At Essential Sailing, we love the history, culture and cuisine of the places we visit almost as much as the sailing to get there. Our Captain’s Blog brings you a taste of what to expect from our luxury crewed sailing holidays around the French and Italian Riviera. In this blog we discover the fashionable winter resort of Menton.
Sit back and be inspired.
Until the mid-19th century, when the Riviera became a fashionable and wealthy winter resort, Menton was a little-known fishing port belonging to the Grimaldis. Fin de siècle hotels resembling palaces started to spring up throughout the town. After World War I, Menton lost out to its more glamourous neighbours – Nice, Cannes, St.Tropez and Monaco – although its faded elegance is still apparent.
The medieval old town is a hotchpodge of ancient pastel-coloured houses, alleys and tiny squares. There are two baroque churches: St Michel and the Chapelle de la Conception, with ornamented façades. Between them, the Parvis St-Michel, a mosaic square of black and white cobbles depicting the Grimaldi coat of arms, provides the setting for the Chamber Music Festival.
On the site of the ancient castle at the top of the old town, a fascinating cemetery with sweeping views reflects the cosmopolitanism of the town at the end of the last century. Other notable sights include the Musée de la Préhistoire Régional, Palais Carnolès, the 18th century summer residence of the Princes of Monaco, now Menton’s main art museum; and the Musée Jean Cocteau, dedicated to the town’s most famous son. Cocteau also decorated the remarkable Salles des Mariages in the Hôtel de Ville with romantic, spiritual and ironic images.
Menton is France’s warmest town, boasting an annual 300 days of sun and as a result the town is bursting with semi-tropical gardens. Most of them are in the wealthy Garavan district in the foothills behind the town, notably the Jardin Botanique, the ancient olive grove of Parc du Pian and the Valencian Jardin Fontana Rosa.
Menton is also the ‘lemon capital of the world’, and the terraced slopes behind are covered in citrus groves. The Biovès garden in the town centre is the venue in February of Menton’s spectacular Fête du Citron.