Alpes-Maritimes (06670) Population: 3,700 Altitude: 600 m
Levens is a large village perched on a solid-rock peak dominating the junction of the lower Gorges de la Vésubie and another gorge running from the Vésubie to the south of the village. From the top of the rock above the old village (following the road to the "piscine"), the views out over the mountains, and especially up the savage Gorges de la Vésubie to the Alpes, is incredible.
The village of Levens is pretty residential, with housing tracts below the old village and even several modern villas sitting up on the rock itself (although discreetly positioned). The old village doesn't have the picturesque profile of the usual perched village, but the rugged appearance of the rock, and the crenelated donjon tower of the 11th-century château-fort amidst the old houses, provides the medieval atmosphere.
The road up from the Var river is very interesting and lovely. Only a few minutes from Nice, after driving up the N202 with the billboards, light industry and ugliness, the D20 road turning off at St. Martin-du-Var winds up into the rugged hills seemingly as isolated from civilization as the Alpes in the background.
You pass the beautiful little perched village of La Roquette-sur-Var after just a few hairpin bends, but have to stop and look back to see it properly. As the road approaches Levens, it passes by well-kept, thousand-year-old terraces, with the most beautiful ones just before the village in the form of an amphitheatre just beside the road.
The road south from Levens towards Tourrette-Levens goes along a high plain, then winds down a deep, thickly forested river valley, making it difficult to remember that you're less than 20 km from Nice.
History of Levens
First record, 11th century Levens
Celto-Ligurian: This strategic site was a Ligurian oppidum.
Medieval: In the 13th century, Levens belonged to the Seigneurie des Riquier. In the 14th century it passed to Grimaldi, and in 1586 it obtained its independence.
June (Mid) - Fete Patronale de la Saint-Antoine
June - Feux de la St Jean (fireworks)
Sep (Beg) - Fête de la St. Antonin
Dec - Fête Votive
• GPS: 43.859902, 7.227595
IGN (1/25,000) #3742 OT "Nice-Menton"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #26 "Pay d'Azur"
The Grande Randonnée GR5 passes through the lower village of Levens. To the south, the GR5 crosses Mont Cima (878 m) and the village of Aspremont before descending to Nice. At Aspremont, the GR5 crosses the GR51 - Balcony of the Cote d'Azur trail.
To the north, the GR5 drops down into the magnificent Gorges de la Vésubie, then climbs up the other side to Utelle (822 m), and continues on up into the Parc National du Mercantour.
From the old village of Levens, a hiking trail goes west down to Plan-du-Var. From there you can return to Levens, with a partial loop, or continue on to Bonson and points west.
There are a number of good loop hikes to the east which return via the GR5 south of Levens. Points of interest include Mont Féron (1412 m) and the villages of Coaraze and Bendejun, or even down to Châteauneuf-de-Contes.
A centre equestre is located at St-Bernard, down the little road southwest from La Madone, 1 km south of Levens on the D19.
The Musée Educatif d'Entomologie, including butterflies, is located on the D19 just below the old village.