It is the last French town before the Italian border and is reported to be the warmest spot on the south coast of France and able to cultivate lemon trees, which blossom all the year round. Menton has always been a magnet for the rich and famous as indeed does it’s near neighbour the principality of Monaco
. For better mooring facilities the longer coastline of Menton has several added advantages. It is well protected by a craggy headland and is known for its safe anchorage either in the outer harbour or the inner Old Harbour. On-shore yachting facilities are also a plus.
Historically Menton has museums which give plenty of evidence that early settlements in the area date back to Palaeolithic times but it was an expanding Roman empire that built the essential roads linking Vintemille to Nice
and facilitated good trading posts along the Côte d’Azur. An Italian influence was evident early in the 12th Century when the town belonged to the Genoese. This lasted until the 13th Century. In 1346 ownership changed to the Grimaldi family of Monaco who retained this area until the 19th Century when Menton separated from the principality and declared itself a "free city" under Sardinian protection. In 1860 the town elected to become part of France and by 1929 had become Europe’s premier producer of lemons.
In celebration of this prestige source of foreign trade the town held a Lemon Exhibition in the gardens of the Hotel Riviera. The following year the festival extended into the streets of the Old City and was called the "Fête du Citron." This is now an annual affair always held in mid-February. Evening parades are a riot of colour and a "must-see" event for those mooring in the harbour. A grand firework display in the Bay of Bastion concludes the final day, which next year falls on the 25th February. The organisers do make a charge for seated accommodation, hence expect large crowds that can only be avoided by viewing the whole affair from the harbour.
The Old City of Menton is worth exploring and for those coming ashore in the Old Harbour, a short walk up the stairway known as "les rampes de St-Michel" leads to the centre of the old city and to the beautiful Basilica of St-Michel. This is a fine example of an Italianesque baroque church built in 1640-53. Adjoining it is the bell-tower built somewhat later in 1701-2. Nearby is the "Palais Carnolès" which is a 17th Century fortress typical of that era, with imposing yellow turrets. In the square in front of this Renaissance masterpiece the town holds its Music Festival that is something that should not be missed if touring in August. The music festival is mostly classical music with well-known philharmonic orchestras and distinguished soloists from all over Europe.
Of course, the gardens of Menton have in recent years been more open to the public and for the botanical enthusiast there are seven targeted for careful exploration. There are guided tours of two gardens on the outskirts of Menton. Both were designed by English botanists. The first, by Lawrence Johnson, is called "La Serre de la Madone" and the other in Avenue St-Jacques was designed by Maybud Campbell and is called the "Jardin Exotique Val Rahmed." It is always worth checking which days these very special gardens are open for guided tours. The other gardens in Menton are set amongst pine and olive trees and all have great Franco-Italian sub-tropical plants to admire.
For those preparing to book into an hotel and extend their stay in Menton, there are several museums. The nearest, built as part of the Old Port, is called the "Jean Cocteau Museum and Wedding Room." Inside the museum is an exhibition of the painter’s skills for drawings and watercolours as well as tapestries and ceramics. Jean Cocteau certainly loved Menton.