In the 2015 elections, a right-wing radical came close to being elected president of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region. The capital’s cosmopolitan populace heaved a collective sigh of relief that it didn’t actually come to pass. “Marseille was founded by the Greeks 2,600 years ago,” says Vezzoni. “They came by sea, not overland through France.” The mountains at the city’s back provide another explanation as to why its residents constantly have their eye on the horizon – they’re more familiar with the ferries to Africa than the TGV to Paris, says Vezzoni.
Vezzoni works on the sixth floor of a concrete edifice that doesn’t look particularly attractive from the outside. Le Corbusier designed the building, which was inaugurated in the early 1950s. His style visibly influenced other apartment houses built against the backdrop of the Estaque mountain range. “You don’t necessarily have to find the architecture pretty. But here even people who can’t afford a villa on the beach still get to enjoy a sea view,” says Vezzoni, triumphantly pointing to the panorama outside her office window. From this elevated vantage point it’s easy to see how the craggy foothills stretch from the outskirts all the way to the coastline. The narrow inlets of the Calanques are a piece of untamed nature within the city. Their vertical cliffs, with turquoise-coloured water sparkling in between, are an ideal destination for hikers, climbers, boaters, and paddlers. The caves of the Calanques once gave refuge to pirates and smugglers, not to mention Second World War resistance fighters.