At Essential Sailing, we love the history, culture and cuisine of the places we visit almost as much as the sailing to get there. Our Captain’s Blog brings you a taste of what to expect from our luxury crewed sailing holidays around the French and Italian Riviera. In this blog we wander the fascinating stairways of Roquebrune and Villefranche.
Sit back and be inspired.
Located on a prime site between Menton and Monaco, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin is divided into two areas; old Roquebrune, an attractive medieval hilltop village and the stylish coastal resort of Cap Martin Old Roquebrune is a fascinating tangle of ancient lanes, stairways and vaulted passages clustered around its castle, the oldest feudal château remaining in France and the sole example of Carolingian style. Built in the 10th century to ward off Saracen attack, it was later remodeled by the Grimaldis, and restored in 1911 by Lord Ingram, one of the first wave of wealthy tourist residents drawn to Cap Martin.
Other visitors attracted to Cap Martin included Queen Victoria, Coco Chanel and architect Le Corbusier, who drowned off the cape in 1965 and lies buried in Roquebrune cemetery. A delightful coastal path in his honour (promenade Le Corbusier) circles the cape.
Villefranche remains surprisingly unspoiled, considering its proximity to Nice and Monte-Carlo. Indeed, it has changed little since it was founded in the 14th century as a customs-freeport. Its beautiful deep bay is fringed with red and orange Italianate houses and atmospheric waterfront bars, cafés and restaurants.
A cobweb of steep stairways and passages climb from the harbour through the old town. The narrow, vaulted rue Obscure has sheltered the inhabitants of Villefranche from bombardments throughout history right up to World War II.
The sturdy 16th century citadel on the waterfront contains galleries with work by local artists, including Picasso and Miró. On the quay, the 14th century Chapelle St.Pierre, once used to store fishing nets, was decorated in 1957 with frescoes by Jean Cocteau.