Fabulous 600+m2 historic villa built in 1870, perched on the edge of the Plateau de Mont Boron with commanding views of the Port de Nice, the Baie des Anges, and across the city to the mountains beyond, with approved plans to create a contemporarily restored masterpiece
This monument historique (listed building), with its wonderful towers, frescoes and terraces with breath-taking views of the sea and city of Nice, holds a firm place in the patrimoine (cultural heritage) of the city. Villa Beau Site, a legendary property with a colourful history and rich heritage, is now for sale complete with planning consent from the City of Nice and the Architects de Batiments de France to build what will surely be one of the most exciting, individual and significant properties on the French Riviera (see ‘The Future’ – below).
Villa Beau Site – past, present and future
Villa Beau Site – the past (1870-2020)
Originally constructed in 1870, the property was given the name Villa Beau Site by the wealthy adventurer and trader Achille Larrey, who purchased the property in 1882, at the dawn of what was to become Nice’s first golden era. As Nice welcomed Queen Victoria of England and her entourage for the winter months, the City suddenly became the destination of choice for the rich and royal, and Beau Site was developed and modified by the owner to demonstrate his new-found status and wealth. As was often the case at the time, Larrey took his influence from the magnificent villas springing up along the Riviera coastline, using celebrated local architect Sebastien Marcel Biasini to turn his ambitious dreams into reality. Larrey added Corinthian columns and redesigned the tower, adding archways and terraces, with strong neoclassical references. Achille Larrey’s widow continued with his dream after his death, and around 1910 acquired an extra parcel of land to the north side of the property, which allowed her to construct two additional ‘villas’ – one for staff and one for guests, completing the ensemble we still see today.
In the 1920s the villa was purchased by another Englishman – a diamond merchant about whom little is known – who kept the property until the outbreak of war in 1940 when he would have been forced, along with most of his countrymen, to flee the oncoming German invasion. In 1948 Villa Beau Site was sold to a lady whose character, life and story was a perfect match for such an extraordinary house. Gisele Tissier would live in Villa Beau Site until her death in 1988 making an indelible mark on this fascinating house.
Widow, eccentric, musician, collector, couturier and bohemian, Gisele breathed new life into the grey post-war years bringing her high-class friends, fellow musicians and wealthy clients down to the sunny Riviera to restart life again. A new golden era had begun for Nice, and for Villa Beau Site.
It is said that when Gisele Tissier arrived in Nice for the first time – bringing with her, amongst many things, a collection of 18 harps and 3 grand pianos – ten dedicated train carriages were reserved to carry her luggage. Not content with a career as a distinguished harpist, Gisele opened a fashion boutique in Paris, attracting some of the capital’s most elegant and wealthy clients, and quickly rising to the top of her newly chosen calling. Beau Site’s fortunes rose again as the French Riviera became once again the ‘go to’ destination for the world’s privileged few – the newly crowned ‘Jetset’. In the 1950s and early 60s legends such as Grace Kelly, the Aga Khan, Aristotle Onassis, and even Winston Churchill frequented the Casinos and nightspots of the Cote d’Azur as Gisele and her well-healed friends created their own particular paradise, perched on the hill overlooking the elegant Port of Nice. As time went on life at Beau Site turned more bohemian, and – as with all things – the second golden era came to an end.
Whilst the Riviera went through yet another transformation, Gisele Tissier’s fortunes began to fade. In her old age the money all but ran out, the property began to degrade, and the villa began a long fall into disrepair. However, Gisele had one final treat in store for us – something that connects her musical roots to a legacy that has translated perfectly for the modern age. A year before her death, permission was given for English rock band The Cure to record a video for their latest single ‘Catch’. Always a left-field band, the Cure’s journey took them from dismal Crawley in south east England, around the world and back, building a massive following in France. The Cure video – available on Youtube – is a lovely record of Villa Beau Site in the last year of Gisele Tissier’s life – the faded opulence, the damaged splendour – but still, as always, the magic is very much there.
Beau Site was left to the Ville de Nice by Giselle, and has been designated a monument historique or national monument. The spirit of Beau Site lives on, those voices, the music, may have faded with time, but nothing can take away the feeling, or the history. It is time for a new golden age.
Villa Beau Site – the present (2021)
The villa has been empty for many years – since the property passed into the ownership of the Institut de France, who struggled to work out exactly what they should do with this remarkable legacy. Eventually the property was sold to the current owners – an entrepreneurial family with a taste for beautiful historic properties. The family have spent considerable time, effort and funds creating a project in conjunction with the Mairie de Nice (city hall) and the Architects de Batiments de France (the body responsible for historic monuments) which has now been approved within the exacting requirements for a property of this historical significance (more details in ‘The Future’ below). The plans now having been completed, approved and costed, the project is ready to be begun by the new owner. The usual time limit for commencement of works from approval does not apply in the case of a historic monument.
The property may have fallen into a level of disrepair, but it is weather proof. Enough of the beautiful original features still exist to infuse the visitor with a sense of history, the frescoes and vaulted windows, the colonnades and balustrading, the stunning murals and towers. And, of course, there is the simply breathtaking view. Perched in a commanding position above the Port de Nice, the view from the rooms and terraces is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful views on the French Riviera – the yachts in the port surrounded by traditional Niçois architecture, the war memorial and the tree covered promontory of the old Chateau de Nice site, across to the sweeping arc of the Bay of Angels and of course the glistening azur blue of the Mediterranean, stretching away to the horizon, fringed by the Estoril mountains – and to the rear of the city, the snow-capped tips of the foothills of the Alps.
The property is technically made up of four separate ‘villas’, although they are all effectively interconnected – Villa Beau Site, L’Isba, Villa Les Rochers and Villa Hyacinthe – and is laid out over several different levels, occupying the parcel of land from the Boulevard de Mont Boron all the way down to the legendary Basse Corniche, where the closest neighbour is the magnificent villa once owned by Sean Connery. There are so many rooms that it is hard to put a useful number on it, but we can say in excess of 20.
Villa Beau Site – the future (2021 – )
Plans have been drawn up, discussed, negotiated, costed and finally approved by both the Mairie of Nice (with the personal oversight of the Maire himself) and the Architects de Batiments de France, over a period of years. Having reached full approval stage, the project simply has to be started by the new owner. The plans for the new project represent a wonderful evolution of the villa from the era of Gisele Tissier to the present day and on, creating a contemporary property of the highest attainable standard, whilst retaining the essence of this one-off masterpiece. The approval includes both indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, and garaging for four cars, and restoration of both the staff and guest villas, as well as the main house, the total space being in excess of 600m2. These plans are available for inspection upon request. The final, finished property will surely be one of the most exceptional private dwellings on the Cote d’Azur.
- Sea view