The Italian Riviera is north-western Italy’s coastal showcase, a place where the Ligurian Alps meet the Apennines with a dash of la dolce vita and a well-deserved reputation alluring yachts to one of the most popular yachting hotspots in the Mediterranean, Portofino.
Decades of tourism have ensured that the beauty of the Cinque Terre and Portofino rank highly on places you need to visit and the entire coastline has bewitched royalty, writers and celebrities who have been drawn to the Mediterranean climate, beautiful towns and the blend of old and new.
There’s no denying the appeal of Portofino, tucked into a sheltered inlet surrounded by colourful buildings and olive-clad terraces it has been grabbing headlines and attracting the international jet set for decades.
In the height of peak season, the town morphs into Italy’s version of Saint-Tropez, however if you’re looking for Champagne-spraying nightclubs and hedonistic beach clubs you’ve come to the wrong place.
Many visitors to Portofino don’t venture beyond the harbour and Piazzetta (small square), but renting a yacht on the Italian Riviera will introduce you to places of quiet beauty – especially in spring or autumn, ornate villas hidden amongst the trees and gorgeous scenery with romantic restaurants sandwiched between the mountains and sea.
Portofino is not off-the-beaten path, however it’s possible to escape the crowds of day trippers and celebrities who visit Portofino for one day.
Read this Guide to Yacht Charters in Portofino to discover the best things to see and do while on a Portofino yacht charter, where you can discover some of the celebrated highlights and the charter spots less visited amidst the surrounding attractions of the Gulf of Tigullio.
A scant 100 years ago, the idea of visiting the French Riviera in the summertime was unheard of in polite society, who deemed the South of France in July and August to be far too hot and bothersome.
Instead, the first-class trains and ornate horse-drawn carriages would start to arrive as the weather cooled and the first snows fell on the Alps, delivering queens and tsars, dukes and duchesses, writers and artists for a glittering winter season of parties and operas and promenading under the palms.
In winter at the turn of the 19th century, the Cote d’Azur was the centre of the fashionable world. In summer, the carriages departed, and the opulent villas and belle époque hotels were shuttered up once more until the haze of summer cleared and the sea again held its enchanting winter sparkle.
And that’s how the Riviera stayed—a resolutely wintertime resort— until the 1920’s, when New York socialites, Gerard and Sarah Murphy, convinced the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc to keep a wing open for them for a summer. After buying a nearby villa the next year, they invited friends F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway for decadent, endless summers of jumping off the rocks into the sea, fabulous parties, and long boozy lunches under the shade of pine trees that buzzed with cicadas.
Each year the Principality of Monaco plays host to a unique musical event, which showcases some of the most accomplished and celebrated musicians in the world. The Monte-Carlo Music Masters is a renowned annual competition that was founded by Jean-Marie Fournier and first took place in Monaco in 1992.
In October of each year, music lovers flock to Monte Carlo from every corner of the globe in order to attend the various rounds of this breathtaking musical contest. One of the very best ways for musical aficionados to experience this superb event is by staying in their very own villa for rent near Monaco. When you rent a luxury villa on the French Riviera, in close proximity to Monte Carlo, at this time of year, you’re able to not only enjoy the many sophisticated pleasures of this perpetually sun-drenched coastline, but you’re also only a short and convenient hop away from one of the globe’s most exciting musical competitions.
The Monte-Carlo Music Masters sets forth several distinctive regulations that inevitably elevate the quality and standards of the musicians that compete here and the music they produce. One of these rules allows only musicians who have already won other competitions in the past to participate in the Monte-Carlo Music Masters.
Another unorthodox specification of this illustrious competition is that, each successive year, the Monte-Carlo Music Masters focuses on only one discipline, alternating between piano, violin or voice, so as to be certain to devote the requisite amount of attention and focus that each musical category deserves. In turn, this particular quirk benefits those spectators or fans who have a specific affinity for any of these three musical specialties. So, fans of the violin can choose to attend the Monte-Carlo Violin Masters and get completely carried away by the strains of their favourite compositions.
Monte-Carlo Voice Masters 2017
In 2017, it was the turn of the singers to compete at the Monte-Carlo Music Masters. Those blessed with magnificent voices travelled to Monaco from all around the planet to compete, to offer their very best operatic arias and to try and earn the coveted €30,000 Prince Rainier III Prize. The riveting elimination rounds of this year’s event were no doubt as gruelling for the competitors to participate in, as they were compelling for those gathered to watch.
In the thrilling final, which took place on Saturday the 14th of October at the Auditorium Rainier III, two South Korean singers duelled musically. Eventually it was Gil Byeong-Min who prevailed and earned the title of winner of the Monte-Carlo Voice Masters 2017.
However, there’s an argument to be made that the true winners on this day (and indeed throughout the entire competition) were the music lovers fortunate enough to attend, and witness the incredible levels of vocal virtuosity that were on display at this year’s Monte-Carlo Voice Masters.
If you’d like to find out what it feels like to listen to some of the world’s best musicians, all at the top of their games, competing against one another, then you should plan on attending the Monte-Carlo Music Masters 2018 by renting a luxury villa on the French Riviera.
