The French Riviera (known in French as the Côte d'Azur [kot daˈzyʁ]; Occitan: Còsta d'Azur [ˈkɔstɔ daˈzyɾ]; literal translation "Coast of Azure") is the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France. There is no official boundary, but it is usually considered to extend from Cassis or Toulon on the west to the France–Italy border in the east, where the Italian Riviera joins. The coast is entirely within the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (PACA) region of France. The Principality of Monaco is a semi-enclave within the region, surrounded on three sides by France and fronting the Mediterranean.
This coastline was one of the first modern resort areas. It began as a winter health resort for the British upper class at the end of the 18th century. With the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century, it became the playground and vacation spot of British, Russian, and other aristocrats, such as Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, when he was Prince of Wales. In the summer, it also played home to many members of the Rothschild family. In the first half of the 20th century, it was frequented by artists and writers, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Francis Bacon, Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham and Aldous Huxley, as well as wealthy Americans and Europeans. After World War II, it became a popular tourist destination and convention site. Many celebrities, such as Elton John and Brigitte Bardot, have homes in the region. Officially, the French Riviera is home to 163 nationalities with 83,962 foreign residents, although estimates of the number of non-French nationals living in the area are often much higher.
Its largest city is Nice, which has a population of 347,060 (2006). The city is the center of a communauté urbaine – Nice-Côte d'Azur – bringing together 24 communes and more than 500,000 inhabitants and 933,080 in the urban area. Nice is home to Nice Côte d'Azur Airport, France's third-busiest airport (after Charles de Gaulle Airport and Orly Airport), which is on an area of partially reclaimed coastal land at the western end of the Promenade des Anglais. A second airport at Mandelieu was once the region's commercial airport, but is now mainly used by private and business aircraft. The A8 autoroute runs through the region, as does the old main road generally known as the Route nationale 7 (officially now the DN7 in the Var and the D6007 in the Alpes-Maritimes). High-speed trains serve the coastal region and inland to Grasse, with the TGV Sud-Est service reaching Nice-Ville station in five and a half hours from Paris.
The French Riviera has a total population of more than two million. It contains the seaside resorts of Cap-d'Ail, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Cannes, Saint-Raphaël, Fréjus, Sainte-Maxime and Saint-Tropez. It is also home to a high-tech and science park (French: technopole) at Sophia-Antipolis (north of Antibes), and a research and technology center at the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis. The region has 35,000 students, of whom 25 percent are working toward a doctorate.
The French Riviera is a major yachting and cruising area with several marinas along its coast. According to the Côte d'Azur Economic Development Agency, each year the Riviera hosts 50 percent of the world's superyacht fleet, with 90 percent of all superyachts visiting the region's coast at least once in their lifetime. As a tourist centre, French Riviera benefits from 310 to 330 days of sunshine per year, 115 kilometres (71 miles) of coastline and beaches, 18 golf courses, 14 ski resorts and 3,000 restaurants.
Origin of term
View of Port Hercule, Monaco
The term French Riviera is typical of English use. It was built by analogy with the term Italian Riviera, which extends east of the French Riviera (from Ventimiglia to La Spezia). As early as the 19th century, the British referred to the region as the Riviera or the French Riviera, usually referring to the eastern part of the coast, between Monaco and the Italian border. Originally, riviera is an Italian noun which means "coastline".
The name Côte d'Azur was given to the coast by the writer Stéphen Liégeard in his book, La Côte d’azur, published in December 1887. Liégeard was born in Dijon, in the French department of Côte-d'Or, and adapted that name by substituting the azure colour of the Mediterranean for the gold of Côte-d'Or.
The Old Town district of Menton
, which is the last town on the Côte d'Azur
before the Italian border
In Occitan (Niçard and Provençal) and French, the only usual names are Còsta d'Azur in Occitan and Côte d'Azur in French. A term like "French Riviera" (Ribiera Francesa in Occitan, Riviera Française in French) would only be used in literal translation, or adaptations of it. For instance, in French, "Riviera Française" is found in the online Larousse encyclopedia to refer to the holidays of a group of English workers (moreover, in Occitan, the word ribiera "coastline" mostly works as a common name, whereas in French, the old-fashioned term Rivière de Gênes was used to refer to the Italian Riviera whose center is Genoa).
Disputes over the extent of the Riviera and the Côte d'Azur
The Côte d'Azur and the French Riviera have no official boundaries. Some sources put the western boundary at Saint-Tropez in the Var département. Others include Saint Tropez, Hyères or Toulon in the Var (departement), or as far as Cassis in the Bouches-du-Rhône département.
In her 1955 novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith describes the Riviera as including all of the coast between Toulon and the Italian border.