Living In History: A French Address And Good Cocktail-Party Conversation

A rotunda entry greets visitors at the onetime home of the Count de Martini.

The next owner of this estate in Nice, France, may want to stock up on gin, vermouth and olives.

The restored chateau, portions of which date to the 17th century, was once the property of the Count de Martini. And although the classic American cocktail isn’t named after this onetime homeowner, his story certainly makes good cocktail-party conversation.

Umberto de Martini came to be a count through marriage and money. He was the physician to Count Edward von Bismarck, grandson of German chancellor Otto von Bismarck. A year after his patient died, the 60-year-old doctor married the count’s wealthy widow.

The Kentucky-born Mona Strader had become the Countess of Bismark when she married Edward. She, in turn, was able to purchase Martini’s title from her friend Umberto II, Italy’s last king.

Close friends of the countess were not pleased with the match, citing the difference in ages, according to multiple online sources. She was 14 years his senior. Vague suspicions surfaced. Rumors flew. It was alleged that Martini let longtime household staff go and kept the countess medicated.

Today, a motor court sits at the front of the stone chateau, and a pair of statues greet visitors at the sturdy double door of the rotunda entry. A sweeping staircase off the circular foyer leads to the upstairs rooms.

The modernized kitchen has white counters, white cabinets and a center island.

The kitchen has been updated with white counters, white cabinetry and an island with underlighting.

Fireplaces and beamed ceilings grace the dining and living rooms. There’s a library and seven en suite bedrooms.

Gone is the kitchen of Martini’s day, where he was said to prepare simple pasta dishes to pair with cheap wines. The new kitchen has shiny white counters and cabinets, a large center island and floating steps that lead to the next level.

The gated park-like property of more than 14.8 acres contains the 6,100-square-foot main house, a detached studio, a four-room guest house, a chapel and an outbuilding. Terraces expand the living space outdoors. The site also contains a heated swimming pool, gardens, olive trees and lawn.

Views take in the surrounding valley and villages.

The asking price is 6.9 million Euros or about $8.36 million, according to listing details provided by agent Meta Looij of Groupe Mercure.

As for the tale that goes with the property?

Martini met his end long before his older wife. His demise came when he drove a sports car off a bridge and landed in a stony riverbed. Socialite tongues wagged, and the incident was dubbed “Martini on the rocks.”


During four decades of covering luxury and celebrity housing, I’ve looked into people’s homes, lives and property records through many lenses. I was the Los Angeles Times Real Estate section editor for eight years, the Hot Property columnist for six and did stints as a newspaper reporter, copy editor and page designer. My work for The Times Business, Home and Real Estate sections has garnered in-house and national awards for blogging, editing and feature writing.

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