Alpes-Maritimes (06690) Population: 3,412 Altitude: 390 m
Tourrette-Levens is a fairly large (3000 people) village located only 8 km from the northern edge of Nice. The village is perched on a rocky ridge above the deep valley of the Rio Sec river to the east, the Vallon de la Gabre to the west and the Riou Banquier to the south.
In spite of its nearness to Nice, Tourrette-Levens has the feeling of an Alpine village. The "centre ville" is at the junction of the D19 Nice-Levens road and the D719 to Aspremont. The old village is above this busy junction, and has its own "centre", with an 18th-century church, a few shops, and terraced squares overlooking the valleys to the west.
Climbing further above the "vieille ville", stone steps take you through a complex of stone walls and stone buildings to the ancient chêateau with its tall, crenelated tower sitting on the southern highpoint of the rocky ridge. This point dominates the valley, and the tower is visible as you approach Tourrette from the south.
In the upper part of the old village at the Place des Pénitents Blancs is a small, lovely and unique triangular bell tower (photo).
For the adventuresome, the semblance of a path skirts the walls of the fortress to the left, leading out to the ridge beyond and giving you a magnificent view to the south that most of the villagers have never seen.
The grounds of the château contain an exposition called "Le Monde Merveilleux des Insects", which includes a great collection of butterflies. The grounds and exposition are open from 1400-1900 in the summer and 1400-1730 in the winter, and admission is free.
Grotto du Merle
The Grotte du Merle, about 2 km out in the hills to the east, has prehistoric engravings. You can get there by taking a trail down into the valley and following the dirt road up to the farm "La Sauréa" and then up a wooded valley to the east.
Another route would be to drive around to the ruins of the ancient Châteauneuf-de-Contes, to the north of the grotto, and hike in from there.
History of Tourrette-Levens
First record, 11th century Castrum de Torretis. The village was named Tourrette-lès-Nice from 1860-1900.
Prehistoric: prehistoric engravings can be seen in the Grotte du Merle to the east of the village.
Gallo-Roman: Tourrette-Levens was inhabited by the Ligurians and then by the Romans.
Medieval: Ancient Tourrette belonged to the lords of Nice in the 11th century, then the house of Chabaude in the 13th and to Canubio de Torrisella in the 17th century.
June (2nd Sun) - Fête du Printemps (Spring Festival):
Sep - Fete de Saint Michel
• GPS: 43.786451, 7.276165
The Grande Randonnée trail GR51 - Balcony of the Cote d'Azur passes through Tourrette-Levens.
Another, circular, hike leaves from the road junction down in the "centre ville". The trail goes northeast about 2 km towards the abandoned village of Châteauneuf-de-Contes. From the road at the top, the trail goes southeast, through the ruins, and south past Mont Macaron (806 m) to join the GR51. Follow the GR51 up past the northern flanks of Mont de l'Ubac to the village of Tourrette.
On the last Sunday of March, the "Critérium de Randonnée Pédestre" hosts a 25 km hike around the "Conque d'Or.