Le village perché de Saint Jeannet
Le col de Braux
Le village de Gattières
Le village de Contes
Le village de Lucéram
Between valleys, pine forests and hilltop villages
The hinterland of Nice sits away from the rhythm of its famous neighbour amidst an endearing mountain setting: valleys based around smaller valleys, barren peaks flirting with 1,000 metres of altitude, alternating between green slopes with restanques (dry stone walls) and pine forests… Along beautiful winding roads, you will see hilltop villages, hemmed in with olive groves and cypresses. Some, such as Peillon or Bonson, seem to barely keep their balance. Their maze of lanes conceal a religious heritage signed by the greatest artists and craftsmen of the Nice region. A packed 4-day agenda in prospect !
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Your circuit in the Nice hinterland begins in the Var Valley. A passageway route, the Var, on the borders of Provence and the comté de Nice, has always been one of two main routes to the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Its charm grows as one follows its course which narrows upstream of the Vésubie confuence. First step of your day: Bonson. Built in a remarkable location on the edge of a spur on the Var, this village offers, from the terrace of its church, an exceptional view of the Vésubie – Var confluence, the défilé (narrow pass) du Chaudan and the gorges of Vésubie.
8km north of Levens, head for Duranus, surrounded by vineyards and orchards, then, shortly after leaving the village, go to see the Saut des Français. Steep with a dizzying depth of 240 metres (the original leap was even higher: look up from the panorama, it’s the one far above your heads and 650 metres above sea level!), it’s all the more daunting because, it is said, “barbets” (a sort of chouans of the comté de Nice) rushed Republican soldiers there in 1793 to the sound of “Sauta Francès, Sauta“. It is from this sad story that the name of the belvedere, offering a steep view overlooking the valley of Vésubie, comes. At the end of the day, head to La Bollène-Vésubie where you can spend the night.
MyTripTailor Advice: in Levens, on Place de la République, the Baroque style Chapelle des Pénitents-Blancs, built in 1755, is well worth a look
You wake in La Bollène-Vésubie. This mountain village, which has preserved its pastoral tradition, is pleasantly dominated by a forest of chestnut trees, at the foot of the Cime des Vallières. Its concentric streets rise towards the church, crowded among 18th century mansions. In winter, the Turini Camp-Argent resort offers the chance to explore the Turini Forest on skis or snowshoes. Through many winding lanes, you head down to the valley of Vésubie and the D 2565 which joins Nice, offering breathtaking views. Enjoy the village and have have lunch before taking the car to the valley of Bévéra where the river has dug deep hairpin meanders dominated by high rocky and wooded ridges.
Along cornices, and sometimes under a rocky roof, the road sensationally overhangs the bed of the torrent, turned upside down by huge blocks of stone. You are in the wild gorges of Piaon. In the afternoon, head to Sospel where you should spend the evening and the night.
MyTripTailor Advice: in the gorge, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the valley from the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Menour. A monumental staircase gives access to the chapel adorned with a two-storey Renaissance façade.
You wake in Sospel. This small town steeped in history now looks peacefully down at the Bévéra flowing in front of the mountains that surround it. Its lush site of olive groves was once a place of passage on the salt road that connected the coast to Turin, then the capital of the Piedmont-Sardinia kingdom. Hence the numerous mule trails and corniche roads that will delight walkers. Stroll through the old village right bank. Along with the church and Gothic houses, the charming Place Saint-Michel provides a very pleasant ensemble. The carved fountains attest to the city’s commercial past, the most imposing is the example on Place de la Cabraïa, with two levels. On the left bank, go and admire Place Saint-Nicolas, with its old houses and pavement of coloured pebbles (calades).
It’s now time to leave Sospel for Lucéram, the jewel of the comté de Nice. The ideal scenario would be to follow one of the guided tours offered by the tourist office, so you can admire the frescoes of chapelle Saint-Grat and chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Coeur. Continue your route of churches via Coaraze and Contes where you will spend your last night.
MyTripTailor Advice: for the children, visit the Museum of the Crib to delve into the magic of Christmas.
You wake up in Contes, a bona fide rock overlooking the valley of Paillon de Contes. Over the course of the morning, go to see the church, which contains an altarpiece of Saint Madeleine of the l’école niçoise (1525), remarkable for its predella that tells of the saint’s life in five small paintings, and an altarpiece of Canavesio dated 1632. Note the beautiful 17th century woodwork. In the village you can also see an elegant two-level fountain from 1587.
Next, take the road to Berre-les-Alpes. This hilltop village (675 meters) is a charming natural belvedere in a very pretty location. On the edge of the cemetery, you’ll enjoy a wonderful view of the Nice foothills and the sea. Its church, rebuilt several times since the 14th century, combines several styles: Baroque interior decor, neo-Renaissance facade and contemporary stained glass windows… You descend to the coast via the Gorges du Paillon, the Col de la Guerre and La Turbie, known for its Trophy.
MyTripTailor Advice: La Turbie’s location on the Grande Corniche, at an altitude of 480 meters, makes it a splendid and impregnable viewpoint of the coast, especially in the evening when Monaco and Monte-Carlo are illuminated.
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