Our planet is no doubt blessed with a myriad of breathtakingly stunning scenery, but very few places compare to the luxurious blend of vintage luxury and enchanting landscapes that is the French Riviera and its legendary sun-drenched beaches. This delightfully sculpted scenery which stretches from St. Tropez up until the French-Italian border is an avalanche of hospitality; complete with sandy beaches, blue seas (and skies), trendy shopping stores and exclusive boutiques. Dazzling with historic vineyards, extravagant chateaus, and calm waters transcended by traversing yachts, the French Riviera immerses its visitors in an ethereal world of splendor and magnificence. Add a touch of style and classical French hospitality, and you see why this place leads the chart of top celebrity tourist destinations.
Cannes on the French Riviera is an action attraction sure to tickle the fancy of every tourist. The town hosts the famous Cannes Film Festival on an annual basis – providing a glistering perspective of what luxury and holiday resorting should be like. With an aura of regality and modest affluence, the sun perched Mediterranean coastline, and nearby medieval styled villages provide a lucid imagery of the rich French cultural history. It’s however not just about the scenery, as embossed in the rose gold streets of the nearby, Eze, Antibes, Saint Tropez and Menton as a firsthand historical perspective of French Sovereignty. Antibes in particular, with its picturesque streets and prestigious museums, reunites you with history; and if you have a taste for the exclusive, its impressive line up of celebrity villas will leave you craving for more of the same.
What’s the best way to explore the French Riviera; by land where you get up close and personal with its stunning architecture or via the air where you’re treated to an almost godlike perspective of its stunning scenery? How about a taste of the two; up close and personal plus a godlike view and then a serving of luxurious adventure – cue the waters of the French Riviera and its luxury yachts. Of the many highlights the French Riviera is known for, its exotic yachting and beach culture stands out as one of the most prominent in the world. Since the 18th century when its white pebble beaches were routinely toured by the likes of King Edward VII, Queen Victoria, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, the French Riviera has conveyed a sense of wealth and privileged luxury; the kind that has drawn hordes of affluent visitors to its endearing yet reassuringly calm waters. So, whether you arrive on your private yacht or join the enthusiastic company of other tourists to hitch a ride aboard a cruise, ferry or boat, rest assured that you will a get a taste of the regally grand adventures of the French Riviera’s breathtaking waters.
Away from the Sea and onto the Roads of the French Riviera
Granted the sea and its frivolities pack a unique touch of adventure, but no trip to the French Riviera is complete without a day, or two spent touring its scenic landscapes and interacting with its soulful scenery. Far from the tardy definitions of a conventional tour, you too can experience the French Riviera from an elite perspective, with a custom planned tour in the supercar of your dreams. If you thought the bustling waters of the Riviera were endearing, then get set for a treat. A driving tour of the French Riviera aboard a supercar replaces the gentle sways of the adventurous sea with the high-octane pumped twists and turns of France’s greatest driving roads – it really is, the ultimate way to infuse a vibrant and spirited experience into your French Riviera adventure.
The Cote d’Azur and Provence feature a stunning landscape made for the 21st century explorer. The seemingly endless stretches of roads wiggle around the sun draped hills and snow-tipped mountains leaving in their wake Provence’s signature lavender fields and vignette olive groves. But that’s just a snippet of what lies in store; the Alpes-Maritimes, a streak of cliff-top roads snaking up the French Riviera’s daunting mountain range is length for length one of the most enthralling routes for driving in all of Europe. Its range is dotted with iconic hilltop villages, each painted with a byzantine palette of class and vintage luxury. From Gourdon, through Vence and up into Moustiers Sainte Marie, expect a visually scintillating experience that will most certainly leave an indelible imprint on your travel memories.
Planning your Car Tour on the French Riviera
Ready to delve into the French Riviera? Start off your tour from Cannes where an experienced tour guide will meet you at about 6:30 pm in the comfort of your hotel lobby. You will be provided with a detailed rundown of what to expect before the keys to your select dream car is handed over; this could be a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, a Porsche or even a Bugatti if you’re hell-bent on keeping the whole experience, French.
After your first night, spent shrugging off any accompanying bits of sea sluggishness, you should be well in tune with the magic of the French Riviera – the land version. Your first route to conquer is the long stretch of road leading from Cannes up into Provence. Do this by coasting along the famous Croisette promenade and its breathtaking view of the adjacent bay of Cannes. Make your way to the charming and eccentric village of Gourdon. This town hosts an assortment of cute small boutiques, antique and art, sumptuous cuisine, perfumes, olive oils, all reminiscent of medieval France. But all this pales in comparison to the magnificent view this hilltop village provides; Gourdon perched at an altitude of almost 760m treats you to an exclusive perspective of the Mediterranean coastline and the Alps.
From here, its onwards to the iconic Artuby bridge in all its artistic curves and silhouetted brilliance. The Verdon National park lies just ahead and nestled within its confines is the Gorges du Verdon, France’s own Grand Canyon; make sure to take some photos, the views are spectacular. After lunch, head off into Provence where your luxury hotel awaits you.
