Historical Hiking in the French Riviera

The Cote d’Azur, or the French Riviera as it is referred to in English, is a magnificent stretch of coastline running between Menton, near the Italian border, and Hyéres. 115km of coastline makes up the region, and the Mediterranean climate provides 300 days of sunshine. It is a perfect place for a French walking holiday, where you can ramble beside the bright blue sea and sandy beaches.

The name Cote d’Azur, refers to the colours blue and gold, with the blue being that of the Mediterranean ocean and the gold referring to the region’s rising economy.

Early European Influences

Being an area of such great beauty with an excellent climate, it is no small wonder that many European countries wanted to have a share in the area. In the 7th century BC, Greek sailors travelling from Asia Minor began visiting and establishing trading posts in the area. Settlements were developed and trading began with the inhabitants of the interior. This has seen a visible Greek influence in the region, and a great way to learn the history while you enjoy the scenery is on a hiking tour in France.

Roman influence began in 8 BC, when Emperor Augustus built La Turbie (Trophy of the Alps) and began building towns, monuments and amphitheatres along the coast, many of which you will still be able to stumble over on your French walking holiday. Two notable amphitheatres which still remain standing are the amphitheatre and bath at Cimiez, and the amphitheatre and Roman walls at Frejus. These ancient sites add a Roman twist to the ground you will tread on your walking holiday in France.

The Early Days of the Resort

The French Riviera was one of the first modern resorts to be established in the south of France, and hiking in this area will clearly show you why. Its beauty is unrivalled, and its climate is gentle, making it the perfect retreat to escape the British winter.

It was originally established as a winter health resort for sickly British tourists, where they could escape the cold and return to health. Until the end of the 18th century, the area consisted of local people leading simple lives, where the focus was on growing olives, fishing, and producing flowers for perfume.

The French Riviera first started to gain attention when Tobias Smollett, a British traveller, described the benefits of the health resort in his book, ‘Travels Through France and Italy,’ in 1765. This was the beginning of spreading the idea of the French Riviera as an ideal place for a French walking holiday.

At the same time, Scottish doctor John Brown gained fame when he prescribed climato therapy, a therapy based on climate change to cure a range of illnesses such as tuberculosis. A trip to the French Riviera was the ideal place for this therapy to occur, as the climate was perfect in the south of France. Hiking in this region could have a similar effect on a holiday, where the fresh sea air, exercise and warm weather will revitalise you.

A Perfect Holiday Destination

Once attention was drawn to the area, it became a favourite destination of the aristocracy. British nobleman Henry Peter Broughman loved the area so much after travelling through the region with his ill sister that he bought land a built a villa there, where he spent most of his summers. Other members of the British aristocracy followed suit, recognising the benefits of a French walking holiday.

With the development of the railway in the 19th century, the area became easily accessible to Europe, and in 1865, one hundred thousand visitors flocked to the area. Casino resorts were built, the most notable being Monte Carlo, established by Charles III. Gradually the area became more popular with tourists from America and Europe, and no longer belonged to the aristocracy.

The perfect place for hiking in France or simply sitting by the sea, the area quickly became popular with celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot, Elton John, and Princess Diana. With so many people attesting to its beauty, it must be an ideal destination for a French walking holiday.