Saint-Tropez is located on the French Riviera. It was a military stronghold and an unassuming fishing village until the beginning of the 20th century. It was the first town on this coast to be liberated during World War II. After the war, it became an internationally known seaside resort, renowned principally because of the influx of artists of the French New Wave in cinema and the Yé-yé movement in music. It later became a resort for the European and American jet set and a goal for tourists in search of a little Provençal authenticity and an occasional celebrity sighting.
The inhabitants of Saint-Tropez are called Tropéziens, and the town is familiarly called St-Trop.
In 599 B.C., the Phocaeans founded Massilia (present-day Marseille) and established other coastal mooring sites in the area. In 31 B.C., the Romans invaded the region. Their citizens built many opulent villas in the area, including one known as the "Villa des Platanes" (Villa of the Plane Trees). The first name given to the village which became Saint-Tropez was Heraclea-Caccaliera, and the mouth of its gulf was named the Issambres.
The town owes its current name to the early, semi-legendary martyr Saint Torpes. The legend tells of his decapitation at Pisa during Nero's reign, with his body placed in a rotten boat along with a rooster and a dog. The body landed at the present-day location of the town.
Toward the end of the ninth century, long after the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, pirates and privateers began a hundred years of attacks and sackings. In the tenth century, the village of La Garde-Freinet was founded 15 km (9 mi) to the North of Saint-Tropez. From 890 to 972, Saint-Tropez and its surroundings became an Arab Muslim colony dominated by the nearby Saracenic settlement of Fraxinet.; in 940, Saint-Tropez was controlled by Nasr ibn Ahmad. From 961 to 963, Audibert, son of Berenger, the pretender to the throne of Lombardy who was pursued by Otto I, hid at Saint-Tropez. In 972, the Muslims of Saint-Tropez held the abbot of Cluny, Maïeul, for ransom.
In 976, William I, Count of Provence, lord of Grimaud, began attacking the Muslims, and in 980 he built a tower where the Suffren tower now stands. In 1079 and 1218, Papal bulls mentioned the existence of a manor at Saint-Tropez.
From 1436, Count René I (the "good King René") tried to repopulate the Provence. He created the Barony of Grimaud and appealled to the Genoan Raphael de Garezzio, a wealthy gentleman who sent a fleet of caravels carrying sixty Genoese families to the area. In return, Count René promised to exempt the citizens from taxation. On February 14, 1470, Jean de Cossa, Baron of Grimaud and Grand Seneschal of Provence, agreed that the Genoan could build city walls and two large towers which still stand: one tower is at the end of the Grand Môle; the other, at the entrance to the Ponche.
The city became a small republic with its own fleet and army and administered by two consuls and twelve elected councillors. In 1558, the Captain of City (then, Honorat Coste) was empowered to protect the city. The Captain led a militia and mercenaries who successfully resisted attacks by the Turks and Spanish, succored Fréjus and Antibes, and helped the Archbishop of Bordeaux to regain control of the Lérins Islands.
In 1577, the daughter of the Marquis Lord of Castellane, Genevieve de Castilla, married Jean-Baptiste de Suffren, Marquis de Saint-Cannet, Baron de La Môle, and advisor to the Parliament of Provence. The lordship of Saint-Tropez became the prerogative of the De Suffren family. One of the most notable members of this family was the later vice-admiral Pierre André de Suffren de Saint Tropez (1729–1788), veteran of the War of the Austrian Succession, the Seven Years' War, and the American Revolutionary War.
In September 1615, Saint-Tropez was visited by a delegation led by the Japanese samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga who were on their way to Rome but obliged by weather to stop in Saint-Tropez. This may have been the first contact between the French and the Japanese.
The local noblemen were responsible for raising an army which repulsed a fleet of Spanish galleons on June 15, 1637; les Bravades des Espagnols, a local religious and military celebration, commemorates this victory of the Tropezian militia. Count René's promise in 1436 to not tax the citizens of Saint-Tropez was honored until 1672, when Louis XIV abrogated it as he imposed French control.
During the 1920s, Saint-Tropez attracted famous figures from the world of fashion like Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli. During World War II, the landing on August 15, 1944 began the Allied invasion of southern France, Operation Dragoon. In the 1950s, Saint-Tropez became internationally renowned as the setting for such films as And God Created Woman, which starred French actress Brigitte Bardot.
In May 1965, an Aérospatiale Super Frelon pre-production aircraft crashed in the gulf, killing its pilot.
