Grasse was detached from the Var department in 1860 to form the Alpes-Maritimes department with the county of Nice of which it is the sub-prefecture. It is on the limestone hill of Le Puy that the medieval village was built, which remains the historical heart. To the north of Cannes, this Provençal city clinging to the hillside is also considered to be the world capital of perfume. Zoom in on a charming Côte d'Azur escapade.
At the origins of an industry...
Grasse has been famous since the Middle Ages for its green leathers: they were imported in their raw state and the tanners prepared them with a new technique that gave them their colour. From the middle of the 13th century, the guilds of cloth makers and tanners were organized. In need of water, they are installed on the square in Les Aires. In the 16th century, some began to perfume luxury gloves, following a trend from Spain and Italy. Catherine de Médicis is credited with having introduced her to France and Louis XIII with having created in 1614 the title of master perfumery glovemaker at the French court. In the 17th century, perfumed leathers took off considerably. We perfume belts, vests, shoes... Then fashion passes and changes occur (in 1724, the perfumers' gloves separate from the tanners' guild). Grasse then specialized in perfumery. The discovery of the cold enfleurage process, which makes it possible to extract the perfumed principle from the most delicate flowers, transformed the perfumery into an industrial one. The centre's workshops, which were too narrow, were moved to larger premises and many moved to former monasteries confiscated from the clergy during the Revolution. Perfumers buy huge campaigns to plant and open field cultivation is made possible by the irrigation of the land. They obtain fragrant essences of exceptional quality thanks to the climate: pink, jasmine, daffodil, carnation, tuberose, orange blossom, violet... The 1850s marked the conquest of markets and the development of aromatic cultures in the region. In 1894, the Grassois Léon Chiris acquired the first patents on volatile solvents. The perfume industry is on the move with the craze for creams, soaps and perfumed waters with rare scents claimed by all the courts in Europe: lavender, myrtle, jasmine, rose, carnation, mimosa, tuberose, violet... From the end of the 18th century, Grasse experienced an extraordinary development of perfumery which still makes it shine in the whole world today
Chanel No. 5 and the Riviera
From Marilyn - who wore only a few drops at night (and nothing else!) - to the most beautiful women in the world who made this fragrance a real tool of seduction, Chanel No. 5 has become one of the most popular perfumes in the world. But did you know that its creation is closely linked to the French Riviera? In 1921, Ernest Beaux (ex-perfumer of the tsar exiled in Cannes-La Bocca since the October Revolution) made ten prototypes at the request of Coco Chanel, whom he had met a year earlier through Grand Duke Dimitri, which he numbered from 1 to 5 and from 20 to 24: the famous seamstress had a crush on number 5, giving rise to a legend. Sweet and fruity, this fragrance is nourished by the most beautiful flowers of Grasse: jasmine and centifolia rose. If you are passionate about history, do not hesitate to visit the International Perfume Museum, which displays the various bottles of this perfume, the most glamorous in the world.
The Perfumery Museum is reinventing itself!
If you can visit the Museum of Art and History of Provence or visit the medieval houses, it is to the perfumery industry that you will dedicate your visits. In 2018, the International Museum of Perfumery celebrated the 10th anniversary of its renovation and extension, which was a great opportunity for all those who did not yet know it to visit it, or for others to rediscover it from a different perspective! Perhaps you have taken advantage of temporary exhibitions, conferences, workshops or various meetings with creative professionals in perfumery? For those who missed the opportunity, it's only a matter of time. In 2019, the museum underwent a new look once again to the delight of its visitors, who have been returning to the site since this summer.
Fragonard, the historic factory
Located in the heart of the old city, the historic perfume factory is one of the oldest in the city. It dates back to 1782! But it was only in 1926 that it took its current name, in homage to the famous painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, son of a perfumer from Grasse. The guided tour allows you to discover the manufacturing processes and then admire the most beautiful private collection of objects retracing the history of perfume, from ancient times to the present day. In the shop, the products are sold at factory prices: perfumes, eaux de toilette, soaps, bath salts, cosmetics, room diffusers, candles...
The Jasmine Festival, a festival of perfumery
A cultural event focused on perfumery, this summer event pays tribute to this rare flower historically associated with the city's economy. A Provençal tradition celebrated every first weekend in August, it was born in 1946. Two years later, the Jasmine Festival was introduced in its current form: parades of sumptuously decorated floats and flowering corsets to the rhythm of fife and tambourines, flower battles, walks in the historic centre, fireworks displays... A unique opportunity for the public to be sprayed with jasmine water by the fire brigade! To be noted for next summer
When? When? Even if you visit Grasse a lot in the summer season, this destination is also very popular in the off-season. We like spring and autumn for the mild climate
Getting there. Grasse is located north of Cannes, in the hills. Direction the station of Cannes therefore, or the airport of Nice.
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