midday in Nice

by Sharon Santoni


Here is a little anecdote from the Cote d’Azur that may amuse  you.


Every day over the town of Nice a canon shot is fired, at midday quite precisely.  The Niçois all know that the ‘coup de canon’ means that they are about to eat their midday meal, that all is well.

But this timekeeping has an amusing source.   In the 1860’s, Sir Thomas Coventry, from England, liked to travel to Nice each year with his wife.  They had friends in town, and her pleasure was to head into the city each morning to catch up on the local gossip.

The problem was that she never got home in time for lunch, so sir Thomas, who liked to keep things ship-shape, approached the mayor of Nice, and explained that he would happy to provide a canon, if it could be fired each day from the château above the town, each day at noon.

Madame Coventry had no excuse for not being home on time!


After the Coventry family stopped coming to the Riviera, the canon fire ceased.  The result was chaos, as no two clocks in town gave the same time.  So in 1875 the mayor of Nice re-instated the tradition, and it has never stopped since!!

What’s more, it’s not an automatic machine that sets off the canon, but a retired soldier who takes pleasure in being the sole guardian of the tradition!

Voila, a little piece of useless information that you may be able to place one day and impress your friends!  We like this blog to serve a purpose!!


Lori Larsen May 30, 2014 - 9:15 am

Oh this is exciting for me to read your posts. I had the unique pleasure to be able to stay in France during the summer of 1978. I have a niece who is my age, that was employed in Paris at a music company and I was able to stay with her a total of 10 days, so I have enjoyed your talks there. Then I stayed one overnight in Lyons, and about two weeks in St Etienne. I was staying then with a college friend and the family she was an au pair for for a period of about seven months. The parents of the children were orthodontists and wanted to provide their children with the chance to have au pairs who were from other countries to teach them languages. They also allows the au pairs to invite a friend to stay the last month of their employment and I was one such friend – so I stayed with them in their penthouse in St Etienne and later on the Cote d’Azur at a villa they were renting while their own villa was being built. I did have to help with the children six days of the week with my friend, but that was not a hardship as we spent every day at the beach – staying in Cavaliere (spelling). Then each weekend (oh this was the month of July I stayed with them) for three weekends, we visited other areas – so we went to Nice, St Paul en Vence (again spelling), Cannes and Monte Carlo. Your stories are bringing back my visit which I may never get to do again in person. Thank you!

vicki archer May 30, 2014 - 10:37 am

Adorable tale, Sharon… enjoy your time in Nice with your girls… I am sure you are having a great, great time setting up their apartment… xv

Laura Newman May 30, 2014 - 11:14 am

Thank you, Sharon for this posting! I was born in France…near Moselle, Lorraine…Dad was stationed in Metz in the air force. We spent summers on the Riviera and I remember toddling on the hard stones on the beach. As an adult I returned to Nice in May 2005 with my BFF (since grade 3, 1969!), Tammy. We had so much fun walking the new and old city. We ate ice cream from Fenocchio’s ( my favorite are rose and violet!!) dined on the Cours Saleya (Cafe del Arte was our favorite) and on the beach. Drank a lot of rose wine and being the “cougars” that we are, flirted with the sexy young waiters!! I was a rebel and bathed topless on the beach, too!! We also took a day long private tour of Cannes, St. Paul de Vence, and Gourdon and a few more villages. I still have a bottle of violet syrup in the fridge and the flavor is still exquisite!! I will make a batch of violet ice cream this weekend. Thank you so much for evoking some wonderful memories of Nice!!! Warm hugs, Laura

Diane May 30, 2014 - 12:24 pm

Loved this bit of “Nice” information! Please continue sending tidbits of historial knowledge to all your Francophile friends across the ocean. MERCI BEAUCOUP.

Terri May 30, 2014 - 12:43 pm

I love this little piece of “historical” info………………. always have loved history… you know, the little things that most people have no clue about are usually the most interesting!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!!! Wonderful that a retired soldier is willing to take this on!!!

City Girl May 30, 2014 - 1:54 pm

I love this bit of history! If I ever get to Nice, I will have to remember this lovely story to share with those around me. Thank you for sharing.

Lorrie May 30, 2014 - 2:48 pm

Such an interesting tidbit from history. There’s no excuse for being late for lunch in Nice!

Colleen Taylor May 30, 2014 - 3:41 pm

That is quite interesting Sharon. I can think of several reasons & times of day when I would love to shot off a canon myself. I’m sure the neighbors would delight in that! Thank you & have a lovely weekend!

Emm May 30, 2014 - 3:46 pm

What a wonderful story, thank you. I love the sense of continuity in it.

Lynne May 30, 2014 - 5:55 pm

I know I sound like a dinosaur, but I long for the days of “low” technology!!!

Amanda Rush May 30, 2014 - 10:25 pm

Hi Sharon, what an interesting story to share. I am enjoying all of your wonderful photos of Nice on Instagram. I hope you are having a lovely time with your daughters – almost summer for you/winter for me. Best wishes Amanda

Leslie in Portland, Oregon May 30, 2014 - 11:14 pm

Thank you for the interesting anecdote…I will listen for the cannon next time I am in Nice. The last time I was there was as part of the Pan American World Airways crew for the first 747 to land at Nice airport. Thanks to a delay on the ground, we enjoyed a lovely afternoon and evening of Niçoise hospitality (and I got to climb up into the opening of a 747 engine, in full uniform, to pose for photographs). A wonderful place for good times!

Emm May 31, 2014 - 4:33 pm

PanAm will always have a spot in my heart for rescuing a bunch of stranded Americans from snowy Moscow one long-ago winter.

Lois Richwine June 2, 2014 - 2:17 pm

Wonderful story and so glad that they brought such a wonderful tradition back. Nice looks beyond paradise!


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