On March 4, 1970, the French submarine Eurydice, whose home port was Saint-Tropez, disappeared in the Mediterranean with 57 crew aboard, after a mysterious explosion.
The English rock band Pink Floyd wrote a song named "San Tropez" after the town. Saint-Tropez was also mentioned in David Gates's 1978 hit "Took the Last Train", and in Aerosmith's "Permanent Vacation". Rappers including Diddy, Jay-Z and 50 Cent refer to the city in some of their songs as a favorite vacation destination, usually reached by yacht. DJ Antoine wrote a song called "Welcome to St. Tropez", which talks about people going there and spending all the money they have.
Ad usque fidelis, Latin for "faithful to the end". After the dark age of plundering the French Riviera, Raphaël de Garesio landed in Saint-Tropez on February 14, 1470, with 22 men, simple peasants or sailors who had left the overcrowded Italian Riviera. They rebuilt and repopulated the area, and in exchange were granted by a representative of the "good king", Jean de Cossa, Baron of Grimaud and Seneschal of Provence, various privileges, including some previously reserved exclusively for lords, such as exemptions from taxes status and the right to bear arms. Their motto was Ad usque fidelis, and they kept their promise indeed. About ten years later, a great wall with towers stood watch to protect the new houses from sea and land attack; some sixty families formed the new community. On July 19, 1479, the new Home Act was signed, "the rebirth charter of Saint-Tropez".
Saint-Tropez has a hot-summer mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot summers, although daytime temperatures are somewhat moderated by its coastal position.
The main economic resource of Saint-Tropez is tourism. The city is well known for the Hôtel Byblos and for Les Caves du Roy, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, whose inauguration with Brigitte Bardot and Gunter Sachs in 1967 was an international event.
Tropezian beaches are located along the coast in the Baie de Pampelonne, which lies south of Saint-Tropez and east of Ramatuelle. Pampelonne offers a collection of beaches along its five-kilometre shore. Each beach is around thirty metres wide with its own beach hut and private or public tanning area.
Many of the beaches offer windsurfing, sailing and canoeing equipment for rent, while others offer motorized water sports, such as power boats, jet bikes, water skiing and scuba diving. Some of the private beaches are naturist beaches.
In June, 1964, Austrian-American fashion designer Rudi Gernreich introduced a topless swimsuit called the monokini that generated a great deal of controversy in the United States and internationally. During Gernrich's youth, some Austrians advocated nude exercising, which gave him this fashion idea. The Vatican denounced the swimsuit, and L'Osservatore Romano said the "industrial-erotic adventure" of the topless bathing suit "negates moral sense." In Italy and Spain the church warned against the topless fashion. At Saint-Tropez, the mayor ordered police to ban toplessness and to watch over the beach via helicopter.
During the 1960s, the monokini influenced the sexual revolution by emphasizing a woman's personal freedom of dress, even if her attire was provocative and exposed more skin than had been the norm during the more conservative 1950s. Quickly renamed a "topless swimsuit", the design was never successful in the United States, although the issue of allowing both genders equal exposure above the waist has been raised as a feminist issue from time to time. In Saint Tropez, Tahiti beach, which had been popularised in the film And God Created Woman featuring Brigitte Bardot, emerged as a clothing-optional destination. The "clothing fights" between the gendarmerie and nudists become the main topic of a famous French comedy film series Le gendarme de Saint-Tropez (The Troops of St. Tropez) featuring Louis de Funès, but in the end the nudist side prevailed. Topless sunbathing is now the norm for both men and women from Pampelonne beaches to yachts in the centre of Saint-Tropez port. The Tahiti beach is now clothing optional, but nudists often head to private nudist beaches, like that in Cap d'Agde.
The port was widely used during the 18th century; in 1789 it was visited by 80 ships. Saint-Tropez's shipyards built tartanes and three-masted ships that could carry 1,000 to 12,200 barrels. The town was the site of various associated trades, including fishing, cork, wine, and wood. The town had a school of hydrography. In 1860 the floret of the merchant marine, named "The Queen of the Angels" (a three-masted ship of 740 barrels capacity), visited the port.
Its role as a commercial port declined, and it is now (2013) primarily a tourist spot and a base for many well known sail regattas. There is fast boat transportation with Les Bateaux Verts to Sainte-Maxime on the other side of the bay and to Port Grimaud, Marines de Cogolin, Les Issambres and St-Aygulf.
