•Alpes-Maritimes (06910) • Population: 160 • Altitude: 630 m
Sigale is a sleepy little village in a very picturesque setting, sitting on a rocky outcrop high over the Esteron river. It's located 34 km west of the Pont Charles-Albert on the Var river north of Nice. From the pont (bridge) the road goes up and past Gilette, then along the green-forested Esteron valley, past Pierrefeu and Roquesteron. After Sigale, the road curves north past the Clue du Riolan and over the mountains to Puget-Théniers.
This was once a fortified village, positioned high over the junction of the Riolan river, flowing southeast down through the Gorges du Riolan, and the Esteron river. Remnants of the ancient fortifications include two 14-15th century towers.
A key attraction is the 19th-c Tour de l'Horloge, a beautiful tall, square bell tower with campanile that stands high above the village on the southern edge, overlooking the valley.
The 12th-century Romanesque Eglise St-Michel [photo-7] has an interesting bell-wall with three bells. The church was enlarged in 1516 and is well restored.
The village centers around the 12th-century Romanesque Eglise St-Michel [photo-7], with its triple bell-wall, and the nicely decorated Mairie (town hall) with its 16th-c fountain and ancient lavoir.
Some of the village streets are interesting and it is worth a walk-around, but we got the impression that the place is in a gentile decline. Part of the impression was because of a few abandoned buildings and at least four places advertised for sale, and partly because it was very, very quiet for a Sunday afternoon. Admittedly there seemed to be a local picnic and awards lunch out beside the village, so perhaps the place had emptied out to there.
You can follow a little path up to the ruins of the ancient chateau that stands above the village on the "inland" side. It's a very short walk up and provides a very nice view across the village rooftops and out over the valley.
There is a post office in the village, but no shops. It's only 5 km from Roquesteron so that's not a problem. There is a nice looking café, but since they were closed on a holiday Sunday afternoon in June, I wouldn't travel a long distance hoping for refreshments there.
Pont à Bec. Across the Esteron, down below the village, is the ancient multi-arched bridge Vieux Pont de sigale, called a Pont à Bec. You can walk down and back on a nice little loop-hike, or drive about 2 km east of the village and take the road towards Aiglun.
History of Sigale
First record, 1144 Cigala
Owned by the Counts of Provence, then the Dukes of Savoy. In 1651 removed from feudalism and transferred to the Blancardi. Established as a county in 1758, under Martini-Ballaira. 514 inhabitants in 1858.
In 1760, the Esteron river was established as the border between France and Sardinia. In 1793, the county was partially integrated into the Republic of France. In 1814 the river border between the Comté de Nice and Sardinia of 1760 was reestablished. Finally in 1860 the comté of Nice, including Sigale, became part of France.
Celto-Ligurian: An ancient castellaras was located at the Cime de Cacia, north of the village, and another at Alaric.
Gallo-Roman: Roman coins and inscriptions were discovered at Entrevigne, east of the village, where the oratory and chapel Notre-Dame d'Entrevigne are located. About 200 BC this was the Castrum de Intervineas, established by the Phoenicians and remaining as the village of Alassia until its destruction by the Sarrasins in the 8th century.
• GPS: 43.871984, 6.964604
IGN (1/25,000) #3642 ET "Vallée de l'Estéron"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #26 "Pay d'Azur"
There are good hiking trails in the area. The GR 510 (Grande Randonnée) passes through the village.
• To the south, the GR510 and a PR offer a short loop-hike down to the river at the Vieux Pont de Sigale in the valley below the village.
From the pont, the GR510 goes east to Roquesteron, and PR trails go west to Vascognes and Aiglun, as well as linking to several other trails in the nearby hills.
• To the northwest, the GR510 goes to the Clue du Riolan, with an earlier branch going up to the top of the ridge above the village at the Cime de la Caciam.