ESSENTIALS

Villa & Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild
1 Avenue Ephrussi de Rothschild
06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Website
Email

Tel: +33 (0)4 93 01 33 09

Admission
Full rate: €13.50
Reduced rate: €10.50 

Offers for Families
Free entry for the second child
aged 7 to 17 when two adults and
one child entries have been bought.

Open all year round
(365 days a year)
from 10am to 6pm except
November to January when it is open
Monday to Friday from 2pm to 6pm.

Weekends and holidays
10am to 6pm.
Last admission 30 minutes
before closing.

Gift Shop
same as Villa’s opening times.

Tea Room
same as Villa’s between
March to September.
From November to February
only weekends, holidays
& Bank Holidays.

LOCATION

GETTING THERE

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild overlooks the Bay of Villefranche and Bay of Beaulieu and is located 10 kms from Nice and Monaco and 800 metres from Villa Kérylos.
By road: access by the lower cliff road (RD6098). Free car-parking is available at the villa. Please note that there are only 60 parking spaces.
By bus from Nice: #81 to “Plage de Passable” stop which is in front of the villa. (Timetables here)
By bus from Monaco #100 “Pont St Jean” stop then walk about 20 minutes direction of the tourist office. (Timetables here)
By train: Get off at Beaulieu-sur-Mer station then 30 minute walk to the villa.

GOOD TO KNOW

For a self-guided tour of the permanent collections, you are offered a free audio-guide on your arrival at the Villa. It provides a commentary on the history of the place, about Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild and her collections, as well as thematic information about the Riviera during the Belle Époque, Béatrice’s leisure activities and the Rothschild family. Available in 9 languages: French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese and Russian.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild was the dream villa of Charlotte-Béatrice. The daughter of Baron Alphonse de Rothschild, she grew up in Château de Ferrière, an enormous mansion with immense woodlands about 26 kms east of Paris. During her childhood she was surrounded by her father's fabulous and massive art collection and most certainly inherited her father's trait as an avid collector.

When she was 19, the family moved to Provence and it was there that she discovered her two passions in life. The first was Maurice Ephrussi, a banker, whom she married in 1883, and the second was architecture. In 1905 she found and bought a plot of terraced land on Cap-Ferrat, some 7 hectares in all, where she decided to build her dream home.

Villa de Rothschild front

Blasting the landscape
In order to achieve a flat garden and spectacular views across the Bay of Beaulieu and Villefranche harbour, she had most of the hill dynamited. It is said that rocks removed from this work went to enlarge the port of St Jean. In fact so much land was laid bare that it became necessary to haul in numerous cartloads of topsoil to enable the planting of the diversity of plants Charlotte-Béatrice had set her heart on.

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She was extremely hard to please and when not satisfied with any building work, would have it pulled down and redone. Such was her exacting nature that she went through nine consecutive architects (some reports say it was as many as fifteen). The villa was finally finished in 1912.

She called it “Ile de France”, a reference to the steamship upon which she enjoyed numerous cruises. Today it is better known as Villa Ephrussi de Rotheschild. In fact the property was much designed along the lines of a ship with the front of the villa having a large stretch of land suggesting a gigantic bridge. Slightly eccentric, whenever she walked out onto her balcony or showed guests around her garden, she’d have six of her gardeners dressed up as sailors . . .

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Her palazzino was a succession of richly decorated salons and private apartments; the atmosphere recalling Florence, Ravenna and Venice, with rose marble columns from Verona and a touch of Spain with patios. The villa was adorned with artwork ranging from the late Middle Ages to the early Renaissance, as well as paintings by Renoir, Sisley and Monet. Flemish tapestries and 16th and 17th century furniture further embellished the villa.

As money was no problem she’d try, whenever possible, to purchase the object of her desire. However if that failed she’d then have it replicated, as was the case of the stairway leading up to her bedroom (repositioned now for show on the ground floor), which is an exact copy of the staircase in the Saint-Maclou Cathedral in Rouen.

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Many grand fêtes and balls were held in these sumptuous rooms with such dignitaries as the Prince of Monaco, the Duke of Eboli Doria of Naples, the Princess Ghika, the Count and Countess of Brémond d’Ars, the Grand-ducs of Russia.

