Even though the Villa Ephrussi de Rothchild is a well-known place to visit in Provence, I had to add it to my “hidden gems” list because it is just marvelous and everyone should see the place. It’s rather unbelievable that it took me more than six years to visit, and I live only about an hour and a half away. I’ve wanted to tour the villa ever since moving to Provence and each winter I would tell myself that when spring arrived I was going to go because I wanted to see the gardens in all their blooming glory. Well, each year spring arrived and I never got around to making a visit. I have no excuse for it except that I was being a lame procrastinator. Obviously, six years later, that methodology got me nowhere near the place. This year, I didn’t even make any promises about going. That’s probably the reason why I finally up and went.
Arriving at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
One beautiful, spring, Sunday morning, my husband and I made the drive to the villa and we spent the entire, glorious day there and it was so worth the wait. Everything about it was lovely, charming, relaxing and just fantastic, except one thing….the parking.
I have to get this out of the way, right away. The biggest advice about getting to the villa is DO NOT drive there. Though the drive is beautiful, there is absolutely no place to park. On the villa’s website, it mentions that there are a few places in front of the villa in which to park your car. A few places means about 10 and if you don’t get there in enough time (like the crack of dawn) you will never find a place.
All around the villa, on the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, there is street parking, but it’s usually all taken so you’ll end up driving around forever trying to find a spot and when you finally do, you’ll have to walk for endless miles to get from your car to the villa. I know this for a fact, because that’s what happened to me.
Taking the bus to Villa Ephrussi
From Nice: The bus stops right in front of the villa and by arriving this way, you will save yourself a lot of time, energy, hassle and frustration. Next time around, it’s the bus for me.
Since bus schedules change often, it’s best to check the Linges d’Azur bus schedule before planning your trip. Once on the page, click on Plan Your Trip, then Schedules, then scroll down to Route Schedules and type in BUS 81. The stop for Villa Ephrussi is Passable/Rothschild.
From Menton, Monaco and Eze-sur-Mer, the bus number is 100 and the stop is Pont St Jean, then you will have about a 10 minute walk to the villa.
Taking the train to Villa Ephrussi
Another option would be to take the train to the station at Beaulieu-sur-Mer. This, like driving, I would counsel against unless you really like walking and the weather is agreeable that day because the walk from the train station to the villa takes about 25 minutes with the last 10 minutes being entirely uphill.
Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, it’s on to the good stuff.
History of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
The villa was built in the early 1900’s by Charlotte Béatrice de Rothschild. She was the third child, and second daughter, of Alphonse James de Rothschild and Leonora de Rothschild. Yes, her parents were cousins.
Béatrice, as she was known, spent her entire youth traveling and collecting art work, which included paintings, rare furniture and porcelain (this is a woman after my own heart). She was also quite fond of animals and when the villa was constructed, she maintained her own private zoo there.
When Béatrice was 19 years old, she married Maurice Ephrussi, a Ukrainian banker and horse breeder who was 15 years older that she was. Though they both loved art collecting, gambling, horse racing and travel, their marriage was not a happy one and after 21 years together they divorced.
Soon after the divorce, Béatrice had the villa constructed. Immediately she began filling it with the art she had been collecting during her lifetime.
In 1934, at the age of 69, Béatrice de Rothschild died childless. In her will she bequeathed the Villa Ephrussi to the Académie des Beaux-Arts division of the Institut de France who in turn, made it into a museum.
Touring the Villa- the ground floor
For anyone who loves history and turn of the century architecture, the villa is a definite place to visit.
The first thing you notice about the villa is its lovely, Venetian style construction, painted with the most delightful color of pink on the façade. As you make your way up the steps to enter the villa, you get the most wonderful view of the Mediterranean from the terrace. The villa sits on the highest point of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and as such, offers the most impressive views of the French Riviera coastline.
Once inside, your first glimpse is of the large, interior courtyard. This room is the center focal point of the villa and is two-stories high. All other rooms on the ground floor are entered into from this room. This is also where you will pick up your free audio guide (more on that at the end of the post).
In the interior courtyard you will undoubtedly notice the beautiful, pink, marble columns and the paintings and art collections hanging on the walls. Many of the items that Béatrice collected were from old cathedrals, churches and historical hotels. You are able to see this in portions of the exterior of the villa, as well, where it is as if it was constructed around these items.
On the day I visited, guest were entertained by two women dressed in historical attire who were putting on a show for us.
From this room make your way into Béatrice’s boudoir. A large room facing the east with beautiful, bay windows looking out over the Mediterranean and a view of Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Monaco. The furniture is classic Louis XV and XVI and there is even a writing desk that belonged to Marie-Antoinette. Fantastic paintings adorn the doors and some of the walls, while on other walls tapestries are hanging. Everything is laid out as if someone actually lived there today.
From here, go to the bedroom with its attached salon. The views are of the Mediterranean and Villefranche-sur-Mer. Béatrice’s bed is still there and just next to it a dress, shoes and a tea set. In the salon you will see two, tiny beds for her pets. She was quite an interesting and eccentric person. Besides having a host of dogs, her pets also included a mongoose and a monkey which went everywhere she did.