Day two and you’re back on track, only this time for a taste of the spectacular with one of Europe’s finest collection of mountain passes and twisting roads; if you are familiar with the Swiss Alps; you know what to expect with the Mediterranean Alps roads. Breeze through the legendary Route Napoleon and its nearby twin the Route de Thorenc. Both feature hanging cliffs and fast-paced straights; and while others pause to take a breather from the corners, you effortlessly conquer the road with the confidence that comes from being in your very own supercar.
Your road tour of the French Riviera comes to an end with the shimmering tarmac of Col de Vence, and its striking view of the sea. From here it’s smooth sailing via the highway back to Monte-Carlo.
You know the South of France summer is in full swing when celebrities and their bodyguards are popping in and out of boutiques, and charter guests speed back to their yachts, their tenders laden down with shopping bags full of designer gowns and swimwear from the world’s great fashion houses.
It’s far from unknown for superyacht guests to drop a cool €100,000 on a morning’s shopping trip in the glamorous boutiques of Saint Tropez, Cannes, or Monaco. But that’s not to say you need to have a spare hundred grand to enjoy the shopping experience during your South of France yacht charter.
Our Riviera shopping guide takes you from the haute couture fashion houses and elite ready-to-wear designers, through to local boutique gems and colourful local markets. And as no-one fancies giving money to the tax-man unnecessarily, we’ve also included some information on how to shop duty-free on the French Riviera.
Shopping in Monaco
If you begin your yacht charter in Monaco, there’s no better way to start than taking an afternoon stroll through the Principality to find a stunning designer outfit for your first evening on the yacht.
The Cercle d’Or & Summer Pavilions
The haute couture designers and luxury jewellers hang their shingles around the famous Cercle d’Or, where it’s just one prestigious fashion brand after another, including Prada, Gucci, Valentino, Cartier, Bvlgari, Hermès, Salvatore Ferragamo, Dior, and Chanel.
During summer 2017, 40 ultra-luxe brands will be displaying in the ‘Promenade Monte Carlo Shopping’: an exclusive installation of summer pavilions near the Place du Casino. The ideal route for a Cercle d’Or shopping tour begins at the Pavilions before carrying along the famous Avenue de Monte Carlo and onto Allée Francois Blanc.
If you’re a bargain-hunter roaming this part of town, slip behind the casino and away from the Cercle d’Or to Avenue Saint Michel, where Stock Griffe boutique offers big name brands for up to 70% off.
In the town centre, Boulevard des Moulins, Boulevard d’Italie, and Avenue Princesse Grace showcase many high end boutiques, including local offerings such as Monegasque luxury brand, 209 Mare.
The Condamine area down by the marina has more than 200 boutiques of dazzling variety and budget – from fashion and homewares to gourmet stores. For those shoppers who love to explore, La Condamine holds many treasures, including Le Dressing: a vintage designer shop featuring second-hand beauties from designers like Chanel.
Monaco even does shopping malls with exceptional style. Galerie du Metropole is one of the most luxurious malls on the planet, with acres of marble, porters to help with your bags, and 80 luxury stores including Armani and Brunello Cucinelli.
If you’re after a more low key or practical shopping experience, head to Fontvieille shopping mall, where you’ll find electronics, fashion stores, and a large Carrefour supermarket.
Finally, despite its high-end shopping reputation, Monaco also does a wonderful daily market in La Condamine featuring Mediterranean produce and local crafts, and a funky little flea market at Fontvieille on Saturdays.
Things worth knowing
There’s a 20% VAT surcharge on goods you buy in Monaco: it may be known as a tax haven, but unfortunately that doesn’t apply to the shopping experience! However, if you’re a visitor from a country outside the EU, you will be eligible for a VAT refund on purchases over €175 made in a single store.
Shopping in Cannes
Cannes is one of the world’s ultimate shopping destinations, and you’ll feel the excitement in the air as you skip from Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent to Dior, passing celebrities carrying little dogs in their Hermès handbags.
Cannes Croisette is a byword for luxury shopping, with flagship haute couture boutiques lining the boulevard beneath the palm trees and ornate Belle Epoque hotels. As well as the big global names such as Dior and Chanel, there are also some very fine French boutiques worth knowing about, such as Paule Kar, Chacok, and Leonard Fashion.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a glamorous evening gown for your night out in Cannes but have a bit of an eye on your budget, try MyAnnika, a boutique specialising in evening dresses at affordable prices.
During the Cannes Film Festival, there’s even a red carpet laid out along the shopping strip, and the Croisette is largely pedestrianised on summer evenings as of 2017, making this prestigious shopping destination even more drop-dead gorgeous than ever. And if you’re in the mood to get a head-start on the summer crowds with a spring yacht charter, the Croisette hosts a shopping festival each April, with fashion shows and season previews. Be still, my beating heart.
