A Cruise of the Italian Riviera & the Scenic Rhone

Avignon, image courtesy of Chelsea Essig, Unsplash. Just one of the stops along the beautiful cruise of the Rhone River
Medieval castle along the Rhône River in Avignon, France. Image courtesy of Chelsea Essig, Unsplash

By Jan Larraine Cox 

It’s the beginning of our adventure in the Italian Riviera. We are starting from La Cote D’Azur on the Mediterranean Sea a seaworthy ship named River Chanson carried us in style from the Riviera nearly to Paris. We passed ancient landmark buildings and maneuvered under bridges, thanks to our adept young captain. 

Cinque Terre – a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Our first stop was at Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera. Cinque Terre National Park features clusters of terraces which are fastened to cliffs that drop dramatically into the sea. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cinque Terre is comprised of five captivating villages, most of which are connected solely by pathways and train stations. Delightfully free of car traffic and pollution, we entered a world we would love to remain in! 

Next Stop: Genoa

The next stop was Genoa, home of Christopher Columbus and the capital of the Italian Riviera. Once a rival to Venice, Pisa, and Amalfi, Genoa remains a grand maritime city. 

Into the Rhone River

After leaving the Italian Riviera on our way north on the Rhone River, we docked across from the well-known Papacy of Avignon. We were treated to an unbelievably stunning nighttime view at the lavish Roman Catholic building where popes resided from 1309-1377. It was lit up for our viewing pleasure. A magnificent example of Gothic architecture of the 14th century, it includes the Palais Vieux built in the reign of Benedict XII. To the south is the Palais Neuf, which was built by his successor, Clement VI, and houses the papal chapel.

To Avignon and the Papal Palace

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame des Doms lies to the north of the Papal Palace, and dates from 1150. The Petit Palais, begun in 1317, was the original residence of the bishops of Avignon. 

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Known as the “City of Popes,” Avignon was the beautiful location for which the popes left the turmoil of Rome, and rather installed themselves in this calm possession of the Catholic Church. They built residences, chateaux, fortified palaces, and churches at Avignon, and most notably, The Palace of the Popes. 

Arles, Beloved of Van Gogh

We visited Arles on a walking tour, a town that was beloved by Vincent van Gogh. The keepers of this land are called its guardians, similar to American cowboys. They live here with their families, often several generations together, creating their lifestyles while following both the needs of their livestock and nature. 

It is also possible to visit the hospital where Van Gogh stayed and painted Hospital in Arles, and where he famously cut off his ear. At the Café L’Alcazar, the still standing building that inspired the painting Café Terrace at Night, the café manager, Madame Ginoux, was Van Gogh’s model for the painting he entitled “L’Arlesienne.” 

Final Stop: Monet’s Giverny

Artist Claude Monet’s beloved location Giverny lies in the countryside which inspired his art. Monet’s son Michel left these locations to the Academie des Beaux-Arts in 1966, and Monet’s home and gardens are now a museum. The house is furnished as it was when Monet, the leader of the Impressionist School, lived there, including his precious collection of Japanese engravings.