Art – What I Love Most
About the Riviera
The geography of the Riviera is beautiful: mountains drop to
the sea; coves sparkle with clear blue water. But that’s
not what draws me most.
The cities are alluring: Nice with its Belle Epoque buildings;
Cannes with its elegant Croisette. But that not why I go to
The seasides are terrific: calm, warm water; boardwalks where
people stroll arm in arm along the shore. But that’s not
my favorite activity along the Riviera.
I go for the Art! Where else can you find so many small museums
each specializing in the works of one artist? Having the privilege
of seeing a full body of an artist’s work is the best
way to learn about the artist. And a small museum means you
have ample time (and energy) to see the full collection without
being overwhelmed. This is particularly nice for children who
can tire easily.
On trips to the Riviera our family would select a museum as
our reason to go to a different village on the days we decided
to tour. We would visit the museum in the morning, then select
a local restaurant for a long Provencal lunch. Late in the afternoon
we’d take our swim. If we were seaside, we’d go
to a private beach club so we could change into our swim wear
in a cabana. If we were at a hillside village, we’d go
to the local public pool. These are usually beautiful and often
have wonderful views.
Here are just a few of my favorite museums and villages.
Matisse Chapel at Vence. Located on the outskirts of Vence,
this beautiful little white chapel was designed and decorated
by Matisse in 1950. Its signature pieces are the stained glass
windows that represent the Provencal sea, sky and land. Open
Tuesdays and Thursdays only.
Chateau Grimaldi (Picasso Museum) at Antibes. Picasso arrived
in 1946 and arranged to live at the Chateau where he produced
an outstanding number of works of art. Most of these still remain,
and a visit through the chateau is a delight. One sees joyful,
imaginative works that helped to bring France out of the dark
National Museum of War and Peace at Vallauris. Picasso helped
to revive the traditional pottery industry at Vallauris. His
fanciful pots continue the postwar theme of the joys of peace.
Located in a small chapel its centerpiece is the spectacular
huge War and Peace usually seen by us in books only. Here you
get to see it in person. And of course, there are ample ceramic
pots to enjoy as well.
Museum Marc Chagall at Nice. Chagall is famous for his lyrical
paintings and brilliant colors. People and buildings fly through
the air. Born to a poor Jewish family in Russia, Chagall loved
France, his adopted country. This museum was his gift to France.
Built partly in glass, it is hidden in the trees on a hill above
Nice. The entire museum is filled with massive paintings depicting
his “Biblical Message”. Even the nonreligious among
us will be overwhelmed by these beautiful works.
Fernand-Léger National Museum at Biot. The galleries
show the evolution of this artist’s paintings from his
youthful geometric compositions to his mature works which celebrate
work and industry. If you ever wanted to understand a single
artist, this is an ideal museum to visit.
Maeght Foundation at St. Paul de Vence. This wonderful modern
art museum has the unique distinction of being designed by artists
to display their “modern” art as they thought it
should best be seen. Thus it is has a broad collection including
sculpture and paintings with works by Miró, Picasso,
Giacometti, Bonnard, Braque and many more. Yet the museum is
still reasonably small, and thus forms an ideal half day visit.
Houses on the
Here are some of our houses that are well-situated for visiting
these incredible museums and enjoying the charming villages
where they are located.
- Vence Wonderful 3 bedroom/3 bath house with private
pool. Walk into Vence!
- Juan les Pins Comfortable 3 bedroom/2 bath house.
Walk to the beach and take public transit to the Picasso chateau!
- Cagnes sur Mer Pleasant 2 bedroom/1 bath house
with private pool. Walk to the beaches.
RV100 - Nice
Romantic 1 bedroom/1 bath apartment in a lovely residential
neighborhood. Walk to the Promenade des Anglais and the beach.
RV53 - Grasse
Charming hillside house with private pool. Lovely views. 3 bedroom/2
bath and walk into Grasse.
Many of the houses we rent are located within an easy drive
of the beautiful walled city of Lucca. Lucca is a wonderful
city to visit, for it has retained its local flavor. Unlike
Florence which sometimes feels like it is overflowing with American
university students, Lucca remains a city filled with Lucchesi.
is surrounded by a full-intact wall lined with double rows of
chestnut trees making a 2 and a half mile garden path. Joining
the locals in their evening passeggiata or stroll is
one of the great pleasures of the city. Inside the walls, cars
have been banned, thus this is a very peaceful city. There are
cobblestone streets opening here and there to charming piazzas.