If you must drag yourself away from the Croisette, Rue d’Antibes is the place to do it. This famous street just behind the Croisette is the other fashionable place to shop in Cannes, with a succession of luxury brands like Vilebrequin and famous high street brands like Zara, as well as sunglass stores and decadent chocolate shops for gifts to take home.
And as if it couldn’t get any better, the block between the Croisette and the Rue d’Antibes completes the famous Carré d’Or, where fine jewels are laid out in the window displays between chic bars and swimwear stores.
Rue des Etats-Unis
This recently-updated shopping street features high-end interior design shops to find that perfect French piece to ship home.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to shop like a Cannois local, then Rue Meynadier is for you, with its eclectic mix of affordable fashion and artisan food stores.
If you’re still hungry for more, the Galerie Gray d’Albion shopping mall is located just by the Croisette, featuring a range of high-end stores including La Perla. If you’re looking for more practical shopping, head to the neighbouring town of Cannes La Bocca.
To get the true Cannes experience on your yacht charter, a visit to the local markets is a must, and Marche Forville delights with its bustling atmosphere, and colourful stalls of fruit and flowers, cheese and fish.
Things worth knowing
Like Monaco, you can claim a VAT refund on purchases over €175 in a single store if you hail from a country outside the EU. If you’re planning a South of France shopping spree, apply for a Global Blue ‘shop tax free card’ so you can automatically be refunded at participating stores, or just ask in the store for a detaxe’ form to claim at the airport upon departure.
Shopping in Saint Tropez
Welcome to little boutique heaven, where the towering names of the fashion world sit on cobbled laneways next to unique Saint Tropez boutiques. The village of Saint Tropez isn’t big and all its boutiques are a leisurely stroll from each other, so just grab your credit card and explore to your heart’s content, with a focus on the luxury triangle between Place des Lices, Rue Gambetta, and Rue Allard.
Global Fashion houses
You’ll find the instantly-recognisable names of Hermès, Armani, Dior, and Louis Vuitton emblazoned above the doorways of Saint Tropez’ pastel facades, as well as Zadig et Voltaire, Lanvin, Swarovksi and Eres, just to name a few. However, it’s worth noting that the luxury shopping scene is just as much about the local as the international in enchanting St Tropez.
Arguably the most famous item in a Saint Tropez wardrobe is the iconic Tropezienne sandal, which was established by the Rondini family in 1927, with stiff competition from the K.Jacques family who set up shop 5 years later.
As you might expect, swimwear is also a hot item in sunny Saint Tropez, where the local Vilebrequin and Kiwi St Tropez boutiques began their meteoric rise on the superyacht fashion scene.
For jewellery, Gas Bijoux delights with its chunky, colourful designs, while Au Soleil de Saint Tropez is the last word in boho chic (as worn by the stars.)
There’s something for everyone in fashionable St Tropez. If you’re feeling nautical, Blanc Blue is a local boutique full of sailor-style stripes and scarves, while those up for a spot of polo at the St Tropez polo club will find all the right attire at La Martina. Bla Blas is an absolute treasure trove of quirky labels, while Be Shorts— well, you can guess what they sell.
Markets and Cellars
One St Tropez shopping experience which is not to be missed is a Saturday morning at the Place des Lices market, where Provencal produce, gifts, and clothing are spread out in stalls underneath the shade of century-old plane trees.
And finally, if you’re wanting to take home some excellent Provencal wine for a gift or to cellar, head to La Cave de Saint Tropez or Terre de Mer.
Things to know
The same tax free opportunities exist in St Tropez as in Cannes, with a Global Blue card definitely the way to go if you’re planning on splashing some cash.
A yacht charter is the perfect way to make the most of a luxury shopping adventure along the French Riviera. Where land-locked tourists have to battle with summer traffic in the South of France, you just float along between the great shopping destinations of the Riviera, falling ever deeper in love as you go.
The French Riviera is the most glamorous stretch of coastline in the world, and as such, is probably not the first place that comes to mind when planning a family yacht charter. Yet there’s actually so much great stuff to do with kids on the Cote d’Azur that you’ll struggle to fit it all in a 7-day charter! From tropical beach treasure hunts and underwater villages to zip-lining, firework shows and rollercoasters, the French Riviera is a children’s playground.
We’ve written before about why yacht charters are so great for the whole family, and how to make sure they’re a brilliant success.
The celebrity history of the French Riviera reads like a Who’s Who of the last century. It is a riveting story of butcher kings and widow queens, sex sirens and princesses, scheming billionaires and socialite visionaries, hard-drinking writers and eccentric artists—all flocking to the Riviera to live lives full of decadence, intrigue, and debauchery under the Mediterranean sun.
It is impossible to overestimate the impact a few key individuals had on the meteoric rise of the Cote d’Azur, transforming it from a sleepy 19th century place of medieval villages and rocky sheep farms into the ultimate celebrity destination and the birthplace of the superyacht industry.
Let us take you for a journey down the French Riviera, stopping at the haunts of the celebrities, socialites, and royals who forever changed the French Riviera.
