Monte Carlo (French: Monte-Carlo or colloquially Monte-Carl, Monégasque: Monte-Carlu) officially refers to an administrative area of the Principality of Monaco, specifically the ward of Monte Carlo/Spélugues, where the Monte Carlo Casino is located. Informally the name also refers to a larger district, the Monte Carlo Quarter (corresponding to the former municipality of Monte Carlo), which besides Monte Carlo/Spélugues also includes the wards of La Rousse/Saint Roman, Larvotto/Bas Moulins, and Saint Michel. The permanent population of the ward of Monte Carlo is about 3,500, while that of the quarter is about 15,000. Monaco has four traditional quarters. From west to east they are: Fontvieille (the newest), Monaco-Ville (the oldest), La Condamine, and Monte Carlo.
Monte Carlo (literally «Mount Charles») is situated on a prominent escarpment at the base of the Maritime Alps along the French Riviera. Near the western end of the quarter is the world-famous Place du Casino, the gambling center which has made Monte Carlo «an international byword for the extravagant display and reckless dispersal of wealth». It is also the location of the Hôtel de Paris, the Café de Paris, and the Salle Garnier (the casino theatre which is the home of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo). The eastern part of the quarter includes the community of Larvotto with Monaco’s only public beach, as well as its new convention center (the Grimaldi Forum), and the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort. At its eastern border one crosses into the French town of Beausoleil (sometimes referred to as Monte-Carlo-Supérieur), and just 5 miles (8 km) further east is the western border of Italy.
Founded in 1866, Monte Carlo has a name of Italian origin meaning «Mount Charles», in honor of the then-reigning prince, Charles III of Monaco. The specific mountain is the escarpment at the foot of the Maritime Alps on which the town stands.
The history of the area and the ruling Grimaldi family, however, dates back centuries. The port of Monaco is first mentioned in historical records as early as 43 BC, when Julius Caesar concentrated his fleet there while waiting in vain for Pompey. In the 12th century, the area fell under the sovereignty of Genoa, which was granted the entire coastline from Porto Venere to Monaco. After much conflict, the Grimaldis regained the rock in 1295, but suffered a significant amount of opposition in the ensuing years. In 1506 the Monegasques, under Lucien, Lord of Monaco, were under siege for some four months by the Genoan army, which had ten times the number of men. Monaco officially received full autonomy in 1524, but experienced difficulty retaining power, and on occasions briefly fell under the domination of Spain, Sardinia, and France.
By the 1850s Monaco’s reigning family was almost bankrupt; this was a result of the loss of two towns, Menton and Roquebrune, which had provided most of the principality’s revenues with their lemon, orange and olive crops. At the time, a number of small towns in Europe were growing prosperous from the establishment of casinos, notably in German towns such as Baden-Baden and Homburg. In 1856 Charles III of Monaco granted a concession to Napoleon Langlois and Albert Aubert to establish a sea-bathing facility for the treatment of various diseases, and to build a German-style casino in Monaco. The initial casino was opened in La Condamine in 1862, but was not a success; its present location in the area called «Les Spélugues» (The Caves) of Monte Carlo, came only after several relocations in the years that followed. The success of the casino grew slowly, largely due to the area’s inaccessibility from much of Europe. The installation of the railway in 1868, however, brought with it an influx of people into Monte Carlo and saw it grow in wealth.
In 1911 when the Constitution divided the principality of Monaco in three municipalities, the municipality of Monte Carlo was created covering the existing neighborhoods of La Rousse / Saint Roman, Larvotto / Bas Moulins and Saint Michel. The municipalities were merged into one in 1917, after accusations that the government was acting according to the motto «divide and conquer» and they were accorded the status of wards (quartiers) thereafter. Today, Monaco is divided into 10 wards, with an eleventh ward planned (but currently postponed) to encompass land reclaimed from the sea (see the «Administrative Divisions» section of Monaco for additional details).
The quarter of Monte Carlo was served by tramways from 1900 to 1953, linking all parts of Monaco (see transportation in Monaco). In 2003 a new cruise ship pier was completed in the harbour at Monte Carlo.