Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, with a population of 348,721. The area of today’s Nice is believed to be among the oldest human settlements in Europe. Down the ages, the town changed hands many times. Its strategic location and port significantly contributed to its maritime strength. For years it was an Italian dominion, then became part of France in 1860. The spectacular natural beauty of the Nice area and its mild Mediterranean climate came to the attention of the English upper classes in the second half of the 18th century, when an increasing number of aristocratic families took to spending their winter there. Rainfall is rare in this season, and a typical July month only records one or two days with measurable rainfall. The temperature is typically above 20 °C (68 °F), and frequently reaches 30 °C (86 °F). The average maximum temperature in the warmest months of July and August is about 27 °C (81 °F). Winters are characterized by mild days (11 to 17 °C (52 to 63 °F)), cool nights (4 to 9 °C (39 to 48 °F)) and variable weather.