Alpes. Three departments in the S.E. of France take their name from the great mountain system of Europe, viz.: - I. Basses-Alpes; II. Hautes-Alpes; III. Alpes Maritimes.
I. Basses-Alpes is bounded N. by Hautes-Alpes, S. by Var, S.W. by Alpes Maritimes, W. by Vaucluse and Bouches du Rhone, E, by Italy, and has an area of 2,680 square miles. The soil is sterile in the north, but the pasturages are good, and the mountains yield iron, lead, coal, jet, alabaster, and marbles. In the south oranges and other fruits grow abundantly, truffles are plentiful, and the silkworm is cultivated. Digne is the capital.
II. Hautes-Alpes is bounded E. by Italy, S. by Basses-Alps, N. by Savoie and Isere, W. by Drome, and has an area of 2,158 square miles. The Cottian Alps, rising to an elevation of 14,000 feet, run right across the department, rendering the climate very severe. Snow lies in some valleys for seven months. The soil, too, is barren as a rule, but fruit trees thrive towards the south. There are mines of iron, copper, lead, and coal, and quarries of valuable stone. Gap is the chief town.
III. Alpes Maritimes is a newly-formed department, having been made up in 1860 from the territory of Nice ceded by Italy, together with Mentone and Roccobruna purchased from Monaco, and part of Var. It is bounded S. by the Mediterranean, E. and N. by Italy, W. by Var and Basses-Alpes. Though it is very mountainous, the Maritime Alps and their spurs filling all the north and centre, the mild climate of the coast district, the Riviera, draws invalids and pleasure-seekers from colder climates besides favouring the growth of oranges, lemons, and other fruits, early vegetables, silkworms, etc. The sea, too, yields sardines and anchovies, in which a large trade is done. the area is 1,482 square miles. Nice is the chief town. Mentone, Cannes, Grasse, Villefranche, and Antibes are all thriving and prosperous places.