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Our Story

We started Riviera Experience in 2004 as a vacation rental business in Villefranche sur Mer.

A Riviera Experience

When we started, we really were just looking for a place to have a “pied a terre,” our own place in the South of France.  Shelley was on a year sabatical and fell in love with Villefranche and knew she wanted to live here when she could afford to leave the corporate world back in the US.  Riccardo had been to Villefranche earlier and always wanted to return and find a way to live in France full time although was also tied to the corporate world back in the US.

One evening, we met at a restaurant in Villefranche, fell in love immediately, and decided to pursue our dream together.  We purchased our first place and began to remodel it thinking it would be our vacation home while we continued to work in the corporate world.  But in the process of remodeling, we spotted another place for sale and fell in love with it and felt we had to have it, so we decided to purchase and remodel it.  Now we were in trouble.  We couldn’t afford two, couldn’t live in two and the third one was beckoning to us.  We needed a plan!

Shelley had been a renter for a year in Villefranche (back in 2001 when taking a sabbatical) and found the rental market very difficult and the properties not very welcoming, well appointed or clean.  We needed to rent the apartments we couldn’t live in ourselves (after all, we only needed one for ourselves). We decided to start a rental business which would offer apartments that were well designed, with the kinds of amenities you want in your own home, clean, and at a fair price.  And, we would include internet in the apartment, which was absolutely unheard of in 2004 in a rental apartment.  Our motto was “your home away from home.”  It has guided us since the beginning.

As a result, in everything we do, we are constantly thinking about “if one is sitting in this chair, is it comfortable, is there reading light, is it beautiful, is the lighting in the evening sufficiently atmospheric?” or if in the kitchen cooking “I wonder if they have a zester, rental properties always have horrible knives so they probably aren’t sharp,” or in the bathroom “is the lighting good, is there counter and storage place for my things, is it clean?” or the beds “what horrible pillows and linen, not to mention mattress, will we find?”— we think about all these sorts of things, in every room and try and ensure we have provided the right elements to make your stay comfortable.  That is our guiding principal, your comfort and pleasure so you have a wonderful Riviera Experience and hope that you’ll want to return regularly.  And, we are happy to say, most of our guests do.

All our vacation rental apartments are located in the Old Town of Villefranche except for one which is just a 5-10 minute walk away, directly above the Old Town. All of our rental apartments have lovely views of the bay, and four of them are right on the waterfront, with four others just steps from the waterfront (literally, a one-minute walk).

All our holiday rental apartments have balconies or terraces except for one, but it is special in other ways. We selected each vacation rental for its superb location and have designed and remodeled each apartment so they feel, we hope, as though they are your home away from home.  We have never purchased an apartment remodeled by someone else.  We always tear it down to the bare stone walls and start again, with our design principals in mind.

High Quality Throughout

Each holiday rental apartment has been fully renovated and decorated by us and each is quite unique in its décor. Each is well appointed and include the following amenities:

  • Excellent, queen-sized beds from an excellent bed store
  • Lovely white cotton linens and towels (and beach towels)
  • Down duvets and down and foam pillows
  • Gourmet kitchens fully equipped for those who love to cook and entertain (including sharp knives and knife sharpeners)
  • Desk and office area equipped with WIFI
  • Fixed phone line, basic desk supplies, satellite TV (English speaking stations) and French TV
  • Stereo with Bluetooth connection
  • Washing machine and clothes lines off the balconies (just like the French women have) and two apartments with dryers (Villa and Plage Privee)
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Excellent reading and mood lighting throughout (one of our hallmarks)

We have tried to think of everything; however, if something is missing we, or our staff, are on-site to help.  We all live here full time.

Our customers have told us that each of our holiday rental apartments are beautiful and feel like their home away from home.  Those who have stayed in more than one of our vacation apartments tell us it is hard to decide which one they prefer as each one is unique and offers something special.  Again, our guiding principles are that they must function well, be beautiful to look at, feel like a home, be very comfortable, and be an enjoyable place to live.  We want to provide the right living environment for you to have a wonderful experience of life on the French Riviera.

Delivering Personalized Customer Service

We are committed to offering the highest level of customer service, and make it begin with your initial contact with us as you ask about our various holiday rental apartments.  Normally, it is Shelley that will respond to your reservation request.

From there, we will help you plan your arrival. If you like, we will be happy to arrange a taxi to meet you at the airport and bring you right to us (our Villefranche taxis are less expensive than the airport ones). We will greet you on the street and walk with you to the apartment so you won’t have any worry about how to find the apartment or get the keys. We will acquaint you with how everything works in the apartment and ensure you know how to reach us. If you are arriving late in the evening and would like us to put a few groceries in the apartment, we are happy to do so. We will also be happy to arrange a taxi for your departure.

We will acquaint you with things about Villefranche and the surrounding area.  We have tried to suggest a number of things to do on our website under the section Things to Do. We have an office in the Old Town and will be happy to receive you there and answer any questions you may have or you can call us. Villefranche has a very helpful tourist office in town.

If you are staying longer than a week, we will arrange a weekly cleaning for your apartment.  All the linens are changed and the apartment is thoroughly cleaned. We are fastidious about keeping our apartments clean and well maintained and our cleaners and service providers (handyman, electrician, plumber) are all right in the village.

We hope that our personal service combined with our lovely holiday rental apartments offer you a genuinely unforgettable living experience — your home away from home — in a perfect location on the French Riviera. We take pride in the fact that many of our customers come back year after year, for weeks or months at a time, because they feel at home in one of our vacation apartments in lovely Villefranche sur Mer.

Why We Chose Villefranche sur Mer

We love the region!  What’s not to love?!  But we especially love Villefranche.  We love the proximity to Nice, Monaco, Italy, the many beautiful and interesting villages of this Department of the Maritime Alps.  We love the proximity of everything else in Europe as Nice is France’s second largest airport.  Plus, the train service is superb. We love that Villefranche is an historic village with impressive architecture yet right on the sea.  Most medieval villages are in the hillsides.  And the Bay of Villefranche is one of the most famous and beautiful bays in the world.  We love the food and the healthy lifestyle, and we love the French and international community of people.  It just offers so much.  While you stay in one of our holiday apartments, we are sure you will experience some of what makes Villefranche such a special place and one that people want to return to again and again.