The Bay of La Napoule is a stunning stop on a French Riviera yacht charter, with the rich red rocks of the Esterel mountain range contrasting vividly with the turquoise sea, and the gloriously pretty Cannes islands sitting just offshore with their quiet pine forests, secluded coves and sunny vineyards.
There’s an abundance of superb nature activities on offer in the surrounding hills, from mountain biking to horse riding and hiking, while the town of Mandelieu-La Napoule offers a very famous golf course and some stellar Michelin-star dining.
Let’s get what must be said out of the way early. Marseille—that maligned, magnificent port city—is rarely included on a French luxury yacht charter itinerary, with the majority of charter yachts floating down the coast as far as St Tropez, before turning back to cruise back up the French Riviera to glittering Cannes and Monaco.
Yet what are yacht charter guests missing by not venturing a little further down the Var coast to Marseille? A whole lot, as it happens. Marseille is located on one of the wildest, most magnificent stretches of coastline in the Mediterranean: a region of towering limestone cliffs and turquoise fjords, Caribbean-like islands, and ancient villages surrounded by rolling vineyards. With the appeal of pretty Cassis and Bandol, the astonishing Calanques National Park, and the exotic Islands of Gold off Hyeres, the Marseille coast is simply unmissable.
If you’re seeking a luxury yacht charter that offers an entirely different experience than traditional Mediterranean hotspots such as the Amalfi Coast, French Riviera or the Balearic Islands, then head to Corsica where you’ll be charmed by an island of diverse landscapes, vast history and robust cuisine.
Located at a maritime triangle between the coasts of northwestern Italy, southeastern France and the neighbouring island of Sardinia, Corsica is underrated and largely unspoiled by commercialism – imagine an island where herders still shuffle their mountain goats through the scented maquis of rosemary and lavender, crumbling Genoese fortifications line the wild coastline instead of glitzy resorts and wind-bent pine trees border the shores of spectacular beaches.
Inland, you’ll find an even quieter Corsica with pigs and donkeys roaming the twisting mountain roads, artisans selling almond cookies and hazelnut oil roadside and tiny villages staunchly professing their Corsican identity.
A French Riviera yacht charter is not complete without a visit to one of the flowery hill villages of Provence, and Valbonne is a very lovely example within easy reach of the Mediterranean coast.
There’s an enchanting appeal to Valbonne that sits perfectly between ‘medieval charm’ and ‘Riviera chic’. Located in the rolling hills behind Antibes, Valbonne is a desperately pretty 16th century town of cobbled streets and fashionable boutiques, sun-drenched squares and ancient abbeys. What makes Valbonne so special is that it has the feel of a living, breathing Provencal village rather than a tourist attraction, with its village squares dotted with shady plane trees and boules players, and its bustling pavement cafes full of locals enjoying the good life under the Mediterranean sun.
It is hard to overestimate the effect the heartbreaking landscapes and light of the French Riviera had on some of the world’s great artists. Monet and Matisse, Picasso, Signac and Chagall are just a few who fell under the spell of the French Riviera, enchanted by that mythic, ethereal light falling across the Cote d’Azur’s pastel facades, dusky-blue Alps and sparkling seas.
Many of these great artists came and stayed, finding a new vigour in their painting and spending much of their lives here creating Mediterranean-inspired masterpieces in the fabled southern light.
A luxury yacht charter in the south of france is the ultimate way to visit the artistic highlights of the Riviera, following the lives and works of the masters along a memory-trail of rose’ and Gauloises smoke, scandalous love affairs and tragic suicides. On your yacht charter you can go ashore to visit the fabulous museums and former homes of these artists, dine in fine restaurants hung with their paintings, and admire the very same views that inspired their masterworks. Follow the path of the masters from the dreamy coves of Cap d’Antibes to the flowery hill village of St Paul de Vence and along the coast to the pastel beauty of Saint Tropez.
The French Riviera is one of Europe’s best destinations for cultural heritage, art and design with several world-class museums and historic sites with beautiful collections. From museums filled with artistic curiosities to important exhibits of maritime heritage, enjoy our definitive guide to ten of the best French Riviera museums.
Located between Monaco and Menton, east of Nice you’ll find the commune of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, an idyllic area of the French Riviera that is not as esteemed as the popular yacht charter destinations of Cannes or Saint Tropez, but with all the appealing elements that are unmistakably Côte d’Azur.
Roquebrune-Cap-Martin has a photogenically Mediterranean setting with a medieval Château dominating the village before the landscape drops down to the sea. There are three distinct parts that make up the commune – the town with coastal resort, Cap Martin and the medieval village.
Saint Tropez, originally a sleepy fishing village catapulted into the realm of the international jetset from the 1950’s and has remained the essential summertime playground for the famous and wealthy, where superyachts and sophistication bring savoir faire to the shores of the Mediterranean.
A must-visit stop for yacht charters on the glittering Côte d’Azur, the town has an unrivalled energy during busy months and a genteel charm of true Provençal ambience in the off-season.
Immerse yourself in our ‘Luxury Guide to Yacht Charter in St Tropez’ with practical advice on top places to dine, where to find the best shopping and useful tips about how to book a French Riviera luxury yacht charter.