Les Bravades de Saint-Tropez are an annual celebration held in the middle of May where people of the town celebrate their patron saint Torpes of Pisa and their military achievements. One of the oldest traditions of Provence, it has been held for more than 450 years, since the citizens of St Tropez were given special permission to form a militia in order to protect the town from the Barbary pirates. During the three-days celebration, the various militias in costumes of the time fire their muskets into the air at traditional stops, march to the sound of bands and parade St Torpes's bust. The townspeople also attend to a mass wearing traditional Provençal costume.
Each year, at the end of September, a regatta is held in the bay of Saint-Tropez (Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez). This is a draw for many yachts, some up to 50 metres in length. Many tourists come to the location for this event, or as a stop on their trip to Cannes, Marseille or Nice.
The 800 berths port with two marinas hosts boats, including ferries. In the summer season there is a ferry service between St-Tropez and Nice, Sainte-Maxime, Cannes, Saint Raphael, or by chartering a private yacht.
There is no airport located in Saint-Tropez, but there is a charter service to and from clubs, town, and Tropezian beaches by helicopter.
The nearest airport is La Môle – Saint-Tropez Airport (IATA: LTT, ICAO: LFTZ) located in La Môle, 15 km (9 mi) (8 NM) southwest of Saint-Tropez.
Other main airports are:
Nice Côte d'Azur Airport (IATA: NCE, ICAO: LFMN) (~95 km) Toulon-Hyères Airport (IATA:TLN, ICAO:LFTH) (~52 km) Marseille Provence Airport (French: Aéroport de Marseille Provence) (IATA: MRS, ICAO: LFML) (~158 km)
Rail: There is no rail station in Saint-Tropez. The nearest station is 'Saint-Raphaël-Valescure' located in Saint-Raphaël (39 km (24 mi) from Saint-Tropez), which also offers a boat service to Saint-Tropez. There is also direct bus service to Saint-Tropez, and the rail station is connected with bus station.
Bus: There is a bus station in Saint-Tropez called the Gare routière de Saint-Tropez located in Place Blanqui. It is operated by Var department transport division Varlib (fr), which employs other transport companies to operate routes.
Taxi: There are taxi services – including from Nice airport to Saint-Tropez – but this is not cheap due to long distances, and image of "wealthy Saint-Tropez".
Private car: In the tourist season traffic problems can be expected on roads to Saint-Tropez, so the fastest way to travel is by scooter or bike. There is no direct highway to the village. There are three main roads to Saint-Tropez:
Public transport in Saint-Tropez includes mini buses, which maintain a shuttle service between town and Pampelonne beaches.
Other means of transport include scooters, cars, bicycles and taxis. There are also helicopter services, and boat trips.
Because of traffic and short distances, walking is an obvious choice for trips around town and to the Tropezian beaches.
The town has health facilities, a cinema, a library, an outdoor center and a recreation center for youth.
Schools include: École maternelle (kindergarten – preschool) – l'Escouleto, écoles primaires (primary schools – primary education): Louis Blanc and Les Lauriers, collège d'enseignement secondaire (secondary school, high school – secondary education) – Moulin Blanc.
There are more than 1000 students distributed among kindergartens, primary schools and one high school. In 2011 there were 275 students in high school and 51 people employed there, of whom 23 were teachers.
Saint-Tropez plays a major role in the history of modern art. Paul Signac discovers this light-filled place which inspired painters like Matisse, Pierre Bonnard and Albert Marquet to come to Saint-Tropez. The painting styles of pointillism and Fauvism emerged at Saint-Tropez. Saint-Tropez was also attractive for the next generation of painters: Bernard Buffet, David Hockney, Massimo Campigli, and Donald Sultan lived and worked there. Today, Stefan Szczesny continues this tradition.
The most famous include: the semi-legendary martyr who gave his name to the town, Saint Torpes of Pisa; Hasekura Tsunenaga, probably the first Japanese in Europe, who landed in Saint-Tropez in 1615; a hero of the American Revolutionary War, Admiral Pierre André de Suffren de Saint-Tropez; the icon of modern Saint-Tropez, Brigitte Bardot, who started the clothes-optional revolution and still lives in the Saint-Tropez area; Louis de Funès, who played the character of the gendarme (police officer) in the French comedy film series Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez and also helped establish the international image of Saint-Tropez as both a quiet town and a modern jet-set holiday target.
Jiggly Caliente also referenced Saint-Tropez several times during Season 4 Episode 6 "Float your boat" of RuPauls drag race when asked about the inspiration behind her parade float.