Beautiful French Italian villages only 30 minutes to the Côte d’Azur.
French Italian villages near Monaco, one of them Saorge is a very beautiful village perched along a narrow rock spur that juts out into the Vallée de la Roya, high above the river. Saorge is classed as one of the “40 most beautiful villages of France“. The main village streets traverse narrowly between the buildings at very different levels, with smaller streets and steps leading up and down between them. The view from anywhere in the village is spectacular, looking outward to snow-capped mountains in the middle distance (into May and June) and the deep gorge and rushing white-water river below. My best travel tip for this area is to base yourself in the central village of Breil Sur Roya, from here you can easily reach all the wonderful surrounding villages similar to Saorge. Saorge is 11 km north of Breil Sur Roya where we were based. There are so many interesting French & Italian villages north of Monaco, you can spend weeks exploring this area.
On of my best trips was staying in Breil Sur Roya in the south of France, 45 minutes north of Monaco. Our landlord was Riny Doyle, who rents a cute 2 bedroom apartment in the village where we stayed, he has a 2 rooms B&B in his villa called l’Abricot. Riny invited us on a couple of occasions to sample some local cuisine and barbecue at the “villa“, Riny & Susan are wonderful hosts, their hospitality was fantastic, I hope to visit them at Breil again sometime in the future. This is certainly one of the nicest French Italian villages near Monaco.
Riny Doyle’s home in Breil Sur Roya.
A beautiful setting foe a memorable lunch.
Lunch with Riny & Susan
Many thanks to Riny & Susan for their wonderful hospitality.
Riny’s B & B at Breil Sur Roya.
This is the great outdoor kitchen at one of Riny Doyle’s B & Bs on top of the mountain in Breil Sur Roya.
The French and Italian rail lines run through Breil so it is very easy to travel anywhere. There is a great market every Friday at Ventimiglia on the border 30 minutes drive or 20 minutes by train from Breil. The lovely French village of Breil-sur-Roya is particularly known for trout fishing. The Roya river runs through town and is open to trout anglers from March to September. Part of the trout run is reserved for fly-fishing. Trout anglers share the river with white water rafters, another popular local sport. The streets are narrow and many of the old houses are nicely restored or truly ancient. On the main square you’ll find many buildings painted with trompe-l’oeil scenes. The heart of the town is the narrow old streets parallel to the river, lined with high buildings, and the even narrower connecting streets (ruelles) that pass as tunnels through the buildings.
Lunch with Riny
Riny was a great host, an Aussie who has lived in Europe for many years.
Looking across the lake in Breil Sur Roya
The village sits beside the lake below the mountains.
View from our apartment
The photo above is the view of Breil Sur Roya taken from the balcony of Riny Doyle’s 2 bedroom apartment.
Jodie O’Neill & Deborah Holliday
The girls are happy after their shopping spree at the Ventimiglia market.
Here is a video clip of Riny’s B & B.
One of the nicest French Italian villages 14 km south of Breil and 14 km north of Ventimiglia on the coast is Airole. A beautiful Italian medieval village with a population of 461, it has a delightful town square where the locals meet to chat, play chess & enjoy a vino or an espresso.
Cold beer in Airole.
Enjoying a beer in the village square.
French Italian villages Roya Valley.
The Upper Roya Valley begins at the Col de Tende (1871 m) on the French-Italian border. It runs south about 35 km to Breil-sur-Roya and then another 8 km to where it crosses back into Italy. (The Lower Roya Valley flows into the Mediterranean at Ventimiglia.) The Upper Roya Valley is a region of mountains and valleys, with swift rivers, thick forests, and villages with an Italian flavor.
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 doorways and steps. 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 archaeological digs on the site.
The tiny village of Fanghetto in Italy is 10 km south of Breil & has a population of 10 people, and the only reason I include it in this post is there is one delightful restaurant that only opens for 3 or 4 evenings each week for dinner. It is like eating in somebody’s home, the food is wonderful.
French Italian villages
Great food, Veal Escalopes with Mushrooms in Fanghetto, magnificent.
Sospel in the south of France.
Sospel dates back to the 5th century, when it served as an important staging post on the royal road from Nice to Turin. The old toll bridge used by travellers to cross the Bévéra, built in the 13th century, still stands. It was bombed by the Germans during World War II to prevent contact between the French Resistance (“The Maquis”) and the Italians. Much of the town was destroyed. Renovated after World War II it now houses the tourist office. Ruins of a tower, part of a château belonging to the counts of Provence, are all that remain of the 14th century city walls. (From Wikipedia)
Deborah, Riny, Jody & David Herd.
Welcome drinks at the local railway station.
Super travel tips.
Breil Sur Roya is the perfect place to stay if you want to explore the French Italian villages in this wonderful area. So convenient to take the train or drive to the French Riviera or Cinque Terre in Italy, or you can just spend days wandering around all the wonderful medieval French & Italian villages perched on top of the surrounding mountains. Book your hotel here for guaranteed lowest rates + you decide when to pay, now or later. Accommodation. To rent a very nice two bedroom apartment in Breil Sur Roya email Otherwise you can have B&B rooms at the Villa l’Abricot on top of the hill with great views, email [email protected]
OK, here is a slide show with lots more photos.