Saint Jean Cap Ferrat
History of the site of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Known to the ancient Greeks as Anao, the site of present days Cap-Ferrat was first settled by Celto-ligurian tribes, then by the Lombards at the end of the 6th Century. Sant'Ospizio (or Saint Hospice), a hermit friar, is said to have inhabited a tower on the Eastern part of the peninsula. In the 8th Century, the Saracens occupy the site and use it as a base for pirating until the 11th Century.
By 1388, the territory of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat with the entire County of Nice is given by treaty to the Dukes of Savoy (see also History of Villefranche-sur-Mer.) Duke Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy builds a fort at Saint-Hospice in 1561 in an effort to secure the coastline from invaders. The fort is destroyed in 1706 by the Duke of Berwick when Nice is occupied by the French armies of King Louis XIV. During the 18th Century the area - officially part of the Kingdom of Sardinia - is occupied off and on by the French. It is returned to the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1814 after Napoleon's abdication.
In 1860 the County of Nice is finally ceded by treaty to France and the peninsula becomes a magnet for kings and wealthy visitors. The small fishing village of Saint-Jean develops and by 1904 is established as a self-standing commune with the rest of the peninsula, separated from nearby Villefranche.
At the onset of the 20th Century King Léopold II of Belgium owns an important estate on Cap-Ferrat and builds several residences and an artificial lake. The main residence is the stately Villa des Cèdres, which has been owned by Marnier-Lapostolle (the makers of Grand Marnier) since 1924 and is now in part a botanical garden called Les Cèdres. In 1905 Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild also chooses Cap-Ferrat to build an opulent and exquisite Tuscan style palazzo, now known as Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild museum.
Today Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat has probably some of the most expensive real estate in the world and continues to attract the rich and famous. It is truly one the crown jewels of the French Riviera.