(Or how our trip to the French Riviera took us to Greece)
What would you do, if money were no object, with a pristine chunk of land in the Cote d’Azur surrounded on three sides by the glistening sea (a peninsula, as they call it)? Build a villa on it? I think we can all agree on that, can’t we? A quiet oasis from which you can wake up in the morning and gaze out onto a scenery of lush greenery and endless blue. Yes, please! But what kind of villa would it be?
The lucky man of means who had to make that very choice was the French archaeologist Théodore Reinach (1860-1928), a man of a very wealthy French-Jewish family who clearly suffered from a slight case of professional bias. He was so much fascinated by the Greek culture that he planted, with the help of his friend and architect Emmanuel Pontremoli (also a huge archaeology buff), a lavish Greek villa in Beaulieu-sur-Mer (TripAdvisor). The villa was inspired by noble houses built in the 2nd century B.C. on the Island of Delos, an archaeological paradise that he had visited in the past. That’s not to say that archaeology was the sole interest of Mr. Reinach. He was an incredibly gifted man, one of those people that seem to excel at everything they try. After studying both law and literature, he developed careers not only as an archaeologist, but also as a politician, numismatist, lawyer, mathematician, historian, musicologist, professor, papyrologist, epigraphist and philologist (thank you for that, Wikipedia). He was the ultimate embodiment of the archetypical Greek ideal of competence at all sorts of disciplines: a polymath, which is, uncoincidentally, a Greek word.
So what happens when the most Greek person among the French builds a villa? It becomes a mansion that breathes the atmosphere of ancient Greek luxury, inside out. The detail is exquisite. Gorgeous mosaic floors, delicate frescoes, exact replicas of furniture and art found on images on Ancient Greek pottery and wall illustrations (including a few 3-legged tables), Doric and Corinthian columns of Carrara marble, a fountain in a peristyle, and lemon wood everywhere. It was the realization of a dream for a man who was so much of a Graecophile that he allegedly dressed as a Greek nobleman while residing in the villa. A dream that gave us the unique chance to let ourselves be transported to Ancient Greece, and that in the middle of the French Riviera. Not bad.
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