Two Rivieras

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Dec 7th, 2017, 07:03 AM
  #1
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Two Rivieras

I've been wanting to go to Camogli-Rapallo-SML and Portofino but also to see Menton, Eze and stay at a fabulous beach hotel in MOnte Carlo. I was there one evening in 2013 but did not get to the Casino or Café de Paris (we were on the Monaco side),

I do not like leaving my cat longer than 6 nights max (she has a cat sitter but still) so I am thinking of combining the two to save a second airfare. By planning well I can get in most of what I want. This is less about sightseeing and more about beach time, strolling, shopping, the views, cafes....

I would fly into Genoa and out of Nice. The arrival afternoon I would spend at the beach/pool at Cenobio de Dogli, nap, explore Camogli; the second day visit two out of three - Rapallo, Santa Margherita, Portofino. I probably can't cant to all 3 - would you recommend dropping Portofino? I could probably spend a morning in one and afternoon in the other. The third day I'd head for Menton by train, go to the beach, explore Menton, and the next day head to Monte Carlo and relax at the hotel; in the evening go to the Casino and Café de Paris. The next day go to Eze and then to Nice (it is easier to get to Eze from Nice?) and fly home the next day (have already visited Nice)

Any recommendations? This is probably a solo trip
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Dec 7th, 2017, 07:33 AM
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Trains - you can take regional trains from Genoa to Camogli and along coast and no need to pre-book as regional trains have a flat fee dirt cheap and no seat reservations available.

Now Genoa to Menton is best by Thello train (www.thello.com) the only train I believe that goes thru the border without a change and is much faster than other trains -book early for limited discounted tickets. Take local trains Menton-Monaco and buses from there to Eze.

Not easier to get to Eze from Nice but take bus from Menton/Monaco to Eze then onto Nice.

For lots about trains check www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

I would not stay in Menton, Monaco and Nice but base in one and take coastal shuttle trains along the coast - otherwise lots of time lost re-locating.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 08:07 AM
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I have taken the local trains from Cannes to Antibes, Cannes to Nice, Nice to Monaco. Nice to know to book the longer distance train.

I need to be in Nice the last night to get to the airport in the morning. I could visit Menton from Monte Carlo but the hotel in Monte Carlo is $400+ a night. HOtels in Menton are much cheaper but I want one luxurious hotel night in Monte Carlo. (I know there are luxury hotels in Nice as well but getting back from Monte Carlo to Nice late at night after the Casino can be a problem).
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Dec 7th, 2017, 09:18 AM
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Connecting among places by train is easy. You may have seen my recent trip report for Camogli. I also continued on to Nice and explored that area after Camogli, but it seems you have already been there. Personally, I enjoyed the Italian Riviera much more than the French Riviera, but that's of course just a personal preference. I loved Camogli.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 09:25 AM
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I have been on many solo trips and like the flexibility of coming and going when I want to. You never mentioned when you are going to take this trip - winter? spring? summer? Both the Riviera di Ponente (Nice to Genoa area) and Riviera di Levante south of Genoa are great to explore. Since you will be taking trains, it is entirely feasible to see a few of those towns in 1 day. From Genoa down to Portofino via train, you could stop in Camogli on your way (or wait and see it after Portofino). Portofino's train stop is in Santa Margherita Ligure. From there you take a bus to Portofino. You could see Camogli in the morning, then SML, then bus over to Portofino. IMO, I would not drop Portofino - it is the jewel of the coast - and since you will be in SML, it is worth taking the time to see it while there.

When I was on the Rivieras 2 years ago, I made Ventimiglia on the Italian side my base and took daily train trips to the French Riviera to see Monaco, Cannes, Nice, etc. It worked out really well. Do you have a base for when you are seeing the French Riviera? Are you making Menton your base? If you are only planning on seeing Menton for a few hours then you could see Eze enroute down to Nice. Since you are flying out of Nice, maybe your 2nd base could be Nice and you could see Monaco/Monte Carlo during the day, then return to Nice for your return flight back. Bon Voyage!
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Dec 7th, 2017, 09:34 AM
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June or September- I want to swim
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Dec 7th, 2017, 09:59 AM
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There are 2 categories of trains between Genoa and Ventimiglia:
Intercity trains and Thello trains which take both 2 hrs and (cheaper) regional trains (no need to book ahead) which are 20 min slower (2 hrs 20 min).
Local trains Ventimiglia - Menton - Monte Carlo - Eze bord de Mer (not village!) - Nice - Antibes - Cannes run at least every 30 min
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Dec 7th, 2017, 11:06 AM
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The Thello trains do run across the border to Nice or at least did last I checked - all others necessitate that time-consuming change of trains at Ventimiglia, border station. Thalys can be as cheap as any train or cheaper if you book really early but only a few a day.

If going to Menton, Ventimiglia is practically part of it.
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Dec 8th, 2017, 02:56 AM
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You will have nicer swim weather in September unless you go at the very end of June. But at either time of year it's not hard to visit Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure & Rapallo all in one day if you are starting from Camogli. The nicest way to do it is to take the boat from Camogli to San Fruttuoso, then switch to another boat to Portofino. From there you can take another boat to Santa Margherital Ligure -- then another boat or bus or train to Rapallo. If you are returning later in the day to Camogli, the bus ride from Rapallo to Camogli is beautiful if you don't mind twisty roads or heights. (You can also get off the bus in Ruta, take another bus or scenic walk to San Rocco di Camogli, then walk down to the Cenobbio dei Dogi, even if it is dark).

