Known by locals and tourists alike as “The American Riviera,” the city of Santa Barbara can thank the Riviera neighborhood for this special reputation. The neighborhood has lovely winding streets and features stone work terracing built by early 20th C. Italian immigrants. It’s resemblance to the Mediterranean coastal towns of France and Italy is uncanny, and the sweeping views of the entire City of SB and Pacific Ocean make it one the most breathtaking areas in the world. The steep topography of the Riviera creates the prefect space for homes with outstanding views and the feel of being on a European vacation.
Ask any local which park has the most amazing view and all of them will say Francheschi park, however not all locals know the story behind how the park came to be. In 1904 Francesco Francheschi Fenzi bought 40 acres of land on the Riviera close to the Mission. His home, built in 1909 is an impressive redwood mansion named Montarioso and still stands today. Due to his background as a Florentine horticulturist, Fenzi planted specific flowers and trees that give the neighborhood a semi-tropical and European look.
The Riviera was also the original home to University of California at Santa Barbara before outgrowing its campus and moving to where it is today. The campus was sold in early 1963 and subsequent owners were the Brooks Institute of Photography, which is now the site of the Santa Barbara Middle School.
As one of the older neighborhoods in the city, the Riviera also ranks as one of the wealthiest. Neighborhood reports and City statistics show that residents of the Riviera are among the most highly educated in all of Santa Barbara. Residents are very involved in keeping the status quo of their neighborhood and preserve the ambience of their neighborhood. Today it is the site of The Riviera Theatre, Franceschi Park and a portion of Hillside (Orpet) Park. Marymount School is located in this neighborhood, as is the Riviera Research and Development Park, and the famous and elite El Encanto Hotel that is currently under restoration. Residents who live in this neighborhood love where they live, and how it will never be overdeveloped and stay the way it was intended to be; the American Riviera.