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The Riviera is a narrow strip of land along some of the Mediterranean coast of France and Italy, also including Monaco. It has few natural resourcs and should by rights be of no particular importance. Still, the mere name is enough to invoke images of sand, sun and luxury. The Riviera is a concept as much as it is a geographical area. For that, we can blame the British, who first made their holidays in the area.

Although most of the area is indeed French and called Cote d'Azur, La riviera is Italian and means the beach. In the 1850s, when the British first started arriving in flocks, their favourite haunts such as Nice and Menton were still Italian, thus the name.

Originally advertised as the only place to overcome a nasty disease such as tuberculosis, the Riviera soon became the winter playground for the British upper class. New railroad lines made the journey from the cold British winter to the stable, warm climate of Southern Europe both pleasant and easy, compared to the slow and strenuous journeys of earlier times by sea or diligence. Even Queen Victoria found it acceptable, and from 1882 made a yearly "incognito" visit as the comtesse de Balmoral. Royalty from all over Europe, particularly Russia, followed suit and brought their money, gaiety and politics with them.

After this belle époque, the Americans discovered this place in the sun in the 1920s. Money became more important than nobility, and glamour flourished even more than before. The second world war ended much of it, but did not deprive the Riviera of its sunshine. After the war, society had changed so much that the French and Italians themselves finally got to enjoy the Riviera as something else than local servants. Today, both the jet-set and the middle class enjoy the glory of the Riviera.

Bordered by the sea in the south and the Alps majestically guarding the north, the Riviera's borders to the east and west are less easily defined. Today we will put them at La Spezia in Italy and Hyères in France.

From east to west, centres of the Riviera include:

La Spezia
San Remo
St. Raphael
St. Tropez

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