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As you drive into Villefranche-sur-Mer, you will notice the beautiful hills rising from the coast towards the inland. Almost the entire length of these hills are covered with luxury houses and villas overlooking the sea. You must think how wonderful it must be to live in one of these villas.
The town of Villefranche-sur-Mer is home to a large number of villas. Probably the most luxurious of them is called Villa La Leopolda. It is situated on a hill on the eastern side of the bay at a place called Col de Caire. There are spectacular panoramic views across the bay and out to the open sea. It is surrounded by an eight-hectare park with more than 1,200 trees (olive trees, orange trees, lemon trees, cypress trees, plum trees…). More than fifty gardeners are employed to maintain the park.
The villa was built in 1902 by King Leopold II of Belgium. It was he who gave the villa its name, Leopolda. In 1915 it was converted into a hospital, due to World War I. In 1919, Thérèse Vitali, Countess of Beauchamp, acquired the villa. Since then, Leopolda has changed owners five times.
In 2008, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov wanted to buy the building. He even put down a deposit of 39 million euros. But he eventually backed out of the purchase due to the economic crisis. However, he never got the deposit back. In 2010, the Nice Tribunal de Grande Instance awarded the deposit (10% of the original price) to the current owner, Lily Safra, who decided to donate the money to charity. Thanks to this lawsuit, the public thus learned the original price of the villa, 390 million euros back in 2008!
So, if you were thinking of buying this magnificent building, get ready to spend a lot of money! The price nowadays could easily be double what it was in 2008.
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