I’ve had the opportunity to visit Monaco several times during my stints living in and traveling around Europe. Here are seven things I learned about this glamorous vacation spot on the French Riviera.
1. It’s a principality and a country. You can put that middle school geography debate to rest now: Monaco is both a principality and a country. In fact, it’s the second smallest country in the world (behind Vatican City). Monaco is bordered by France on the north, south and west, and the Mediterranean Sea is to its east. The wealthy constitutional monarchy, with a population of under 38,000, has been ruled for centuries by the Grimaldi family.
2. People from Monaco are not called “Monacans.” Unlike me, you probably knew this before setting foot in Monaco. All the same, it’s important to note that the term used to describe people who are native to Monaco is Monegasque. However, the Monegasques only make up about a fifth of Monaco’s total population. Someone who is born in a foreign country but obtains legal residency in Monaco (many wealthy foreigners do this for tax purposes) is referred to as Monacoian.
3. Bono and The Edge have a tunnel that connects their mansions. Speaking of wealthy foreigners, rockers Bono and The Edge (of U2 fame) have adjacent mansions in Monaco that are connected by a not-so-secret underground tunnel.
4. Be sure to rub Louis XIV for good luck. OK, well, at least the bronze statue of him atop a horse that stands outside the stunning Belle Époque-style Hôtel de Paris. The Monte Carlo Casino’s most successful gamblers swear by this ritual.
5. Don’t leave Monaco without trying Barbagiuan. Barbagiuan (also spelled Barbajuan) is the national dish of Monaco. I like to think of it as a Monegasque empanada. It’s made from fried pastry dough stuffed with Swiss chard, spinach, ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses, onions and leeks. I think it’s best enjoyed paired with a glass of dry rosé.