Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Nice, France: Place Garibaldi, Place Massena

Place Gardibaldi
In France, the large squares where people congregate are called les places, and in Nice there are several places of note (the singular, place, is pronounced like plas). Luckily, our hotel was just around the corner from Place Garibaldi, a popular hangout, where one could easily catch the tram to get to other parts of Nice. The tram service is efficient and streamlined, and the voices announcing the stops are sultry!

Place Garibaldi under the full moon, Oct. 2014.
Place Garibaldi is named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, hero of the Italian unification, who was born in Nice in 1807. In fact, Nice was part of Italy for most of its history, until  1860, when it was ceded to France as a territorial reward for French assistance in the Second Italian War of Independence. There's a large statue standing in tribute to Garibaldi in Place Garibaldi, but it seems ironic that he is so honored, since he opposed the cession.

Place Massena showing a few of the resin statues.
In Place Massena – Nice’s geographic center – there are seven resin statues that were created by Jaume Plensa, a Spanish artist. They are depicted as male figures, sitting or kneeling, as if in meditation. At first glance, they seem a bit odd, but also intriguing.The nearby buildings are attractively painted in lovely shades of red or orange ochre, all with light blue shutters.

At night, the statues light up, radiating the colors of the rainbow.
These seven figures represent the seven continents and the communication between the different communities of today’s society. The name of this creation is “conversation √† Nice”. In addition, the statues are illuminated every night, smoothly changing shades, going through the different colors of the rainbow, as if to emulate a dialog among them.

Tram moving through Place Massena
Place Massena is one of the largest public "squares" I've seen in Italy or France, and is the main square in Nice. Since the place was rebuilt in 2007 to accommodate the tramline, everything looks fresh and new. Place Massena is often used for special events and festivals, but serves as a park and meeting place for both locals and tourists on a daily basis. 

Blowing bubbles in Place Massena
Statue of Apollo in the La Fontaine du Soleil in Place Massena.
At one end of the square stands the La Fontaine du Soleil, or Fountain of the Sun, with a majestic statue of Apollo at its center. From here, it's only a two-minute walk to the Promenade des Anglais and the beach.

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