The churches in these squares comprise one of Italy’s
great concentrations of Romanesque architecture. And, as opera
lovers are well-aware, Lucca is where Puccini was born and lived.
The city pays homage with an annual music festival in July.
This is a city of towers also. One can climb to the top of the
Guinigi Tower and get a lovely view of the city below.
The food in Lucca is delicious with many local specialties including
fine local olive oil, farro garfagnino (hearty
vegetable and grain soup), and tortelli (meat-filled,
hand made pasta).
The countryside outside Lucca has much to offer as well. Many
summer palaces were built close by with spectacular gardens
designed to rival those of the palaces of the Loire Valley.
Visits to these palaces are often a personal tour making for
a very special event.
the west is Pisa with its newly restored Tower. Beyond is Viareggio,
a charming seaside town with broad sandy beaches. A bit farther
along the coast is Cinque Terre, the 5 villages that cling precariously
to steep rocky mountainsides. You can leave your car at Manorola,
then hike the hillside path to the next village. Alternatively
take the little train or the ferry from port to port. A lazy
lunch at a tiny trattoria and a swim on one of the narrow beaches
make for a very special day.
To the east is Montecatini the famous spa town where you can
still enter the park and take the water in your own special
glass served by uniformed waitresses much as Italians have done
for over a hundred years. This lovely spa was immortalized in
the Marcello Mastroianni film “Dark Eyes”. Montecatini
Alto is the tiny perched village above where dinner in the open
piazza makes you feel like you’ve retreated to a simpler
Ask for either of our Italian catalogs for a full selection
of houses and apartments in this beautiful corner of Tuscany.
For many of our clients this is their first trip to France or
Italy with their children. They often have two major concerns
about travelling with children. The first is: Will owners
be bothered by active American youngsters?
The French and Italian love children and are very welcoming
majority of rental houses do welcome children. Homes that don’t
are typically those with some element that is potentially dangerous
such as a hillside drop. These are always mentioned in our description.
Otherwise, Europeans themselves vacation with their children
and so are happy to welcome youngsters.
We often get evaluations from clients that specially mention
how welcoming the owner was to their children. I can give a
personal example. Our family with our daughter Jessie, age 11
at the time, once rented near Séguret in Provence from
the David family who were local wine producers. Both in their
70s, they grew up as peasant farmers in a very rural Vaucluse.
When they realized that our family would miss the local festival,
Mme. David took out her original Provencal dresses from her
grandmother. She carefully helped Jessie dress up in the complete
outfit including dirndl skirt, vest, apron and coif! This ended
up being a very special experience for our family, one we wouldn’t
have had without having a child along. Many of our clients describe
Europeans use babysitters less often than Americans do and thus
you often see entire families having dinner out in restaurants
together. Except for the most formal restaurants, it is a common
sight to see large families with their children enjoying a leisurely
meal on a gravel patio.
The second question
clients have is: Is there enough to do in the area to keep youngsters
Vacationing in season
in the French or Italian countryside is a fun event for children.
The Europeans are on vacation themselves, and the little villages
in the countryside have scheduled lots of special events. Traveling
circuses come by, parades take place, merry-go-rounds are set
up in town squares. Checking at the local tourist office will
let you learn about all the special events that are taking place.
We saw trained wart hogs, horse circuses and river floats just
to name a few events taking place in season.
The simple act of exploring a foreign culture can be a huge
adventure with children along. Figuring out all the different
ways to flush the toilet is great fun. Discovering all the different
ice cream pops that are sold is a treat! Learning to ask for
a particular flavor in Italian is another adventure. If you
slow down and enjoy the daily rituals of life in the village,
you and your children will have lots of fun.
The weekly outdoor market is a real treat for adults and children
alike. Select a market at one of the larger villages for the
most fun. Colorful stands display all sorts of items from honey
to soaps to exotic seafood to children’s toys. With so
many things to look at, all ages of children have a good time.
The markets are typically half day so get there early and plan
to select a restaurant for lunch in the town, too.
the historic and cultural sights is lots of fun, too. Each day
select just one sight to see that involves some physical activity.
Always remember to keep bathing suits and towels in the car
just in case. So for example, go to the Pont du Gard in Provence,
the famous 3-tiered Roman aqueduct. Enjoy the history and take
a swim in the river below. Go to the Picasso museum at Antibes
and spend the afternoon swimming in the Mediterranean. Drive
to Moustiers to see where the beautiful Provence pottery is
produced and then rent pedal boats and explore the famous Gorge
du Verdon after. Even teenagers will enjoy such a fun itinerary!
And also leave a few days just to enjoy relaxing at home.