Do you wonder why it is called the French Riviera?
What does it mean and how did the name French Riviera come about?
That’s exactly what you’ll get the answer to in this article.
What is the French Riviera?
The term French Riviera is used to refer to an area in the south of France. The catch, however, is that the French Riviera has no official borders, and as a result, there’s plenty of debate about where the lines are to be drawn with the French Riviera, and which areas can and should be included in the geographical area of the French Riviera. As such, it’s not written in stone about where the French Riviera ends and where it begins, but at its very broadest definition, it is a geographical area in the south of France along the Mediterranean sea.
Normally, the French Riviera is spoken about as the coastline area in the south of France that stretches along the Mediterranean sea. According to one definition, the French Riviera covers about 550 miles.
People are united in the fact that the French Riviera begins at the Italian border at the Mediterranean sea at Menton in France because this is an area which is unarguably part of the French Riviera. When looking to the west though, it’s debated about how far the French Riviera stretches. Most commonly, though, it is considered to go all the way to Cassis or Toulon in the west. The whole coast that the Riviera includes is part of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region of France. This also includes the principality of Monaco, even though it technically isn’t part of France, surrounded on three sides by France and fronting the Mediterranean.
Why do they call it the French Riviera?
The name French Riviera came about in 1887. It got the name Cote d’Azur, which translates to Azure (Blue) coast for obvious reasons. A Riviera is defined as ”a coastal region with a subtropical climate and vegetation” and this is exactly what the south of France is. The name Côte d’Azur was born by the writer Stéphen Liégeard in the book, La Côte d’Azur, which was published in the same year.
The name Cote d’Azur Liégeard came about since Liégard was born in Dijon which was situated in the French department of Côte-d’Or. Based on that, he gave it its name by taking inspiration from the azure blue colored Mediterranean which the French Riviera had.
Today, the French Riviera is known for a Mediterranean pleasant climate, stunning (azure) blue waters, and stunning landscapes with corniches, which means that the area around the Mediterranean is like an amphibian theatre, with mountains at its back, which eventually descends into the Mediterranean sea.
The French term for the French Riviera has for a long time been Cote d’Azur, but as the English aristocracy started going to the French Riviera, it started being referred to as the French Riviera. This term was built by analogy with the term Italian Riviera which is the area that goes from the east, at the French-Italian border by the coastline (from Ventimiglia to La Spezia).
Originally, the British aristocracy just said ”Riviera”, but since this could be mixed up with the Italian Riviera, it was referred to as the French Riviera. Riviera is also an Italian noun which means “coastline”.
Additionally, an old term for the Italian Riviera, which has its center in Genoa, was Rivière de Gênes, and from here, it’s not hard to make a connection to the French Riviera and the Cote d’Azur with similar terminology.
Where does the French Riviera begin and end?
As mentioned, there have been plenty of discussions about where the French Riviera begins and ends due to the fact that it has no official borders.
Everyone agrees on the fact that it begins at the French-Italian border, but some people mean that it ends at Saint-Tropez in the Var département, whereas others, as mentioned, mean that it ends in Toulon, some people mean that it ends in Hyères, or even stretches all the way to Cassis.
You can see the French Riviera as an extension of the Italian Riviera which stretches along the Italian coastline, but it does definitely include all of the most well-known and common cities and towns on the French Riviera, such as Cannes, Nice, Antibes, Saint-Tropez etc.
Since there are no official borders, it’s a question that probably will never get a definite answer.
In the novel of Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley, which was released in 1955, the French Riviera is described as the coastal area between Toulon and the Italian border.
Due to it being the largest city on the French Riviera, and also having the main airport, Nice is often considered the capital of the French Riviera. If you arrive by plane, chances are, you’ll land in Nice. This is also why many tourists have Nice as their starting point for exploring the rest of the French Riviera.