There are lots of ways to make this happen depending on weather (can be hot) and your mood. Boats may not run if it is too windy, but you can always take the train and buses. Both the desk at the Cenobio dei Dogi and the Camogli tourist office can help you plan a day. Be aware that buses run infrequently on Sundays and holidays. Taxis can be very expensive.

Apart from taking the boat ride into the Portofino harbor, you migth want to skip spending any time at all in tiny Portofino itself, which no other "sights" than the harbot (except one good commercial art gallery) and is typically jam-packed with the most depressing kind of consumer tourism during the summer. It is a particularly overpriced and disappointing place to eat lunch. You can just switch boats there, or get off the boat and walk to Santa Margherita Ligure or take a bus to Santa Margherita Ligure.

If you end up with only time for one or two excursions from Camogli, I recommend either a lunch or dinner in San Frutuoso cove (the hotel can help you book it) or heading off to Rapallo in the gelato/or cocktail hours later in the afternoon (or in the morning for the Rapallo morning market any day but Wednesday or Sunday). Rapallo is the bigger contrast to Camogli, and a quintessential Riviera town in terms of character.

If you like to get away from tourists or enjoy foodie travels, Zoagli gets almost no foreign toursts and has beautiful views, while Chiavari has the best food and most unusual town center (and no sea views to speak of at all).

Try not to forget that understanding the Italian Riviera does require spending at least some time doing next-to-nothing at all except enjoying the beautiful views, the lovely colors and teh perfumed air.
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Dec 8th, 2017, 08:07 AM
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Palen: you are very generous!
"If going to Menton, Ventimiglia is practically part of it"

It seems to me that it's something like 10 kms, from Ventimiglia via Ville - Calandri - Hanbury Gardens - Grimaldi to Menton.
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Dec 8th, 2017, 08:20 AM
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Strictly speaking from experience, if I had to make cuts I would cut Rapallo, and see SML, Camogli, and take the boat to San Fruttuoso. I really like Portofino but to me, the best of it is taking a long walk up to the lighthouse. The walk up is where one sees the sights and views.

On the French Riviera I find Menton to be the least attractive area.
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Dec 8th, 2017, 10:44 AM
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Portofino when I was there in October was even then a super mob scene - elbow-elbow in tiny 'fishing village' center. Negated any charm for me. Lots of cruise ships dock at Santa Margharita Ligure right next door and bus tours all stop by there. I put it up with Bellagio and Sirmione and Cinque Terre towns as amongst the most mobbed places in Europe.
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Dec 8th, 2017, 11:53 AM
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Why don't you like Menton? Aren't lemon products big there? I thought about going to the lemon festival but I'd rather go when I can swim and sunbathe (with sunscreen)
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Dec 8th, 2017, 12:16 PM
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Menton has 2 parts: its flat beach seaside, which is over-developed with modern tourist amenities, and its historic centre, a bit removed from sea, which bears a very strong resemblance to Italian Riviera towns (unsurprisingly), with narrow alleyways, pastel old buildings, and many very old shops. It is very easy to go to the flat seaside area if you are hopping around the French Riviera as a tourist, so for many tourists passing through, that is their entire impression of Menton.

I happened to enjoy eating in the seaside tourist restaurants of Mention, which reliably serve up 2kg of moules with cream or garlic, etc + frites, all for 10e or so, plus there is lemon sorbet and people watching (if you don't mind seeing uncovered breasts on the public beach). However, it is not surprising many people traveling thousands of miles end up rather disappointed by not just seaside Menton but a great deal of the French Riviera (and Monaco), since late 20th c. condos abound, and it can be overloaded with traffic, noise, cruise ship tourism. One really needs to burrow into old Menton to catch its charm -- and, coming from Camogli, where all of that exists at your fingertips -- you might not find it worth the effort.

Santa Margherita Ligure is pleasure-yacht, boutique shopping tourist town that is blessed with pretty pastel buildings from the 19th c. and a pleasantly cozy sea view -- but it barely has a life to call its own anymore in its effort to service foreign tourists. It's a kind of "Portofino wannabe" (although to its credit, SML has a terrific fishing fleet & still operates a terrific fish market). Rapallo is larger, and therefore less crowd-pleasing boutique, but it's full of local characters, local pets, local traditions, local shops (including the best gelatateria on that part of the coast) and a fascinating history, plus stunning coastal views from on high if you are willing to take the one-car cable car up into the mountains.

But to each their own. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the posh amenities of Santa Margherita Ligure or anywhere on either "Riviera". It is an authentic tradition and culture in itself, and Italians (and French) themselves enjoy the posh parts of the coast, as well as the cheap fun parts, and everything in between.
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Dec 8th, 2017, 12:24 PM
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To elaborate just a bit: For more than a century, both Rivieras have worked to make themselves international destinations, and it is not all motivated by greed. The history of the Riviera includes considerable pride in its international hospitality, sophistication and culture, some of which has gotten frozen in time, which gives it a nostalgic charm, and some of which tells a painful story of injury and decline in the 2 World Wars. You can enjoy the Rivieras as you like, and if you want this instead of that, just head for what you want without apology. But do be aware that in June and September, some specific areas attract thousands of people, especially on sunny weekends, so if that isn't what you enjoy, pick the places that are lesser known (especially since they are by and large just as lovely and delicious).
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Dec 8th, 2017, 01:23 PM
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Palen: you are very generous!
"If going to Menton, Ventimiglia is practically part of it"

It seems to me that it's something like 10 kms>

Like I said practically part of it! Was speaking in generalities of course and was meaning that if connecting trains had a gap a taxi from Ventimiglia to a Menton hotel may not be all that much more than from Menton but if connecting shuttle train is soon then just hop on it.
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