Alpes-Maritimes (06190) Population: 12,376 Altitude: 300 m
Roquebrune village is a medieval village perched on a rocky outcrop high over the Mediterranean. It's located between Monaco and Menton, east of Nice. The old village has a very interesting, and lovely center, with narrow streets, colorful old buidlings, and a spectacular view of the the coast.
Roquebrune-Cap-Martin village is picturesque with narrow streets, stepped-streets, stone steps, one-person-wide walkways and deep vaulted passages. There are lovely little squares and fountains here and there, wrought-iron balconies and other charming discoveries. Roquebrune-Cap-Martin is both a tourist town and a residential town. The newer village houses are neatly and discretely integrated.
The main square of the village, tucked in between the chateau and a high protective rock, has a great view; in the evening you can watch the sun setting over Monaco, far below. This is where the statue of La France Triomphante stands.
On the east side of the square [ town map ], the Rue Grimaldi leads into the heart of the old town and the picturesque Ste-Marguerite church.
The 18th-century Ste-Marguerite church is restored with lovely Provencal ocres and ambers, with the patterned tile steps and wrought-iron railings in front. Check the statue over the marble doorway carefully: its shadow is a painted trompe-l'oeil, giving a feeling of light to this perpetually shady little corner.
Exploring further on into the old village of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin there are even more picturesque, colorful houses, small fountains and other sites. You'll eventually come out on the Rue de Souta, a broad village street wide enough to be considered a square in its own right, and with another magnificent view of the Mediterranean coast.
On the far end of the Rue de Souta is the vaulted Medieval gate guarding the east side of the town. This gateway leads out to the Chemin de Menton, a narrow road, a GR hiking trail, and the way down to the thousand-year-old olive tree.
The lower part of the trunk is 16 m (about 50 feet) in diameter, with several smaller trunks growing from it. According to a French specialist, Professeur Robert Bourdu, the Roquebrune-Cap-Martin olivier millénaire is over 2000 years old. Other sources date the olive tree at 2500 - 2800 years.
Roquebrune-Cap-Martin village is dominated by the 10th-century chateau-fort that seems to grow massively from the rocks.
The 10th-century chateau at the top of the village withstood many sieges over the century. It was restored in the 13th and 15th centuries, and again recently, in the 19th century.
There's a playground at the top, above the chateau, beside the school. School access to the playground is rather unique, through a buried-pipe tunnel.
Cap-Martin, within the commune of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, is a beautiful wooded peninsula on the Mediterranean, just below the perched Roquebrune village. The train station is down here, along with the beach, some campsites and shops. The peninsula itself is largely covered with very expensive walled estates, some dating back to the 19th century and the Belle Epoque.
History of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin
First record, 1157: Rocabruna
Prehistoric: The Grotte du Repaire (grotto) contained a collective Bronze-age burial tomb. At the rocky edge of the sea, in Cap Martin, important prehistoric animal bones and paleolithic remains have been discovered.
Gallo-Roman: Some Roman milestones and inscriptions have been discovered here.
Medieval: Roquebrune was ruled in the 13th century by the lords of Vintimillia, and was disputed between the Count of Genoa and the Counts of Provence. In the 14th century, Charles Grimaldi obtained control for the Count of Genoa, then declared possession directly for the Grimaldis. Although the Duchy of Savoy had sovereign authority of the region from 1448, Roquebrune remained with the Grimaldis for the next five centuries. In 1848, Roquebrune was declared an independent town, no longer ruled by the Principality of Monaco or Menton. In 1860, Roquebrune was attached to France.
June - Fete des Genêts (Flower Festival)
Aug (Beg) - Fete de Roquebrune
Nov - Fete des Chataignes - Chestnut Festival
• GPS: 43.765451, 7.458804
A short, steep hike from the center of the old village takes you up to Mont Gros (690 m) to join the GR51 (Balcony of the Côte d'Azur). The GR51 goes north along the top of the hills to Gorbio and Ste-Agnes, then circles back down to its end at Menton, on the coast.
• Also north of the village, several trails branch off from the GR51, offering loop hikes while passing through rugged mountains, beautiful forests and ancient villages.
• To the west, the GR51 goes by St-Martin de Peille, then on to Tourrette-Levens and Aspremont before crossing the Var river.
• A coastal trail (sentier du littoral) follows along the very edge of the sea from Pointe de la Veille, around the Roquebrune bay and Cap Martin.
A railway station at Cap-Martin, on the seaside below the old village, is on the main Nice-Monaco-Italy line, with frequent year-round service.