Of all the locations in the world, perhaps none rivals the romance and fantasy of the French-Italian Riviera as the place where the bikini breaks out into the world at large. For it is here, on the scenic rocky north shores of the balmy Mediterranean between Cannes (in France to the west), and La Spezia (in Italy to the east), that the exposures of the bikini are adopted by the young and sexy Europeans. It is at this international destination for the rich and famous that the bikini migrates from the pinup to the real beach.|
The popularity of Cannes dates from 1834, when the British statesman Lord Brougham discovered the fishing village and later assisted in planning its harbor and famous seafront promenade (1868) on the Ligurian Sea. After 1947 the Cannes International Film Festival added international attention, and by the early 1950s it becomes a place for starlets to be discovered (BB5310, UA5410). It is here the bikini is first flaunted on the real beach. In the early 1960s movie stars pamper the world press (NW6310), while starlets from all over the world vie for the attention of hordes of paparazzi (L196210).
For a fledgling American men's magazine, the Riviera provides a chance to glimpse into a sexual culture more liberated than America--of aristocratic young women on wearing bikinis as revealing as those of American pinup stars--except they were wearing them on a real beach (PB6210, PB6230). It was not obvious, in 1962, that America would follow suit (pun intended).
West of Cannes the Riviera overlaps with the côté d'Azur and the legendary beach resorts of St. Tropez and Ile du Levant. It is not far from the Byblos Hotel in St. Tropez when in 1967 a young French actress, Brigitte Bardot, and a small codre of followers doff their tops and began sunbathing and swimming topless, just like the men (BB6710). In no time it is imitated in the cinema (MR6810).
Driving east along the coastal road from Cannes one visits Juan-les-Pins, Antibes, Nice, Monte Carlo and the tiny principality of Monaco, and, crossing into Italy, San Remo, Genova, La Spezia, and the Italian beauties (SY6710, MA5830). Over time, the Riviera hasn't disappointed anyone.