Alpes-Maritimes (06500) Population: 930 Altitude: 360 m
This is a lovely little medieval village, really isolated from the tourist crowds of the nearby coast. Gorbio is perched on a hilltop forested with olive groves, and surrounded by towering rocky mountains. The village is arranged in a long oval [map] of Medieval-narrow streets and many vaulted passages.
Gorbio's main square [photo-4, photo-5] is large, open and light — compared to the small squares in the narrow confines of the old village [photo-8] where the sun doesn't shine in very well. The typical little medieval streets going out from the square are narrow and stone paved, with vaulted passages and some very old and picturesque buildings.
The large tree at the top end of the square [photo-6] is an elm (orme) planted in 1713, now measuring 5m60 around. Local history says the tree was planted to celebrate the Treaty of Utrecht, where the Compté de Nice passed back to the Duke of Savoy. A writing from the 18th century states (loosly translated): "Every man, under the elm, is a man with his rights."
The Fountain on the Square
The grand fountain at the bottom of the main square [photo-5], La Fontaine de la Place, was built in 1902 as an abreuvoir for mules and donkeys. The form of the fountain is actually the harness and a pair of baskets as carried by the mules.
The Malaussene Fountain
The smaller but more exotic fountain in the Place de la Mairie [photo-9] was built in 1882. At that time is was one of only three sources of water in Gorbio: along with the small fountain at the Place Honoré Vial and the source at the lavoir.
Lascaris Chateau, Museum
The ancient chateau of the Lascaris is a truncated square-tower building [photo-12] in the center of the old village (the crenelated top was lost in the earthquake of 1887). The original castle was probably built in the 11th century — cited in 1040. The current building is much more recent, but is on 12th-century foundations and included 13th-century windows. The interior houses the local museum.
Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs
The simple chapel in the old village [photo-15] is the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs de la Sainte Croix, built in 1445. An annual event hosted by the chapel is the Fête des Limaces (Festival of the Slugs), so named because this night-time event is lighted only by small oil lamps made from snail shells.
The few shops in the village include a Gîte de France and the pottery-art-souvenir shop La Cave de Gorbio. The tourists here tended to be French and Italian people from this region, here to stroll, sit in the sun, have lunch and relax. The narrow roads filter out the big tourist buses.
History of Gorbio
First record, 1157 Gorbio, as a homage to Gênes of the Comte de Vintimille.
Celto-Ligurian: There was originally a Ligurian village here.
Medieval: Gorbio was attached to Savoy in 1388, and reattached to France in 1860.
Tel (Mairie): 04 92 10 66 50
• GPS: 43.786366, 7.444934
IGN (1/25,000) #3742 OT "Nice-Menton"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #26 "Pay d'Azur"
The GR51 (Balcony of the Cote d'Azur) goes through Gorbio. To the northeast, the GR51 passes Sainte Agnes, the hamlet of Monti, crosses the river valley to the east, then continues on nearly to the Italian border where it joins the north-south GR52. To the south, the GR51 goes towards the coast, where it follows the hills above the coast towards Nice and beyond.
There are a couple of fairly large 1-day loop hikes from Gorbio. A northern loop goes to Sainte Agnes and the Col de la Madonne de Gorbio (925 m). A western loop goes north to the Col de la Madonne de Gorbio, south along a ridge at about 1000 m, passing below the peak of Mont Agel (1239 m), then returns along the GR51.
We found at least three places to eat:
Auberge du Village -- fairly up-market
Beau-Sejour -- a brightly painted yellow with green shutters, on the main square
Les Terrasses -- a café and restaurant also on the main square, with an upper terrace with a view; the bar here is popular with the locals, and it has a great collection of "casquettes American" (baseball caps), many from various F1 grand-prix races across the years. The owner has a personal collection of around 300 caps, so the ones on display in the café change from time to time.
We had lunch at Les Terrasses. The "plat du jour" on Easter Sunday was a simple Chevreau en Sauce avec Ravioli, but they also have some more expensive and sophisticated menus.
1 - From Nice-Cannes
And other places in France. Going east on the A8 autoroute (direction Italy), pass around the north of Nice via the tunnels and viaducts. (NB. there are two #56 exits). Continue through the péage (toll booths) beside exit-57 (do not exit). There is no exit-58 eastbound. Take exit-59 "Menton".
Down the exit road, turn left for "Agnes". About 100 m, branch left "Gorbio" (not "Agnes"). This takes you back onto the autoroute westbound. You're now heading for the exit-58, another 5 km.
2 - From Menton-Italy.
Going west on the A8 autoroute (direction Nice, Cannes). Pass exit-59 above Menton and go another 5 km. Take exit-58 "Roquebrune".
Along the exit road, cross over one junction (no turns) to the 4-way junction. Turn left "Roquebrune", and stay in the right-lane, "Roquebrune". Continue down the road for 1 km. Turn left "Gorbio".
This road is 8 km to Gorbio. The first 2 km has a few narrow parts, but most of it is two-cars wide and a pretty drive through the hills.
3 - From Roquebrune village
Go west out of the village on the road towards La Turbie (and the A8). About 500 m up the road, just past a big left-hand bend, take the turning to the right "Gorbio". This is the 8-km road to Gorbio.