Which Riviera is For You?

Think of the word “riviera” and the first thing that comes to mind is the French Riviera, that dreamy, sun-dappled region of southeastern France. As rivieras go, it’s pretty fabulous, but France doesn’t have a monopoly on places where large bodies of water, mild climates, and sophisticated people prevail. In addition to France’s riviera, there’s an Austrian Riviera, a Baltic Riviera, and many other unofficial and official rivieras. In no particular order, here are our three favorites.

070523_Dan%20Radmacher_PortofinoF.jpgThe Italian Riviera

The Italians perfected il dolce far niente — the sweet art of idleness — right here in the coastal region of Liguria, also known as the Italian Riviera, a collection of villages dedicated to the sea and the sun, running along a broad curve between France to the west and Tuscany to the east. Smack in the middle is Genoa, one of Italy’s great port cities.

Top 5 Reasons to Go

1. The Cinque Terre: Hike the famous Cinque Terre trails past gravity-defying vineyards, rock-perched villages, and the deep blue sea.

2. Walking Genoa’s “Street of Gold”: Renaissance or rococo, the palaces of Via Garibaldi bear witness to the gilded heyday of Genoese splendor.

3. Giardini Botanici Hambury, Ventimiglia: A spectacular natural setting harbors one of Italy’s largest, most exotic botanical gardens.

4. Portofino: See the world through rose-tinted sunglasses at this glamorous little harbor village.

5. Pesto: The basil-rich sauce was invented in Liguria, and it’s never been equaled elsewhere.

  • When to visit the Italian Riviera
  • 070523_Cornel%20Stefan%20Achirei_StTropezF.jpgThe French Riviera

    Home to sophisticated resorts filled with billionaires, remote hill villages colonized by artists, Mediterranean beaches, and magnificent views, the Côte d’Azur (to use the French name) stretches from Marseilles to Menton, and supplies visitors with everything their hearts desire. Some talk about how great the Riviera used to be. In our opinion, it is still la crème de la crème.

    Top 5 Reasons to Go

    1. Visit the Palais Princier, in Monaco, where Monaco’s Royal Family resides in grand style.

    2. Take stock of the Picasso’s at the Musée Picasso in Antibes and the masterpieces adorning walls at the Fondation Maeght in St-Paul.

    3. St-Tropez’s Vieux Port is a slice of Riviera life at its best. Watch the glamorous people (and the occasional celeb) as they drift on and off their yachts.

    4. To see the Cours Saleya is to see the nerve center of Old Nice, a place filled with cafes, restaurants, and 18th-century houses.

    5. Take a tour of the palatial pile that is Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, in St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. And when you’re done, stroll the seven “themed gardens.”

  • When to visit the French Riviera.
  • 070523_Angelika%20Stern_TulumF.jpgThe Mexican Riviera

    The Mexican Riviera, or the Caribbean Coast, as it is called today, is mostly remembered (and forever admired) for its stunning beaches. Powdery white sands embrace clear turquoise Caribbean lagoons and vibrant marine life beaneath. Inland scrub and jungle are punctuated by Maya ruins.

    Top 5 Reasons to Go

    1. See the shipwrecks and go snorkeling off seductive Castillo Real.

    2. Visit the stunning, cliff-hugging ruins at Tulum — the only Maya site that overlooks the Caribbean.

    3. You can’t really improve on the Caribbean waters for scuba diving and snorkeling. Expect to see a technicolor profusion of fish, coral, and other aquatic lovelies.

    4. Indulge in a decadent massage or other body treatment at a luxurious Riviera Maya spa resort.

    5. Explore the mysterious underground caves at Aktun-Chen.

  • When to visit the Mexican Riviera
  • Also see:

  • Luxury Lairs of the Caribbean Coast
  • Photo credits: (1) ©Istockphoto/ Dan Radmacher; (2) ©Istockphoto/ Cornel Stefan Achirei; (3) ©Istockphoto/ Angelika Stern.

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