Garibaldi Square in Nice

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Garibaldi Square in Nice

Beautifully situated in the North of the old town of Nice, you will find Garibaldi Square. It is the oldest square in Nice, which dates back to the year 1773. Garibaldi Square is surrounded by beautiful old yellow buildings, where life is enjoyed in cafes and restaurants.

Garibaldi Square in Nice
The basin and the shade of the trees around the Garibaldi monument cool the air in the square. – ©

Garibaldi’ Squares History

Garibaldi Square in Nice was built in 1773 to designs by architect Antoine Spinelli.

The square is built on top of the remains of former settlements from different time periods as well as the town’s old fortifications dating back to 1380.

When the new tramway through the town was built, the remains of the old town were found, which were then excavated.

Visit the Garibaldi crypt under the square

It is possible to visit the historical excavations in the Garibaldi Crypt, located under Garibaldi Square. You have to book a ticket online and there is access for 15 people at a time. The tour is in French and lasts about 45 minutes.

The square has had several names over the years, including place Napoléon. In 1870, it received its current name, place Garibaldi after Giuseppe Garibaldi. He was a great Italian politician who was born in Nice in 1807.

The large square is shaped like a rectangle of approximately 100 x 150 meters with a monument in the center of the square dedicated to Garibaldi. The statue was made by sculptors Antoine Etex and Gustave Deloye in 1891.

statue and fountain at Garibaldi Square in Nice
The monument in the square is dedicated to Garibaldi and surrounded by a large basin. – ©

Garibaldi Square in Nice – the yellow square

The buildings on the square are ochre yellow, and when the sun shines, the color becomes even more beautiful. All the buildings surrounding the square have arcades with shops, restaurants and cafes.

When you take a closer look at the buildings, you see that in many places they are decorated with trompe-l’oeil.

Windows with trompe-l'oeil at Garibaldi Square in Nice
In this picture, only the windows and shutters themselves are reality. The decorations around the windows are trompe-l’oeil. – ©

The square is the only square in Europe that is decorated on all four warlike façade sides with trompe-l’oeil.

What is trompe-l’oeil?

Trompe-l’oeil is a technique in painting designed to trick the eye into thinking that it is NOT a painting. In many places on the Cote d’Azur, as on Garibaldi Square, you can see “decorations” that look incredibly similar to real carvings and depths, and you really have to study it carefully to see that it is an illusion and not reality.

See also these two examples of a fantastically executed trompe-l’oeil: the Matisse Museum in Nice and Villa Fragonard in Grasse.

By Mette F. Willumsen – 2023

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