About the South of France : History and Authentic Traditions
It was here on the Riviera that Europe's oldest prehistoric site was discovered: the grotto of Le Vallonnet. It was in Nice and Antibes, in 600 B.C., that the Greeks of Phocea set up their first trading posts after settling in Marseille. And it was at La Turbie in the year 6 B.C. that Emperor Augustus celebrated the pacification of the first Roman province this side of the Alps. The history of the Cote d'Azur is thus much older than its name, so successfully coined in 1887!
French - but only recently
It's not by chance that the Cote D'Azur has an Italian accent! Nice and the surrounding region only became part of France in 1860, with certain communes (Tende and La Brigue) joining even later, in 1947. The apparent homogeneity of a Provencal life-style conceals two cultures that are quite distinct, separated by a natural frontier, the River Var. On one side, the former County of Nice, administered from 1388 to 1860 by the Duchy of Savoy, on the other side, the former lands of the County of Provence, which became French as early as 1481.
Because the region became part of France only very recently, it was able to keep its various Provencal languages alive ("nissart" "Monegasque" "mentonnais" etc.), as well as charitable organizations dating back to Middle Ages (Penitents' brotherhoods) and certain local cults that still remain popular and hold pilgrimages of considerable importance, though they're hardly ever mentioned by the media (Notre-Dame de Fenestre, Notre-Dame de Laghet). Other fetes, long disassociated from religion and much more spectacular, include Nice's famous Carnival, which has been joyously celebrated here since the 13th century. Perpetuating tradition also involves handling know-how from one generation to the next: the potters of Biot and Vallauris have been renowned since the 15th century and the perfume manufacturers of Grasse have supplied the entire world with essences ever since perfumed leather became fashionable in the 16th century. Thus it is that beneath the sequins, spangles and confetti, the Cote d'Azur, France's most important tourist region, has succeeded in keeping an authentic soul. The department of the Alpes Maritimes was created in 1793, after a stormy period. NICE and its region will be a definitive part of France in 1860. It is the starting point for an unprecedented economic development: road building, introduction of railways, spectacular demographic growth and urbanization will allow the advent of a tourist economy. Nice and its region became the Cote d'Azure, so often painted and photographed. Nice is very proud of its turbulent past; it preserves its heritage and its language-the nissart-. It asserts its culinary art and celebrates the traditional feasts, such as Carnival, Battles of flowers, the Cougourdons feast, the May feast, the renewal of vows, the Vineyard feast, the Saint Peter's feast or the Saint Jean feast. The two coastline departments within the French Riviera are the Alpes Maritimes and Le Van, to the west