Alpes-Maritimes (06390) Population: 571 Altitude: 650 m
Chateauneuf-Villevieille village sits on a ledge of the Chaine de Férion mountain, high above the Paillon de Contes river valley and the village of Contes far below. The old village, called Châteauneuf Villaveille, has a pleasant square with the Mairie, school, and a café-restaurant with a raised terrace open the year-round.
Also at the center of the Villaveille is the 12th century church, a colorful landmark with its high, ochre-and-beige bell tower. On the front of the church is a stone plaque with Roman inscriptions.
Across the valley to the northeast, the perched village of Berre-des-Alpes can be seen at 682 m high. To the south, the ancient, medieval ruins of Castellum novum glares down at you in perpetual shadowy outline, like stone teeth jutting from the rounded hilltop.
Abandonded Medieval Village
The ruins of the old medieval village (see History, below) sit on the 725m high hill south of the newer village. From this vantage point, there's an incredible view in all directions. From one spot you can see the ancient ruins in the foreground, with the snow-covered Alps ringing the near horizon.
To the southeast is the village of Tourrettes-Levens. Seeming so high when you're there in the village, from here you can see it perched on its rocky spur deep in the valley below. Far to the northeast, the village of Berre-des-Alpes is clearly visible.
The sight of these ruins of an abandonded fortified village evokes the ghosts of people from long, long ago. Most of the once-tall donjon tower still remains, and from inside you can look out in different directions to see the world layed out below and get an idea of why this place was chosen for protection so long ago.
History of Chateauneuf-Villevieille
First record, 11th century Castellum novum; villa Castri novi
The current village at Villaveille was Roman. It was abandonded for the new village of "Châteauneuf" (Castellum novum) perched at the top of the hill to the south. "Châteauneuf" was in turn abandonded in the 18th century, and the previous old town (Villaveille) became the current village.
The village was part of the fief of the lords of Châteauneuf.
June - Fête des Cerises
Aug (15th) - Fête Patronale
Sep (20th) - Foire - Fair
• GPS: 43.808423, 7.296374
IGN (1/25,000) #3742 OT "Nice-Menton"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #26 "Pay d'Azur"
The countryside here is steep and wild, so you need to stay on the marked trails. From the pass (626 m), a trail goes southwest to the village of Tourrette-Levens. Another trail from the same point goes southeast, through the ruins, and on past Mont Macaron to join the GR51 - Balcony of the Côte d'Azur trail.
To the northeast, the trail goes up the Crête de Infernier, above the Ravin des Balmettes, to join the road near the hamlet of St. Martin.
There are several pot-holes (avens) on the eastern side of the mountain where the medieval ruins are located. The best known of these is the Aven de la Peneta, which goes down 40 m below the surface and has 170 m developed for exploration.