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 join the jet setting world of Monaco.
Sit back and be inspired.
The Principality of Monaco is the world’s second smallest sovereign state after the Vatican – a 481 acres, spotlessly clean skyscraper-clad strip squeezed between sea and mountains on largely reclaimed land. It is a magnet for the world’s jet-setters, attracted by the lack of taxes and the world’s highest incomes.
Only 7,000 of Monaco’s 32,000 residents are Monégasque. The remainder are all prepared to pay exorbitant prices for a cramped high-rise apartment in order to be part of Monaco’s famed community of millionaires, gamblers and ‘offshore’ bankers.
With so much evident wealth and glamour, it is hard to imagine Monaco’s turbulent past. At various times occupied by the French, the Spanish and the Dukes of Savoy, for over 700 years the principality has been ruled by the Grimaldi family, the world’s oldest reigning monarchy, in power ever since 1297 when a Grimaldi known as Francesco ‘the Spiteful’ dressed up a friar and knocked at the door of Monaco’s Ghibelline fortress asking for hospitality, together with his men, disguised as monks. Once inside, they killed the guards and took control of the garrison. Hence the sword-brandishing monks on the Grimaldi family crest.
The Grimaldis once ruled an area which extended along the coast from Antibes to Menton. However, their high taxes provoked a revolt, and the principality shrank to its present size. In the mid-19th century. Prince Charles III of Monaco, facing a financial crisis, opened the Casino to increase revenue. It was such a success that taxes were soon abolished altogether. Charles was succeeded by Prince Albert I, who introduced numerous academic and scientific institutions, including the Musée Océanographique. From 1949 until his death in 2005, Monaco was ruled by Prince Ranier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand de Grimaldi who invested considerably in modernising the principality.
In 1956, Prince Ranier added fairy-tale cachet to his realm by marrying the legendary American film star Grace Kelly, who met with a tragic car accident in 1982 along the Moyenne Corniche. Their son Albert is the current ruler, making him the Riviera’s most sought after bachelor, although Stéphanie and Caroline, his sometimes wayward sisters, tend to dominate the press.
Even though Monaco is so small, finding your way around can prove difficult. Not only is Monaco the name of the principality, but Monaco-Ville is also a district on the peninsula to the south, containing the old town with its narrow streets. By startling contrast, the newer high-rise district of Monte-Carlo to the east is centred round the Casino and designer shops. The port quarter, between the districts of Monte-Carlo and Monaco-Ville, is called la Condamine, and there is an industrial district, Fonvieille, to the southwest.