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Vieux Nice is a great place to explore on foot. The city’s oldest neighbourhood is a series of charming squares and streets, full of yellow and red houses with green shutters. Its many cafés, restaurants and shops ensure a lively atmosphere until late into the evening. Take an early morning browse through the enjoyable Cours Saleya market.
Packed with Baroque monuments, ochre-coloured houses and narrow alleys with drying laundry, Vieux Nice oozes a Mediterranean atmosphere that sometimes feels more Italian than French. This is not very surprising as over the course of various centuries, 'Nizza' has regularly fallen into the hands of Italian rulers. It was only in 1859 that the Kingdom of Sardinia officially handed the city over to France. Even today we still find many remnants of these Italian periods in the dialect and culture of Nice.
In the heart of the old town stands the opulent Palais Lascaris. Admission is free so you can just pop in and visit. From the 17th century until the French Revolution, this villa was owned by the influential and aristocratic Lascaris de Vintimille family. The entrance in a small street is fairly inconspicuous, but once inside you will marvel at the exuberant Italian Baroque interior. The staircase and the rooms on the second floor are filled with frescoes, stucco and gold mouldings. The palace also houses a regional museum with artefacts and old musical instruments. On the ground floor is a reconstructed 18th-century pharmacy.
“One of Nice’s most powerful families lived more than 150 years at the Palais Lascrais”
Located just a few streets away, the 17th-century cathedral Sainte-Réparate is another fine example of Italian Baroque. Its most eye-catching feature is the large dome with coloured and glazed roof tiles that sparkle in the sun. The high white clock tower that rises above the yellow and red houses of Vieux Nice was only built in the 18th century. The yellow-green façade is also of a later date. Diagonally across from the Cathedral, on the beautiful Place Rossetti, is the famous Fenocchio ice-cream parlour that has been here since 1966. This is definitely the place to go for unique flavours: try a scoop of rosemary, or tomato and basil, or perhaps lavender ice cream!
Busy, colourful and charming: Cours Saleya is one of the most beautiful markets in France. Here you will find lots of flowers and local products such as Provencal herbs, olives and soaps from Marseille. The many charming patios that surround the market are perfect for a cup of coffee or to sample a local dish. Among the stalls you can nibble on a ‘socca', a kind of crepe made from chickpea dough. Or try a ‘pan bagnat’, a local sandwich topped with almost the same ingredients as a salad niçoise. Every day is market day. Only Monday’s selection is a little different: that is the day that the Cours Saleya transforms into one big flea market.