The Peninsula of Billionaires
Last week I had the very good fortune of visiting the illusive and illustrious Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the “Peninsula of Billionaires,” just a 20-minute drive from Nice. I say “illusive” because I learned recently that the municipality which is occupied by about 500 luxurious villas and about 1600 permanent residents, is a kind of “sham.” Although the peninsula is drowned under flowers, palm trees, Aleppo pines, and olive trees, they are not native to the peninsula. The flora which makes this home of the rich and famous so lush and lovely was imported by its wealthy residents who built the villas and landscaped. It was once just covered in wild grass. Can you imagine it? Like much of our beautiful surroundings, it’s amazing when you consider that the peninsula is, in effect, man-made except for its shape and the magnificent views of it from a distance.
I took a short walk along the water’s edge from the Port de Saint-Jean and down the winding lanes to what is now known as “Place David Niven.” A hidden highlight for tourists is here, David Niven’s home, “La Fleur du Cap.” Originally, the mansion was named “Lo Scoglietto” (The Little Rock) and was built in 1880 by the son of an arms dealer. Niven and his second wife, Hjördis Genberg, Sweden’s first supermodel, were more comfortable in this house than his others. He boasted that he’d turn down movie roles just to spend his summers there. Even though the house has had a host of important occupants—the Duchess of Marlborough and Leopold III (King of the Belgians)—Niven’s name is what stuck. Charlie Chaplin also stayed there, but only for a week. The house is in perfect condition now, as it was refurbished recently at a cost of 10 million euros. It showed. (You can learn more about it here.)
Place David Niven & La Fleur du Cap
“At the beginning of the 20th century, King Léopold II of Belgium owned an estate on Cap Ferrat and built several houses and an artificial lake. The main residence is the Villa des Cèdres, which has been owned by Marnier-Lapostolle (the founder of Grand Marnier) since 1924 and is now in part a botanical garden called the Jardin Botanique Les Cèdres.” (Wikipedia.org) Ukraine’s richest man, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, was the buyer of the historic villa that sits on 35 acres of gardens. In 2017, the mansion was on the market for $410 million, making it the most expensive home for sale in the world at the time.
Among the famous villas, there is also the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, donated to the Institut de France in 1934. Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild chose Cap-Ferrat to build her Tuscan-style palazzo in 1905 in this very scenic location.
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
Today Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat has some of the most expensive real estate in the world and continues to attract the rich and the famous. Current residents include theatrical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. But the peninsula can boast of such luminaries as Rainier III, Somerset Maugham, Jean Cocteau, Lady Kenmare, and Roderick Cameron, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Hubert de Givenchy, Rachel Lambert Mellon, Mary Wells Lawrence, Isadora Duncan, Winston Churchill, French prime ministers Maurice Rouvier and Raymond Barre. Scoring a home here puts you on the same level as such world-renown characters.
Hope you have money to burn. Apartments in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat can currently go for as much as 16,000€ a square meter and homes as much as 23,000€ per square meter, rivaling Paris’ most expensive districts. Villas start at about €2 million and go up in price to about €23 million. Apartments are a much better bargain, starting at about 250,000€, but you can spend as much as €5 million for an apartment overlooking the port.
Port de Saint-Jean
But, what’s life like on the peninsula? Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is a haven for millionaires and billionaires and likely always will be. This is a spot to be secluded and “not seen”—where the rich and famous can hide away and dream their time away in total luxury. It’s clearly not for everyone, and likely never for me…but I can dream, too!
Adrian Leeds Group
(dining in Port de Saint-Jean)
P.S. Hankering to get to France? Maybe you can and don’t realize it. Persons who have their main residence in France or in the European Union or an assimilated country thereof, holders of a valid French or European residence permit or long-stay visa, and their spouses and children are eligible to enter France. There are two official French government entry docs, to be filled out by the traveler. One in English, one in French.
Here are both the English and French versions.
P.P.S. August 13th I’ll be on vacation in Corsica, so this is just one of two days a year there will be no French Property Insider! But, no worries, I’ll return with information about what it’s like to vacation or live on the magnificent French island.