Standing by the sea, trying to find that elusive perfect stone for skipping, the medieval village of Èze looms high above. A brief climb to the Basse Corniche (the Riviera’s lowest coastal road) reveals the start of the trail so beloved by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche that they named it after him. Nietzsche lived in the commune in the 1880s and wrote the third part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra while walking this goat path from the top to the sea daily. Well obviously not while walking, but you get the idea.
The trail that now carries his name is well marked and can be walked up and down. We are walking up, not difficult by alpine standards but on a summer’s day probably quite taxing if only by dodging the people coming down. Perhaps Nietzsche came up with the Übermensch thanks to all this strenuous activity. We certainly thought that if everything was infinitely recurring then this wouldn’t be a bad place to do it.
The commune of Èze extends from the Mediterranean Sea at Èze-sur-Mer to the hilltop medieval village, Èze-Village. In the middle is Saint-Laurent-d'Èze which is actually around the corner from the other villages and the not on the trail.
You are treading your path of greatness: no one shall steal after you here Friedrich Nietzsche
Some of the trail remains as it did in Nietzsche's day but both ends are now developed with everything from scruffy houses to luxury villas. Walking up from the sea the trail is a concrete path negotiating a walled villa and a rundown bungalow. The trail abruptly turns to rock and dirt and climbs fairly steeply away from the coast. Some parts are maintained, others not so much. Views from the lower half are impressive through stubby brush and trees, the coastline of the Riviera expanding below you as you climb.
As you reach the halfway point the trail turns inward and tree coverage reduces the view. The top section is mostly under tree cover with a large number of steps having been built into the cliff. Some to accommodate the two-holiday homes that have been built in this unusual spot. Reading their reviews on Airbnb illustrates the amount of steps visitors had to negotiate from the top, many discovering those wheeled bags are in fact, not that clever. Must be fun arriving after dark.
It’s probably more impressive to walk down and into the view, stopping at the beach to contemplate as Nietzsche did. Èze-Village doesn’t reveal itself from the trail and the views of the medieval outpost are better from the Moyenne Corniche, the Riviera’s second scenic road.
The trail takes around 1 hour and 10 minutes to climb its 700m (2300ft) of altitude with stops. You can get a bus that takes you to either end and the train stops at the bottom on its way along the coast. Parking is an issue in the summer months as are the crowds and heat. It’s best hiked out of season early or late in the day.