An agreement between Napoleon and the prime minister of Piedmont in 1859 saw Nice, Roquebrune Cap Martin & Menton join France and the creation of a united Italy. At a similar time, the French Riviera was gaining popularity amongst the rich and famous, and these coastal towns enjoyed a tourism-related economic boom. Inland, restoration of some of Provence’s finest ancient monuments began, along with excavation of Roman ruins.
The Riviera is born and nearly destroyed in the World Wars, particularly World War II, where Provence was occupied first by Italian troops in the east, and then by the German army in 1942. The naval harbours of Marseille and Toulon were heavily bombed, and internment camps were set up – the main one being at Les Milles near Aix. In 1944 the Allied forces landed on the Var coastline between St Raphael and Cavalaire sur Mer; the occupation was over two weeks later. After the war, the rebuilding began, and the need for accommodation sadly saw the construction of some of the concrete monstrosities that you see around the coastline today.
The TGV high speed train line has ensured that tourism plays a major part in the economic fortunes of Provence. It is estimated that 34 million tourists visit Provence each year, providing 12% of the regions GDP. Provence has also been the region of choice for many industries such as telecommunications, microelectronics, biotechnology, aeronautics and marine technology, multimedia, logistics and chemicals. Local produce (agriculture, wine, textiles, ceramics) also contribute to the economy.