Queen Victoria adored it; Winston Churchill painted its landscapes, and Robert Louis Stevenson and Katherine Mansfield came here to convalesce among the sunny lemon groves. Sean Connery filmed scenes of ‘Never Say Never’ in the old town, Jean Cocteau painted his famous frescoes of love here, and English nobles planted exotic gardens around Italianate villas shaded by palm trees. So enchanting is Menton that Eve is said to have planted the first lemon here, and the town, nestled on that last steep stretch of coastline before France gives way to Italy, is widely referred to as ‘The Pearl of France’.
So why is it then, that glorious Menton—set against a mighty backdrop of mountains, its cluster of pastel painted buildings and bell towers perched above the deep blue sea—is often left off the French Riviera yacht charter itinerary altogether? How can this be? For those looking for a place that brings the medieval and the gilded ages together with a gentle, well-preserved charm, Menton is paradise found.
Bradley Mitton, founder of Mitton Wines and Club Vivanova brings a new level of sophistication to the world of wine for expats in the French Riviera and Monaco.
Hi Bradley. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and your business?
I left the UK twenty five years ago to travel and experience Australia and Asia and through various work opportunities, I developed my career in the food and beverage industry and worked for eleven years amongst a number of reputable fine dining restaurants in Australia’s Gold Coast, Cairns, Hong Kong, Manila, Subic Bay and Seoul. The affinity of food and wine played a large part during my last eight years working in Asia and when I moved to Seoul in 2000, I managed an international business that focused on gastronomy, Australian wines and cigars and I acquired the ability to successfully market and promote wines, menus and events. It was when I moved to Berlin in 2002 that I started working primarily in wines and I decided that it was time to set my own company up so on a shoe-string budget, I established Mitton International Wines. The company is based in Berlin, we import boutique Argentinean, Australian, New Zealand and South African wines to Central Europe and we sell exclusively to leading hotels, private clubs, villas, yachts and international restaurants across the Continent. I then pioneered Club Vivanova that runs events in parallel with my wine business in locations that list our products as a service to build relationships with our gastronomy partners. Both Club Vivanova and my wine business work hand-in-hand to develop relationships between our wines and our clients and they are growing dynamically in the seven European countries that we work in. I currently travel throughout Europe training and educating hotel and restaurant employees in the diversity and regionality of New World wines and hosting my wine events that are mostly sold-out in Barcelona, Berlin, Milan Monte Carlo, Prague and Warsaw building great business and social connections for me and my partners. We host around 80 events per year.
Why did you decide to switch gears from being a chef to wine importing/distribution and event management?
It wasn’t something that I planned as I loved running and working in restaurants but as my career progressed, I started moving more towards sales, marketing and events and in 2002, I was flown to Berlin from Seoul and employed by a German wine importing company to channel their portfolio towards the New World and so I went from running restaurants to selling into them and the move was seamless. Having a good understanding of your clientelle is important and I understand the gastronomy business well, so I was naturally able to build a good rapport with my sommelier and restaurant managing clients. Looking back, I am happy I made the move, the restaurant industry is a killer; long hours, heavy pressure and it’s tough to make money in this sector, there’s just so many flaws in the industry that cause financial loss. The social life is great but the financial benefits just didn’t weigh up for me so I think simplifying to a trading operation made business life somewhat less stressful for me and more clean in an operational point of view.
You’ve been running your company now for 13 years. How long did it take for it to become successful?
I’m still working on that. The first five years was just building, setting-up clientelle, establishing a database, changing portfolios, learning from mistakes, losing money left right and centre and basically trying to get a start-up business on the road. It was very tough, long hours but inspirational and a great learning curve. I see my business as an train, with an engine and carriages and you have to continuously fine tune the engine to keep it moving ahead but also make sure the carriages (employees, administration and back-office) are keeping up as in our business, it’s the weakest link that is the threat. The wolf is only as strong as the pack and the pack is only as strong as the wolf; so you have to have the whole package running like clockwork from purchasing to pricing and stocking, communication then delivery and of course, the after-sales. We run a slick and specialist operation, I refuse to accept mediocrity and I’m always challenging ourselves internally to do better and be better and grow but carefully and in a planned and selective manner.
You mentioned that the first few years were tough. How did you keep yourself motivated?
I used to take each day as it came, there are always fires to put out with the business and issues to deal with and you’re going to have battles and you win some and lose some but you’ve just got the make sure that you win the big war, that’s the main objective and you’ve got to always be trying to streamline the way the company runs. The motivation comes from within, you need to be hungry, you have to want to survive and succeed and if you are not driven , you just won’t make it and if you’re not strong, it’s no use even starting out. There are employees and there are entrepreneurs and we all have our place in life and I think I was just born ready; I motivate myself and focus on my targets, taking very little notice of distractions and negative people or influences, I take most of my business decisions myself and I am driven to be the best and I think even though that can sometimes be a bit dangerous, that is the key to success, if it is controlled and not erratic. Never take no for an answer and if you fall down failing, just get up, and start again, keep going. Winston Churchill once said that when you’re going through hell, keep going!
