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The city of Montpellier, despite being perfectly and strategically located between the sea and the inland hills of the Languedoc region, has a curious history, since it was founded only in the eleventh century. In fact, the Romans, who colonized the whole of the south of France, focused more on other cities in the area, such as Nîmes, Narbonne, Béziers and Carcassonne, leaving uncultivated and undeveloped land. Nevertheless, around the year one thousand, Montpellier started to become popular, thanks to a rise in the trading of spices with the East. Indeed, the small hillside village began to grow rapidly until it became a city.
The etymology of Montpellier is uncertain: the most widely accepted theory sustains that the name originates from Mont Pelé (bald mountain), a name deriving from the scarcity of vegetation of the surrounding area. Diversely, a more imaginative and spicy interpretation suggests that Montpellier originates from Mons Puellarum, that is, from "the girls' mountain". This theory sharply clashes with the third theory, which claims that the name derives from the French Mons Pelerin (Pilgrim Mountain), since the city was a rest stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela.
However, while the origins of the city's name are still a source of debate, Montpellier is without a doubt a young and thriving city thanks to its famous university founded in 1180, where the well-known Francesco Petrarca began his legal studies - later completed at the University of Bologna. In fact, through Erasmus and Socrate cultural exchange programs, the university and the 16 language schools attract thousands of students from all over Europe to this city of just over 200 thousand inhabitants. Restaurants, bars and clubs fill up quickly in the evening and the night always seems to be too short to satisfy the student population's desire for fun. Montpellier is one of the few cities in France where English is widespread and in some areas of the city, it is spoken even more than the national language. An absolute record in the nation which internationally boasts linguistic purism.
Montpellier's joy for life was put to the test in 1944, when over a period of eight months, the city suffered five bombings by the Allies in an attempt to destroy the military logistics of Nazis occupants. But the scars were quickly healed by the activism of the population and the city rapidly smiled again, as per its tradition. Today, in addition to the thriving university, Montpellier is home to numerous companies in the computer industry, and the rising standard and quality of life has led to the number of residents in the city almost doubling over the last 40 years, making Montpellier the 8th largest city in France in terms of population.
Its geographical position is enviable: a few kilometers from the sea, located exactly halfway between Italy and Spain, which have heavily influenced the city and it traditions. Indeed, Montpellier frequently hosts bullfighting performances and one of its typical regional dishes is paella. The sun almost always shines and thanks to the temperate Mediterranean climate and sea breezes cooling the sticky summer weather, Montpellier is a city that can be enjoyed for best part of the year. Precisely for this reason, Montpellier is loved not only by students, but also by adults. The city favors life in the open air, bars and restaurants are always packed with French visitors from outside the city, who recently named Montpellier most livable city in France and the place to live when retired.
Cover photo: © jit bag