Monaco: Travel through Art, Oysters and History on the French Riviera



Monaco, the smallest sovereign state in the world after the Vatican is famous throughout the world for the Monte Carlo, center of social life known for luxury, casinos, Formula One Grand Prix and the luxury glitz and is certainly a gem not to be missed if you visit the French Riviera.

Monaco, a territory located in the French region of Côte d'Azur is easily accessible by train from Nice or even from Menton and one day may be well enough to visit it. Although it may be only a small principality, Monaco has a lot to offer and not everything is so close as it seems.

A great solution for me is to take the tourist bus. With a day ticket of about € 20 you can get on and off wherever you want, and the tour covers all the interesting areas to see excluding the Jardin Exotique. The bus, among other things, offers an audio guide in several languages explaining very interesting facts about the history of Monaco.

For example, in the past Monaco was larger and also included the towns of Menton and Roquebrune and a poor country, which traded mainly in in lemons. In 1848, however, the two cities in a referendum declared themselves independent, and then got attached to France, and it is from this moment that the Prince of Monaco decided to stake everything on casinos, a move necessary to survive.

Monte Carlo left us quite indifferent between a Ferrari that zips past but nothing more. Monte Carlo is all about luxury and as such does not have anything. People who live here have the curious feature of being arrogant, because they are conscious of their membership in a privileged place.

If you want to travel beyond and know the true face of Monaco, take an uphill walk or an elevator to Monaco-Ville, the old city. Its also known as La Roche (the Rock), because of its location on a promontory overlooking the sea.

Forget traveling in a car, because it's a compact city to be explored on foot. I left the car on the steep road leading to the promenade. I advanced through narrow streets and alleys, full of charming shops, small but quaint, bars and restaurants.

After passing fourteenth century walls and a statue dedicated to Prince Rainier, after a steep climb we arrive at the Princely Palace of Prince Rainier, also called Palais Princier and Grimaldi Palace, open to the public from June to October. It is located on a beautiful square and every day at 11:55 you can watch the changing of the guard. The round courtyard is paved with millions of colored pebbles forming geometric designs like a big puzzle.

The Prince's Palace is the home of the Grimaldi family from the thirteenth century. Of Genoese origin, the Grimaldi left the maritime republic because of the struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines, and became lords of Monaco with a cunning ruse to disguise the soldiers by pretending to be monks and let them inside the walls. The palace was built in 1215 and was intended to defend.

From the square it is very easy to see the small streets that lead to the historic center of Monaco with houses in Provencal style and boulangeries that expose baguette up to the ceiling. The street names are written in both French and in Monégasque, an ancient dialect of Ligurian origins, similar to the dialect of Italian and optionally still taught in the schools of Monaco.

Getting lost among the restaurants with outdoor seating and small souvenir shops for those looking for a travel memory will be very easy. In the historical center is also the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, built in 1875 and completely restored in 1988, known to most people because it houses the tomb of the beloved Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III, who died in 2005.

Going down below the cathedral there are open views of the French Riviera and the green spaces of Monaco. Among the various green oasis we find the Jardins de Saint-Martin Exotic Garden, which houses over 7,000 species of succulents and cacti and is ideal for a break in the cool, under the trees with a splendid view of the coast. Moreover, these gardens, in contrast to the Exotique, has open access. There is also the Oceanographic Museum, which for many is considered a must-see.

You can end your visit to Monaco by going back down the steps to the port area called Condamine, walking among yachts and small boats and maybe get to the famous Monte Carlo Casino, a beautiful building built in 1863 and overlooking the Mediterranean, which must surely be the place that you must visit. It has rich golden decorations and marble atrium, designed by the legendary architect Charles Garnier.

Lovers of boats cannot miss the fantastic yacht harbor, an interesting area for those with children, because the boardwalk is full of games. Do not miss the track where you can see the Monaco Grand Prix, born in 1929, which is one of the most prestigious races in the racing machines.

And if you love food and the excellence you cannot fail to take note of farm oysters from one of the most intact Mediterranean sites. Oysters can be purchased directly and taste on the spot or at the Condamine Market that now also opens in the evening, and after 6 pm you can also buy a drink for dinner.

Home to the rich and famous, Monte Carlo exudes elegance in every stone of its palaces and is an explosive mix of chic city life and beautiful sunny beaches.

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