis courts, stables and sailing schools. Among the most popular activities are still included camping, hiking and cave exploration. There are about 15 caves that are open to the public for explorations some of them are as deep as 50 meters to 70 meters (230 feet). Cavers of all levels of experience and daring can find something for them.
There are many options of where to stay in Eze village. Eze boasts a surprising number of places to sleep. This includes 11 hotels, 1 campground, 2 bed and breakfast and 12 holiday rentals. Nearly every guest to Eze village will find something that fits their budget.
There are other nearby towns that offer many artistic, cultural, and entertainment attractions. They include: Beaulieu sur Mer 5 km, or 3 miles, Saint Jean Cap-Ferrat 7 km or 4 miles, La Turbie also 7 km or 4 miles, Villefranche-sur-Mer 8 km or 5 miles, Monaco 9 km or 5 miles, Nice 11 km or 7 miles, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin 14 km or 9 miles, Falicon also 14 km or 9 miles, Menton 15 km or 9 miles and Gorbio 16 km or 10 miles. All of these places have many interesting attractions. Eze-sur-Mer is the closest neighbour, largely residential with local celebrities including U2, the main attraction being the beaches; activities include boating, diving (scuba, and snorkelling), water skiing, jet skiing, and even just plain old swimming. There is also the usual compliment of cafés, restaurants and hotels. The train station stops right next to the public beach.