Idyllic French Riviera Hilltop Villages
Looking like penguins huddling together for warmth and protection, the tiny hilltop villages on the French Riviera are wonderful to look at and fascinating to visit. They are perched on the rocky shores of the Mediterranean, overlooking the sea and enjoying the safety that is in numbers.
Most of them were established during the 12th and 13th centuries, then became obsolete, and later were revived by artists and people who used them as second homes for holidays. Over 120 such villages now dot the magnificent Côte d’Azur and welcome tourists from all over the world, enchanting them with their historical charm.
You can find Peillon approximately 12.5 miles from Nice. A small rocky peak was enough for the old settlers to establish a small village or resilient people. Narrow alleys, steep stairs, vaulted passages and crammed rock houses make this place extremely interesting and alluring.
While evidence of human settlements dates back to the Iron Age, the first real town with fortifications was built here towards the end of the 10th century. The currently existing ones are no older than five centuries, with most of them dating from the 19th century. This medieval establishment is not dedicated to tourism, meaning that it is one of the most authentic hilltop villages that you can find on the French Riviera.
Surrounded by rocks and trees, Saorge is a lovely little town on the side of a mountain. It was once an impregnable stronghold dominated by three castles. Today visitors can still find many medieval buildings here, including a gothic church from the 11th century. You can also visit the monastery that was established in the 17th century and which is still operational today. Most of the stone houses were built way back during the 15th and 17th centuries.
Eze dominates the picture from an altitude of 1,400 feet. The Old Town still has its medieval stone streets, but its once sturdy walls are now all gone. The Exotic Garden at the top is probably the most important attraction of the town, with people enjoying breathtaking views of the coast from there. The place was occupied by the Phoenicians in ancient times, whose belief in gods also lent the settlement is name: Eze is a derivation of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of magic and life.
The views that one can enjoy from here are to die for. Gourdon offers almost 50 miles of coastal panoramas stretching between Nice and Théoule-sur-Mer. Its history goes back to the 12th century, but its current chateau was built in the 1600s. The place was once home to Raymond Berenger, the Count of Provence. It is still a picturesque little town today, so a visit is definitely worth making.
This is one of those busy little places, where tourism plays a major part in locals’ everyday life. Also situated on the side of a mountain, it is lovely and picturesque, but quite difficult to reach. Seven and a half miles of meandering mountain roads lead up to the medieval Sainte Agnes, which is both challenging and rewarding. It’s mostly challenging for the driver and rewarding for the other passengers, because they can take in the beautiful views. Many of the buildings in the village were completed between the 15th and 18th centuries.
Tourrettes sur Loup
Tourrettes sur Loup is located almost nine miles from the coastline, on a rocky hill with amazing sea views. You can find it between Cannes and Nice, in an idyllic setting with prickly pear trees and delicate violet flowers. Also known as the Town of Violets, this charming place is known for its inhabitants’ passion for the purple little flowers. There is even a festival dedicated to them, which takes place in March, when violets are in full bloom. Humans have lived here since Neanderthal times, but the buildings that have survived until today date back only to the 15th century.