The modern concept of leisure travel evolved in the Côte d’Azur back in the 1920s. Previously, affluent travelers undertook the “Grand Tour” to acquire a veneer of cultural sophistication, or they visited the Swiss Alps for the sake of their health, but few thought to spend time indulging solely in the pleasures of relaxation and sun worship. However, after World War I, this new trend gathered momentum thanks to celebrities such as Coco Chanel, who came to the controversial conclusion that she looked more attractive with a suntan. At about the same time, Picasso spent the summer with his family on the Cap d’Antibes, an area he loved for its limpid light and vibrant colors (qualities that also attracted Cézanne, Renoir and Matisse). The rest is history.

Nowadays, many feel the lyrical vision of the Côte d’Azur survives in the less developed hinterlands, where travelers can gaze down from peaceful aeries to the dramatic but congested shoreline, overflowing with summer revelers and million-dollar yachts. Whatever your preference, we recommend a visit during the less frenetic month of June, when the weather is delightful and the summer hordes have yet to arrive.

Among our favorite getaways are the Îles de Lérins, islands that lie just off the coast near Cannes. Two are served by a pedestrians-only ferry.

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