Alpes-Maritimes (06430) Population: 618 Altitude: 812 m
La Brigue is a very pretty little mountain village, nestled along side one river (the Levense) and astride a smaller stream. The village is located just off the main Roya-Valley road, on a dead-end road into the mountains, and so tends to be bypassed by most of the traffic. Looking across the village to the northwest, high rocky cliffs tower over La Brigue.
The village is both pretty and interesting, with colorful buildings, ancient churches, arcades, vaulted passages, streets to explore, and the pleasure of a fast-flowing river that's joined by a mountain stream in the center. The stream is called "Rio Sec", or dry river, but was full of spring water when we were there. Many of the buildings are of natural stone and many are nicely renovated with pastel facades and green "lauze" doorways and steps. The "lauze" is a green schist (a marble-like stone) local to parts of the Roya Valley.
There's some interesting architecture and some unusual and attractive buildings here, including the 18th-c octagonal Chapelle Saint-Michel on the Place de Nice. The 13th-c St-Martin collegial church [photo-7] has a colorful striped front; the main doorway is for 1501 and the side door from 1234; among the interior items is a 17th-c organ and 16th-c fountains. The Chapelle de l'Annonciation [photo-6], just in front of the St-Martin church, has a Renaissance facade and an interesting campanile bell tower.
The 14th-c medieval Chateau des Lascaris perched above the village is in ruins, with only some walls and a tall, round donjon tower remaining. Partial reconstruction, however, has been started, and the castle is used for medieval festival weekends. Reconstruction will be followed by archeological digs on the site.
The large Place de Nice has a shady terrace café, the Café des Platanes, and buildings with trompe-l'oeil facades.
Pont du Coq
About a kilometer out of town, further up the valley, you'll find a beautiful stone bridge off to the right of the road. The Pont du Coq [photo-11] is a nicely-restored medieval bridge that crosses the field on multiple arches, then turns and crosses the stream as a hump-back (dos d'ane). The bridge is accessible by a very short walk across the field.
Old Mill - Moulin de La Brigue
The old mill is private, but you have a nice view of the old stone buildings from the road [photo-9]. It's about 2 km from La Brigue, past the Pont du Coq and just before the road turn-off to Notre Dame des Fontaines.
Morignole (in the commune of La Brigue) is a lovely little Alpine hamlet clinging to the mountain-side over a thickly forested valley, with the fast-flowing Levense torrent flowing down towards La Brigue. The village church is ancient and simple, built of an interesting flat stone.
The hamlet is located 5 km northeast of La Brigue. You drive up the valley on the D43; at the junction half-way up, you go straight (not right). There's no commerce here, but the hills are beautiful, and there are some marked hiking trails.
Notre-Dame des Fontaines
The Notre-Dame des Fontaines chapel is located 4 km up the valley, east of La Brigue. Follow the D43 towards Morignole; at the junction 2.5 km up, turn right. (There's a lovely old mill on the right, just before the turning.)
The chapel is fairly popular with local tourists, and is the site of a legendary pilgrimage. It's set on a tiny clearing in a thickly forested valley, and there's a mountain stream just below. You can wander around the outside at any time. There's a tour of the interior (by the young lady from the La Brigue tourist office) 7 days a week: 10h-12h, 15h-17h.
The chapel is renowned for its 1492 mural paintings by Canavesio, from the peak of the primative Niçoise school. The paintings, that cover the walls and the choir, have extraordinary colors, and include a vast scene of the last judgement.
History of La Brigue
First record, 11th-c Brica
La Brigue was a "Seigneurie" of the Lascaris-Vintimille, and the lords formed a separate branch from those at Tende. In 1388 they paid hommage to the Count of Provence and in 1406 they re-joined Savoy. In 1860, La Brigue was not included with the territory of the Compté de Nice that was returned to France, but remained Piémontaise.
La Brigue, along with Tende, was finally joined to France by the treaty of 1947. Four of its small mountain hamlets remained with Italy; three joining the commune of Briga-Alta and te fourth, Realdo, joining the commune of Triora.
July - Fête Médievale
Sep - Fête de la Montagne
• GPS: 44.043711, 7.515181
IGN (1/25,000) #3841 OT "Vallée de la Roya"
IGN (1/25,000) #AM 3 "Alpes-Maritimes Vallée de la Roya"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #9 "Mercantour"
La Brigue is a good place for hiking, although the trails in these mountains can be steep.
The GR52A (Grande Randonnée) passes through the village. To the north (it leaves towards the west) the GR52A goes around the flank of the mountain and into the river valley and on to Tende. To the south, the GR52A goes through the forested hills, eventually bending west to Breil-sur-Roya.
From the east side of the village there's a loop hike, going north up to the Col de Boselai (1111 m altitude), then southwest to join the GR52A and back to La Brigue.
Another well-marked PR trail goes east from the village, through the Bois du Pinet and past the Cime du Pinet (1478 m). The trail then branches, with possibilities to go past the Notre-Dame des Fontaines chapel or on to the trails running along the Italian border.
A PR trail goes directly between La Brigue and St-Dalmas-de-Tende.
* "PR" = Petite Randonnée; trails marked with yellow
It's worth a trip to La Brigue just for lunch.
Fleur des Alpes
Across the street from the Place St Martin, had good food and a windowed dining room overlooking the river.
Has cuisine from the southwest of France.
Auberge St Martin
You'll find a photo, and all the info about it, on their website (http://www.auberge-st-martin.fr/)
Transportation La Brigue
From Nice, take the A8 autoroute to Italy. In Italy (there is no border control), take the first exit "Ventimiglia" (48 km from the Nice airport), and then follow the signs for Cuneo. The Italian toll accepts 11 FF. From Nice, it's an hour's drive up to Breil-sur-Roya, and another 25-30 minutes to La Brigue. The main road up the Roya Valley is from Breil-sur-Roya, Tende, and through the Col-de-Tende Tunnel into Italy, to Limone-Piemonte and Cuneo. From St Dalmas-de-Tende (just before Tende), turn right onto the D43; it's only 2.5 km to Dalmas-de-Tende.
The Nice-Cuneo train has a stop at La Brigue.