The rooms were stunning: the Salon Louis XV with its great Aubusson carpet; the Salon Fragonard with its 18th century antiques and paintings by Honoré Fragonard; the Salon des Singeries, where Huet’s paintings of monkeys replaced the chinoiseries so fashionable at the time; the Salon des Tapisseries with its Jacob furnishings and rare commodes; and the Salon d’Art d’Etrême-Orient with its gold and lacquered doors from the Imperial Palace of Peking and other treasures from the Far East.

The former apartments of Monsieur Ephrussi now contain one of the finest collections of porcelain in the world, including rare pieces from la Manufacture de Sèvres and that of Vincennes. In another room, connoisseurs will appreciate Dresden china and delicate porcelain items from Berlin, Würtzbourg and Meissen, most of them still set on their original plinths.

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The Gardens

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Upon arrival most visitors begin with the Spanish garden with its secluded alcove, ornamental pond and pergola, then follow the signs that lead on to the other gardens: the Cyprus tree-lined Florentine alley with its gorgeous horseshoe staircase overlooking the inlet at Villefranche-sur-Mer, the mysterious lapidary with its arches and sculpted rocks; the harmony of the Japanese garden with its raked sand and stone garden, pagoda and small pond filled with koi.

From there you’re pass through a magnificent bamboo garden with some of the tallest bamboo I have ever seen which act like a tunnel before entering the villa’s rose garden.

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Here you’ll find over a hundred different varieties of rose bushes as well as wonderful views across the bay. As a byline, looking towards the bay of Villefranche you can’t help but notice the stunning varnished green tiled roofs of a superb Italian style villa. They belong to Villa Sylvia which was built by the American Ralph Curtis in 1902. Turning round and facing the rose garden once more a pathway leads you gently up towards a very beautiful temple, then takes you through the exotic garden overflowing with magnificent cacti and impressive succulents.

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She also created a pretty English rose garden, as well as having an exact replica of the Trianon in Versailles and its beautiful Temple of Love positioned at the far end of the park. From this viewpoint you have the whole of the French gardens stretching out before you. The long ornamental pond draws your eye naturally towards the magical dancing water-fountains at the end of the pond and to the pink façade of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild beyond.

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We actually owe the implantation of the French garden in front of the villa to Louis Marchand, as well as the prolongation and broadening of the canal towards the Temple of Love and the creation of the Spanish, Lapidary, Japanese and Exotic gardens.

If she was exacting with the villa, Charlotte-Béatrice was equally so with the layout and planting of her gardens, calling in several renowned landscape gardeners and architects such as Richard Wallace, Aaron Messiah and Achille Duchêne, until she was satisfied with the layout.

(Byline: Born in 1858, Aaron Messiah became very popular amongst the rich and famous due to his perfect knowledge of English, his talent and total honesty. He created a number of important buildings along the French Riviera such as Les Cèdres on Cap Ferrat for Leopold II, King of the Belgians, the Leopolda in Villefranche-sur-Mer, he finished the Anglican church as well as building another Rothschild villa in Monte-Carlo.)

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When palm trees were required as part of the overall design, she depleted the entire stock belonging to Hickel Frères, a German horticulturist established in Beaulieu. Such were the weight and size of these trees (thirty in all) that they required the harnessing of six horses to deliver each one.

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Her plan was to create a three-dimensional Italian-Florentine garden so that from any point of her villa or bedroom balcony she’d be able to see the stunning views of Villefranche and St Jean harbours through the different “layers” of garden.

It is a breathtaking endeavour and now meticulously looked after and, as one would expect, discreetly featured in a few films: Retour de Manivelle in 1957 directed by Denys de La Patellière with Michèle Morgan and Daniel Gélin; Lady L directed by Peter Ustinov in 1965 with David Niven, Paul Newman and Sophia Loren: and the James Bond film Never say Never directed by Irvin Kershner in 1983 starring Sean Connery.

After spending so much time, money and effort creating this remarkable place, it is sad to learn she spent little time there, preferring the roulette tables of Monte-Carlo and her home “Villa Rose de France” or her suite at the Hôtel de Paris located next door to the casino; upon the death of her husband in 1916 she finally lost all interest in the villa.

She died in 1934 at the age of 75, bequeathing the villa to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, a section of the Institut de France, on condition that it would remain intact and left as it was during her lifetime. Sadly however, her garden was abandoned for many years and left to its own devices, until Louis Marchand, a landscape gardener, took it over and rethought the entire domain.

As a final byline, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild can be booked in the evenings as a  spectacular wedding venue or for other unique events.