You’re originally from England but have lived in Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, South Korea, Germany, and now France. Which place has been your favorite so far and why?
I’ve enjoyed everywhere that I’ve lived for different reasons and at different times, they showed me many different facets of life; but my favourite part of the world is the South of France. I studied French at school for eight years and I fell in love with the language, the literature, the culture, the food, the art, the women, the fashion, just everything, it was all so romantic and so when I moved back to Europe after Asia, I decided to develop my wine business in Monaco and travelled frequently and just fell back in love with the lifestyle. Eventually I had enough business there to be able to move and now live in the hills behind Cagnes Sur Mer looking down over the Mediterranean and it’s serene. The food is wonderful as are the wines, you can be in many of Europe’s business cities quickly and the pace of life is slow so I can balance that with my frantic, travelling and pressured corporate life running events and wine sales. One thing I have always respected though is my work ethic; it’s a relaxing and ambient place to live but you’ve always got to make money, if you start to get too comfortable here, you can end up on the slippery sslope of just having fun and then waking up one day with nothing. So I still work as hard here as I have ever done, but I just enjoy life in this region so much more than anywhere else I have lived. And I think that if you’re willing to give and commit in business in this part of the world, there are amazing rewards.
Have you ever experienced any major culture shocks?
Yes, plenty and especially in Asia; it’s an amazing place and just has so much to offer and the diversity of cultures is quite astonishing. I’ve lived in mud-huts and tree-houses and travelled extensively through East Timor, Komodo, Lombok, Bali and other parts of Indonesia in the 1990s. I spent a few months in the North of the Philippines living amongst the rice paddies in villages without power and I set-up a restaurant in Boracay (Philippines) before it had any power and the restaurant and kitchens were run off generators. I have many wonderful, humorous, humbling, sad and inspirational stories from my experiences and they all built me to be the person I am today. I’m going to write a book.
Where would you say people are most conscious of how they dress and how they present themselves?
I can’t say France as I think in general, the fashion in this part of the world can be superficial and scruffy so I will say Milan; locals always look sharp and Italians have a wonderful and diverse fashion sense; it’s not a style, it’s a statement and in Milan, everything is fashion, the people, the buildings, the restaurants, the designs, the hotels; they just like to make things look good and they like to look good themselves. It’s a great pleasure walking around Milan seeing how people really take pride in what they wear and how they look; I like that, it shows self-respect and pride and a drive to look and feel well.
The traditional English and French styles are quite different. Would you say living in France has had an influence on your style?
I haven’t lived in the UK for 25 years; the styles are at different ends of the fashion spectrum. Living in France has made me dress less formally but with an open-mind to believing that most clothes fit together, jeans with a jacket and formal shirt, colours that would normally not go in the UK, for example brown shoes with blue trousers is forbidden in the British scene, I’ve become less classical and more Continental and I like it, it’s relaxed. I buy most of my suits from Ermenegildo Zegna, shirts from Gucci and Dolce Gabbana, ties from Hermes and shoes from Tod’s. You can mix and match here as long as you’re looking elegant.
How would you describe your style? How has it evolved over time?
Yes, definitely, we evolve as we get older. I would say I’m a classic dresser, I like clean-cut, blues and whites; I try to dress sharply but casually, open-necked shirts, dark colours and not always formal clothing but I have to look professional and elegant as I’m meeting and doing business with leaders of the greatest hotels on the Continent and they want to deal with like-minded, executive, quick-thinking and clean-cut partners. You have to be able to walk into a room and make an impression in my business and wearing something sharp but acceptable to the eye is important.
What items will you never leave home without?
I never leave home without my sunglasses (unless it’s evening) or a jacket. I always wear a jacket, I think it’s a great accessory to turn any outfit into something that makes a statement. I also always wear one ring, a gold one my Mother gave to me; it’s a charm, but I think minimal jewellery is also important and of course a good watch.
Why is it important to present yourself well?
As I’ve mentioned, the people I deal with in business and the people that I like to surround myself in general in life are international business leaders. They run exceptional and highly professional operations in which success, efficiency and leadership is key and so I have to have an effect on these people when I meet them and in turn, they also want to also do business with sharp, sincere, executive and elegant people. So I have to look the part, to fit the sector that I work in and that means dressing well, not over-dressing but just to be clean and crisp and I have to wear that character well to present myself in the right manner. It’s not just what you wear though, it’s how to carry that but the impression has to be right and of course the style of clothes you wear is important.
Turning back to Club Vivanova – what are the most important elements of a good event?
