French or Italian Riviera?

Old Aug 20th, 2006, 06:02 AM
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French or Italian Riviera?

My husband and I are Americans currently living in Bristol, UK. Our 5th wedding anniversary is in late October, and we're planning to fly into Nice and spend a week on the Riviera. Which is your favorite, the French or the Italian, and why? Is it practical to do both?

LeslieW is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2006, 06:45 AM
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French Riviera, hands down. My favorite town there for a week is Nice. Another suggestion is Menton with beautiful seaside apartments, great restaurants, and close enough for day trips to Italy, Nice, Monaco.

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Old Aug 20th, 2006, 07:20 AM
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It is not really practical or rewarding to do both. The best part of the Italian Riviera is between Genova and Pisa (not France and Genova). Although I greatly prefer the best of the Italian Riviera to the Cote d'Azur, if you are committed flying to Nice, you would do best to remain in France, especially if you don't have a car.

I like Nice very much, and it offers a lot to do, but I find most of the rest of the French coast sterile, overdeveloped and not particularly scenic. I especially dislike Monaco, which reminds me of a hospital. Were it me, I'd head inland to Provence for places with a truly romantic feel. Also, in late October, you might find the seaside resorts a bit abandoned.

If you think you might prefer the Italian Riviera, which I find more colorful and of spectacular beauty in many places, you should consider flying into either Genova or Pisa and taking a train or car to its prettiest sections. But again, your late October timing argues for spending time away from the seaside resorts.

If you find yourself in France and curious about Italy, the dramatically perched hillside town of Apricale just over the French border is a marvelous destination. Along the coast, the beautiful walled town of Cervo is doable as a daytrip from Nice, and its excellent restaurant San Giorgio serves fantastic Italian food.
nessundorma is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2006, 09:06 AM
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You will find lots to do in and near Nice. Many day-trips are possible from there. Plus, we thought Nice to be a pretty city, especially the old Nice area and the promenade along the beach. We were there for three nights last May. We didn't even have time to see St. Paul de Vence, Eze, St. Tropez, the island of the Man in the Iron Mask, Cannes. So many choices...

Here's my trip report for details on restaurants and day-trips.
"Nice, three nights in May, 2006

We arrived in Nice in the early afternoon on Friday, via train from Santa Margherita Ligure. Our Hotel le Grimaldi ( was a short cab ride from the train station, 10 EUR for myself, my daughter, my gargantuan bag, and her two small ones. We were greeted graciously at the hotel, which immediately struck us as a good find.

The hotel is actually two Belle Epoque buildings back-to-back. One side is much prettier to enter, as it faces a nice church. The other side is fine, too, but a bit boring. I think the side on rue Grimaldi is the plain one, and the other side on rue Maccarani is prettier.

The man at the front desk carried my bag to the room, and showed us around. There’s a business center on the ground floor, with free internet use on their two computers, and a free printer to use. (Also wi-fi in the lobby, I think for a fee.)

Our room was a ‘classic’, twin-bedded room, which was quite large (for Europe), had a little balcony, a sparkling yellow and white tile bath with fluffy bright yellow towels, and nice toiletries. It was 150 EUR plus tax, and 10 EUR per person if we opted for the hot/cold breakfast buffet. They suggested we check out the buffet served till 10:30a.m. the next morning, and if we were interested we could sign on for it. The deal is that you have to buy it everyday to get the 10 EUR rate. Otherwise, per day, it’s 15 EUR per person.

So the next morning, we were happy to find hot eggs, proscuitto, yoghurts, cereals, cappuccino, assorted croissants, juices, etc. We thought it a good deal and quite convenient, so we enjoyed it each morning.

It's an easy walk to the train station (w/o luggage) from Le Grimaldi, and a slightly longer walk to the bus station. Easy walk of a few blocks to the grand promenade at seaside, just past the pedestrian zone. Also not far walking to Vieux Nice. The neighborhood felt perfectly safe, and we walked back to the hotel late each night.

For our first dinner, I had brought the name of a restaurant I’d found on Travel Talk, and the front desk agreed it was a good one, a local favorite in old Nice. It’s called Acchiardo, at 38 rue Droite in Vieux Nice. We headed over for their opening at 7 p.m., and were very happy with it. Really friendly and attentive service, very quaint and casual atmosphere, with a good menu. I had a steak dinner, which actually included vegetables on the side. My daughter had two different salads. We had bottled water and a half-liter of house red wine. When the bill arrived for 28.50EUR, I thought they’d made a mistake because it was so much less than I’d been accustomed to paying in Venice, Florence and Rome. But, no, it was correct. (We would have maybe eaten there another night, but found out it closes on weekend nights, believe it or not.)

We walked all over old Nice, then through the pedestian area to the promenade and took that way back to the hotel. It’s such a beautiful walk at night. The Chateau hillside is all lit up, the palm trees are lit, and the waves look so pleasant. It was how we ended each of our Nice nights, with that walk back to the hotel.

The next day we decided to take the short bus ride on the #81, to visit the Villa and Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild, near Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. (The bus is just 1.30EUR each direction, which you pay in exact change on the bus.) We didn't stop to see the Greek Villa, but it's also on that same bus route, near the Ephrussi. You can easily catch the #81 for your return trip to Nice, at any stop along the road.

It was a nice visit, especially to see the views of the sea down below on both sides of the hillside. I thought the price was a bit steep, at 9.50EUR for an adult, because the Villa isn’t really all that interesting (sorry!), but the gardens are pretty. There’s also a nice little café there, for a light snack or drink or meal, which was a welcome break from all our walking.