You will then walk through a dressing room which showcases an amazing collection of traditional, Chinese clothing from the 18th century. This leads to a beautifully painted bathroom.
Just next to the bathroom is a dining room which features several cupboards of porcelain sets.
There is also a small salon which is facing the French garden and has a lovely painted ceiling and painted alcoves.
On this level there is also a tearoom and a bathroom for visitors.
Touring the Villa- the second floor
Making your way to the second level, hanging on the staircase walls, are photographs of the villa during its construction. The second level consist of several rooms leading you in a square pattern above the interior courtyard on the first floor.
Here you will find two bedrooms, one with furnishings and the other with cupboards of porcelain from Germany. Across from this is a tiny room with yet more porcelain. At the end of the hallway is a tapestry room with additional furnishings, including desks, a game table, chairs, sofas, and lamps.
As you make your way down another hallway, you come to a light blue room with the most intricate, storybook paintings all over the walls, in a brilliant, artistic style. It’s as if you’ve gotten lost in a fairy tale. I can’t imagine the time it took to paint this one room.
When exiting, you find yourself on a south facing terrace with a gorgeous view of the French garden, large fountain and views on both sides of the Mediterranean. This girl new what she was doing! Take time out to sit in the many chairs available and take in the view. This is also a great time to gets some photos of the garden.
As you exit the terrace you will continue to make your way through several more rooms, one with a Chinese art theme to it and another with beautiful clocks and an old carriage, called a Litter.
The hallways offer a view down into the interior courtyard and many tapestries and art objects are hanging on the wall.
Before visiting the gardens, you will need to head back to the ground floor and return your audio guide. You are not allowed to take it outside.
The gardens at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
The villa has nine, yes nine, beautiful gardens. I chose the springtime to visit because I really wanted to see the roses, and other flowers, in bloom. The best time to go if flower gardens interest you is between May and July. Since there are so many different types of plants, flowers, herbs and trees, each garden has its own special time of year so in reality, you can go at any time depending on what it is that interest you in in the realm of plant life.
Here is a list of the gardens, by name, and the times of year in which is best to see them.
Besides the large, French garden, my two other favorites were the Stone Garden and the Spanish Garden.
The French garden is lovely and spacious with a walkway on both sides and a fountain that has a short, water show to music. You can walk from the villa all the way back to the garden and up some stairs which leads to a statue. The statue is facing the villa and from this point of view you can get some really nice photos of the garden and the back of the villa.
There is not really any specific route to follow when it comes to the gardens. You simply just start walking around.
I loved the Stone Garden because of the terrific remnants of ancient statues, arches, fountains, etc. that could be found there. I also love the lush, plant life. The flowers were in bloom and the trees were overgrown giving the garden a nice, natural umbrella of shade.
The Spanish Garden was also one of my favorites. The little, fish pond in a T-shape leading to a small grotto and statue that is just under a bridge and the fish fountains all make it seem like you’ve walked into another world. I could definitely bring a book and just lounge here for the entire day! Heck, who am I kidding, I could live here!
Before you leave the Villa Ephrussi, make a stop at the tearoom. During lunchtime they offer a few meal choices and during their opening hours you can always get drinks and desserts. A bit of fair warning, it’s expensive. My husband and I opted for a dessert and water. Just those items alone was the price of an entire meal, but hey, I can at least say that I dined at the villa! Besides, the terrace dinning is lovely in the spring and the décor of the inside tearoom is just divine. Even if you go to have just a drink, it’s worth it.
Entrance fees and times:
The Villa is open every day of the year. This is good news for those who happen to be in Provence on one of the many holidays we have here. Hours of operation are different depending on the season. This is also true for the tearoom.
Hours: 10am – 6pm
July and August: 10am – 7pm
November to January: Monday –Friday 2pm – 6pm and weekends and holidays 10am – 6pm
February to October: 11:30am – 5:30pm
November to February: 11:30am – 5:30pm on weekends and holidays, only
Reduced Rate: 11€ (7 years – 17 years) Reduced rates with proof of student card. This price is also good for the unemployed as long as you have written proof.
Family Rate: Free admission for second child between the ages of 7 years – 17 years if two adult tickets and one other child ticket is purchased.
Free audio guide for the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
Before embarking on your tour make sure you get your audio guide from the desk that is located on the ground floor of the house in the interior courtyard. It is free with the purchase of your entry ticket. The audio guides come in 9 different languages and has a wealth of knowledge about the Rothschild family, the Ephrussi family and the construction of the villa.
What I loved about the audio guide, besides it being simple to use, it that you can listen at leisure in the areas that interest you and skip over those that don’t. In between touring the rooms, there are little history lessons available on the guide about the families and the villa. The background information is quite fascinating and allows you to get to “know” the people and circumstances behind the reasons of how the villa came about.
You can find the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild location map and my Google Local Guides review here.
I hope you enjoy your tour of the Villa as much as I did. As always, I would love to hear from you, so please leave me a comment below.