The popular resort on the French riviera is poised on the border with Italy. It is also just 4 miles away from Monaco. Being at the crossroads of regions, you can imagine that such a picturesque spot would be coveted by all parties involved, and it was. Menton was Italian for a long while then it became part of the principality of Monaco. Eventually it was attached to the kingdom of Sardinia. It became part of France in 1861 at the same time as Nice and has been called the “Pearl of France” ever since. A sweet name for a town which is renowned for a bitter fruit, lemon. Its lemon rather, as it is produced locally and heavily. But it is also an excuse to revel at this time of the year!
The origins of the lemon celebrations
The feast of the lemon in Menton goes back to 1934, its first official celebration. Lemon and Menton have a long history together as the place has always been a hot spot for its production. Actually, this is also one of the reasons why Menton left Monaco in the 19th century. The prince at the time was taxing heavily the export of the fruit. In terms of celebrations, the idea goes back to the end of the 18th century when local hotels decided to decorate their gardens for their guests. Most of them were British actually and the decoration that was colourful and in abundance of course was lemon. Later the fruits were used for decoration onto a carnival with street performance called “corso” – an Italian word which means parade.
The figures for the lemon celebrations
Of course, the objective was primarily economic, with a view to boost tourism during the winter season. Menton is a seaside resort after all: a beautiful town with a sea-front, an old harbour even a basilica. It also coincides with the waves of carnivals that announce the arrival of the spring around the world. Believe it or not, but the population of Menton doubles at the peak of the celebrations: 30,000 visitors on Sunday! But in total more than 200,000 tourists spend time in Menton. You can tell they have reached their objective. Nowadays, around 300 people are involved in the preparation of the event and work with 145 tons of lemons and oranges. They have a dedicated website available in English as well as dedicated app, the yellow fruit is a successful business in Menton! No wonder they make so much efforts for lemon celebrations!