Stories > Everything you need to know about the Riviera in under five minutes
Everything you need to know about the Riviera in under five minutes

Everything you need to know about the Riviera in under five minutes

Published 2021-12-06 by Zdravko Anticic

The Riviera has been a popular destination for over a hundred years. Just before the turn of the last century, around 1880, an extremely important innovation came, fundamentally changing things. Railways began to be constructed at a rapid pace all over Europe. Suddenly, the common man could relatively easily get from one place to another. This made room for an explosion of travel, and a whole new phenomenon – Tourism.

Nice, Cote d'Azur, early 1900's

The upper middle class in big cities like Milan and Vienna could now travel away during the summer. Popular destinations were the Alps, lakes like Como and Wörthersee, but also the coast. The goal was to escape the unbearable heat that plagued inland cities. Imagine 35 degrees of constant August heat with no air conditioning. Escaping to the mountains, or the coast was a great idea.

If you lived in Milan, you had two options. Lake Como, or Liguria and the coast there. What happened between 1880 and the late 1920s was a minor revolution in the tourism industry. Magnificent hotels were built like never before. Each one bigger and better than the last. Many large and luxurious hotels were built during this time period, and still exist to this day. The Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como is an example.

The Ligurian Coast became what we today call the Riviera. However, there is a lot of confusion, both with the definition of the Riviera, and much more. I thought we’d change this now, and sort out the concepts.

Map of The Riviera

In my opinion, the Riviera can be divided into three parts: Italy, France and Monaco.

The Italian part is, by definition, the Ligurian Coast. From San Remo in the west, to Portovenere in the east. After Portovenere, the coast belongs to Tuscany, where the extremely popular tourist destinations Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi are located. These are therefore not located on the Riviera. They belong to the Tuscan coast.

The Italian Riviera, i.e. Liguria, can be divided into two parts. One part between San Remo and Savona, the other part between Genoa and Portovenere. By far the most classic and luxurious part of the Italian Riviera is the eastern, i.e. from Genoa to the south. Here you will find the extremely famous Portofino, as well as Sestri Levante and the Cinque Terre, the world’s most beautiful villages where my mother has a small hotel.

What characterizes this part of the Riviera is that it is very elegant and sophisticated, especially in the summer. If you are a tourist, you are expected to take this custom wherever you go. Having dinner one evening in the Portofino harbor is like sitting on the first row of the fashion show in Milan. People are very neatly dressed, and behave accordingly. It can come off as quite stiff for a newcomer to the area.

Then we have what is called the French Riviera. Many people think that the name is wrong. The French prefer the Cote d’Azur. The area runs form Menton in the east, and follows the coast to Toulon. Important destinations are Nice, Antibes, Cannes and Saint-Tropez.

I find this part of the Riviera (If we can call it that) much more relaxed than the Italian. It is no longer a fashion show in the evening, even if people are well dressed. The restaurants are slightly louder and the nightclubs are incredibly loud. The Italian part is elegant, the French part is sexy. Sexy is a very good word to describe a summer evening in Saint-Tropez.

Last but not least, you have Monaco. Monaco differs significantly from both France and Italy. Monaco is neither elegant nor sexy. It is a Disneyland for the rich. Most people drive supercars, and a Bugatti Chiron appearing is not a weird occurrence at all. In the center we have Hotel de Paris at the Casino Square. IF you are wealthy, Hotel de Paris is the hotel you stay at. Period.

There are two types of tourists in Monaco. The rich, who drive Ferraris and enjoy showing off and being seen. The second, much larger group, consists of tourists who want to see what the rich do. There are few places on earth that have as many paparazzi and hobby photographers chasing supercars and celebrities as in the heart of Monaco. If you drive a Ferrari in Monaco, you are a tourist attraction. Be prepared for extreme levels of attention. Do not forget to smile at the cameras.

Zdravko Anticic
Zdravko Anticic
zdravko@granturismo.org

Coming Events

Gran Turismo Toscana
9-13 October 2024
Florence - Chianti - Lucca - Florence
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Locations mentioned in the story

Hotel de Paris
The most famous hotel in Monaco
Splendido Portofino
One of the ten top hotels in the world, on a hill directly above Portofino harbour.
Trattoria da Iseo
The best seafood restaurant at the Mediterranean.
San Marco 1957
A great seafood restaurant in the harbour of Sestri Levante
SS1 - Savona to Finale Ligure
A very pretty coastal road between Savona and Finale Ligure
Verde Beach
An outrageous beach club near Saint-Tropez
D952 - Gorges du Verdon
A breathtaking drive through a natural park
N85 Route Napoleon - Grasse to Castellane
One of the very best roads in Europe
D955 - Jabron to Montferrat
A fun road north of Saint-Tropez
SS1 - Bracco Pass
A fantastic road between La Spezia and Sestri Levante.
Hotel Byblos
An incredible hotel in Saint Tropez
Grand Hotel Tremezzo
An Italian heavyweight in luxury, Olympic class, hotel at Como Lake.
Buddha Bar
An exotic and chic venue at the heart of Monte Carlo.
La Petite Plage
A fancy restaurant in the harbour of Saint-Tropez
Monte-Carlo Bay
An elite hotel in Monaco, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
L’Escapade
A great little restaurant near Castellane
N85 Route Napoleon - Digne to Castellane
An exciting road north of Castellane
La Meridiana Hotel Resort & Golf
A boutique hotel with a fantastic restaurant near Albenga
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