Again, I think it all comes back to relationships and efficiency. One of my regular attendees recently sent me a testimonial, it said “Bradley is the soul of Club Vivanova, the brains and the heart behind it, and that is a guarantee in itself for us that he will continue to attract new and interesting people.” My club members and my clients trust my judgement and they expect excellence, they expect the best and I cannot give anything else, no waivering, no excuses, we have to perform at the absolute top level as reputations are always at stake and so we have to put on a good show. If we have partners involved, they have to fit the profile, they hav to be leaders in their sector. The most important elements for a successful event are good communication, promotion and advertising of the date, an excellent and tested menu with specialist wines that match, a unique venue that is managed well so there are no disappointments and then of course I run each event like my own open pop-up restaurant, we manage the door, the aperitif, the service, the menu, wines, presentations then the finale of the event with appreciations, after-service images posted online and so on. We have to have a well-run, professionally executed package so people arrive, and they know I’m taking care of business until the end of the night. It is tough work as we’re dealing with temperamental human beings, alcohol and food it can get complicated but it is inspirational and challenging and I love it, because we always do it right and so we always succeed.
What are your future plans for your businesses and your “brand”?
I just keep my head down, keep pushing for better and more exclusive events, inspirational event partners, out-of-the-box thinking in regards to the concepts but all the time, remembering that it’s the clients who have to enjoy themselves so we have to feature projects that will impress or interest them. Our plans include two galas in 2016, one at the Fairmont on 12th March and one at the Café de Paris on 23rd April. I’m also releasing and wine and food cookery book and we’re just going to keep pushing to be better, fine-tuning all the time, listening to our clients, re-focusing and using all of the criticism we get positively to drive the brand forward fast. The brand has grown extensively in Monaco, though it is always important to be grounded in this part of the world and stick to the basic guidelines of running a successful business. Success goes to people’s heads, not mine, we’re still the same, caring, small company we were ten years ago, straight and true and I’ll never lose that special sincere touch that we give to everything that we do.
Are there any rules or principles that you live by? What keeps you grounded?
Principally, I try to be a gentleman. I believe in truth and sincerity, there is no other way; and that you only get out of life what you put in, I am a non-believer in luck or fate, business and success is 0% luck and 100% determination and grit. My father always taught me that there are two ways of doing things in life, the right way and the wrong way and the right way is always the hard way and so getting to the top is painful and sometimes lonely but when we strive for that and drive ourselves to do things correctly, no short-cuts, no excuses, then we normally get to where we want to be. And then when we get there, we aim for the next plateau and so on. Driven people are never satisfied, they just want to keep becoming better and better and so I stick to my principles and strive for greatness in work and in life. I’m grounded because I’m a father, my son is 16, he lives with me in France and so I have a wonderful home life, full of love and happiness. I cook a lot at home, I entertain and run my home like an extension of my old restaurants and that is what gives me the grounding that I need. I love nature and so spend lots of time in my garden and I run most mornings between 5 and 10 kilometres, it clears my mind, focuses and channels my thoughts and once I arrive at my desk, I’m ready to challenge anything that comes my way.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
In my field of sales and marketing, I would advise entrepreneurs not to take on anything that you are passionate about, you have to work with a business almost remotely as if you’re tuning a racing car, feelings and personalities have to be left behind. If you’re too close to your business personally, you’ll make emotional decisions, not good. Decisions have to be made clinically and with a view to total survival. I’m not saying that you have to be impersonal but business is business and business is cut-throat these days and if you want to succeed and build something substantial in a lifetime, you have to be ready to challenge, sacrifice, accept physical and mental pain and sleepless nights and drive yourself to perfection. Nothing in this life is easy, there is no free lunch, so be prepared to do it the right way, the hard way and always surround yourself with amazing, smart, sharp and successful people and always be true! “If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs, and blaming you. The world will be yours and everything in it, and what’s more, you’ll be a man, my son.”
As with these words from Renoir, visiting the French Riviera can only be felt by experiencing it, going to see the same landscapes that attracted famous painters, dining at the same restaurants that hold Michelin accolades and chartering a yacht in the same bays that writers and poets gain inspiration from.
Cannes, a major destination in the south of France, is an excellent starting point for yacht charters on the French Riviera. With easy accessibility to both Nice Côte d’Azur Airport and Cannes-Mandelieu Airport, Cannes has a well-established infrastructure for major conferences and events, and ample luxury offerings to satisfy any yacht charter guest.
Time ashore can be spent dining at great restaurants from traditional French bistros to fine cuisine, browsing some of the best luxury boutiques on the Côte d’Azur or sightseeing at world-class art museums and galleries.
The Italian Riviera, the coastal strip of north-western Italy that greets yachts when they cruise east of the French border is a region of contrasts and a classic introduction to Italy.
The Ligurian coastline is roughly divided into two distinct stretches either side of the main city Genoa – Riviera di Ponente and Riviera di Levante – and here you’ll find a region bursting with chic coastal resorts, pastel-coloured fishing villages, chestnut and olive groves weaving up to mountain towns, little coves with pine trees clinging to cliffs and beaches accessible only by yacht.
Geographically located between Nice and Monaco, Cap Ferrat is dotted with splendid villas hidden behind stately gates and sub-tropical gardens; a haven in the past and today to the world’s rich and famous including singers, actors, politicians and royalty such as Somerset Maugham, King Léopold II of Belgium, American film director Otto Preminger, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Cocteau, David Niven and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.