While we were there, a very strong wind came up, which caused quite a bit of white caps in the water below, and chased everyone in from the patio tables. The wind stayed with us for the rest of the day, but wasn’t terribly annoying.

From the Villa, we did the easy walk down to the port of St. Jean to walk around and check it out. There are nice boats in the little harbor, with cute restaurants and shops. It’s very tiny, so doesn’t take long to walk from end to end of St. Jean. We spent just about an hour and a half there, then caught the #81 back to Nice.

That evening, we returned to old Nice for dinner. We loved that neighborhood’s little streets, overall atmosphere, and cute shops. We found the Restaurant la Tapenada, 6 rue St. Reparate and had a very nice dinner. It was probably about 60EUR for the two of us, on their fixed price menu, with a bottle of house wine. Very nice little place, with friendly and attentive service. They even let my daughter trade her dessert for a salad. So she had two salads to start, one after the other, and they timed the arrival of our main courses perfectly. We were completely happy with our meal there.

The next day we decided we’d stick to the coast and see Antibes, which is a short 20-minute train ride from Nice. We were glad we’d chosen Antibes, as it’s beautiful. The sea wall makes a nice walk, and the Centre Ville is very charming.

We wandered its streets, shopped in a tiny clothing boutique, found a little place for omelettes (nothing special, but nice enough), then headed back to Nice by train after about four hours total. It was a good choice for a quick day-trip.

That evening we weren’t very hungry, so opted for the simple Pasta Basta, once again in old Nice. It was a nice meal, although not extraordinary. Good prices and decent service.

All in all, we were very impressed with Nice and the surrounding area. It’s a very pretty city, with a friendly attitude, sitting on a lovely shore. There are many options for things to do near Nice. We’d considered St. Paul de Vence and Digne, but with the beautiful clear weather, we were drawn to stay at the seaside, and were glad we did."

Old Aug 20th, 2006, 06:35 PM
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Congratulations on your anniversary!

I love Nice, so of course I'd recommend going there, and staying there for the week.

There's more than enough to keep you busy the whole time- excellent museums ( Chagall and Matisse, are just two of them), a lovely promenade and old town, great restaurants, and the pebbly beach- if it's warm enough.

Also, as other posters have already said, day trips from Nice are a snap. You can easily take a train or a bus to most cities and towns along the coast, and some that are inland.

My favorites are: Eze, St. Jean Cap de Ferrat, Antibes, and St. Paul de Vence.

Another wonderful thing about Nice is that the city never really closes down until the early hours of the morning- if at all.

Will you have a car? If so, I'd highly recommend a very special restaurant, LA CHAUMIERE, which is six miles from Nice, along the moyen corniche. It's a provencal-style restaurant with unbelievable chicken or beef that is grilled to order in the main living room's fireplace. Really an incredible treat.

If you're interested in that, I'll try to find the address. I have no idea if they remain open in October.

Another restaurant we really like is INDYIANA, which is in an industrial section of Nice, a few blocks behind Old Nice. It's fusion food, done with a French flair, and while I don't usually recommend that kind of thing, the presentation and the food itself was out of this world!

Anyway, have a great time- whatever you decide.
Weadles is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2006, 07:06 PM
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We are doing both this upcoming week and will post again later.. though it is looking like it will really be a bit too much.

I have found that trip planning in France seems a bit easier due to so many side trips that are do-able.

I have heard that San Remo, Italy is a relativly easy day trip from Nice as well.

I'll post more when I return. This is our 5 year anniversary too! Congrats..
Kathryncee is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2006, 01:21 PM
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Thanks for the great information! We're leaning towards concentrating our time in the French Riviera (at least this trip!) It just doesn't seem practical to try to do both, at least for us. We appreciate the five years of our lives! Weadles- would love to hear more about La Chaumiere if you can find the address. Kathryncee- Congrats to you as well, and I look forward to hearing about your trip!
LeslieW is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2006, 04:16 PM
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I found the information for La Chaumiere. You can go to:

Address of the restaurant is:

La Chaumiere
384, Boulevard de L'Observatoire
Nice, France

Fax is: +33 04 93 76 93 88

The website says the restaurant is closed Sundays and that reservations are mandatory. It says nothing about whether they are still open in October, but it's certainly worth a try!

This was one of our favorite special occasion restaurants. It is expensive, but actually worth it! We had excellent food there and service. Hope you enjoy it!
Weadles is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2006, 04:23 PM
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cobbie is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2006, 04:37 PM
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Old Aug 22nd, 2006, 05:27 PM
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I'm interested in this post for a future trip. Enjoyed Maureen's report, and review of the Grimaldi. With all the side trips easily available, I think Nice at least warrants a week!
Sue4 is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 07:14 PM
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Just returned from our trip. I LOVED the French Riveria.. the area was so beatiful and had so many things to do.

I liked Italy, but not nearly as much as France in this regard. I would concentrate on the French Riveria for now and do Italy another time.

Someone suggested to me in the planning process not to try to do both- may feel too rushed. It did! I should have listened.

Italy is beautiful, but I would save it for another trip.

I'm hoping to post my trip report sometime in the next few days...
Kathryncee is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2006, 11:56 PM
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Personally I like Menton a lot. Being on the border, it has a bit of that Italian flair already. From Menton you could also easily daytrip to San Remo which is a very pretty city at the Italian rivièra. And I've also always liked the market in Ventimiglia, which is only 10 km away.
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