In March 1871, following the dramatic events of the Franco-Prussian War, Garnier stayed in the town of Mentone at Villa Santa Maria, a guest of his Viale friends. The following May he bought land in Bordighera to build his Riviera home there, an ideal place to spend his vacations.
To fulfill his wish he chose a mystical place, where a chapel dedicated to St. Sebastian stood in the Arziglia area. The little church, which had been used since 1849 as a boys' school, was located outside the city walls on a very steep piece of land close to the sea, on the road that led to the Bordigotti fishermen's landing.
Garnier fell in love with this picturesque plot of land nestled among palm trees and offered the city the considerable sum of 6,000 liras for the purchase.
Testifying to the hospitality and cosmopolitanism of the visitors remains in the manuscripts of his son Christian an interesting document where the sentence appears: "To visit the garden of the Villa Garnier play at the second door" translated into thirty-nine different languages, including Javanese, Siamese, Sanskrit, Malay, 'Armenian, Hebrew, and Chinese...
Among the trees that enriched the park were olive trees and dactyl palms that infused the area with an oriental character, while opuntias, figs, lemons, medlars, and succulents helped accentuate the Mediterranean character. Edmondo De Amicis (who died in Bordighera) called this garden "the palace of palms."