The Côte d’Azur is renowned for its beautiful coastline, its superb climate and its holiday-worthy towns, but it is also a jewel set against a unique backdrop: its hinterland.
Brimming with exceptional sites and gorgeous landscapes this hinterland offers several days’ worth of trips: the Mercantour, the Roya, Vence… Today, let’s go on a drive through the Pays de Grasse, a land of greenery between Côte d’Azur and Provence, its villages brimming with history, traditions and a particular way of life.
First up: Opio
Opio is not just the setting of a “Club Med” hidden away in very green surroundings to the south of Grasse. It is also a tiny village, blending greenery and white stone under a blazing sky, where Provençal farmhouses are adorned with succulent plants and rambling roses. You don’t go to Opio for its historic monuments. Rather, what gives it its character is the stunning landscape filled with vines, olive groves and cypress trees to be found around it.
What stays with you is the scent of roses and orange blossom, capturing a sense of Provençal beauty and simplicity.
If there is one word that describes Châteauneuf-Grasse
It is “delightful”. Don’t hesitate to spend a few hours in the shade of its narrow streets, its old doors and high cold stone walls. Visit its Museum of Forgotten Objects” at the entrance to the village.
Admire its Roman chapels with its steeple enveloped in Mediterranean plants. Take the time to read the poems displayed on its ancient walls. You come away with the impression of times gone by and of the present day, an eternity of peace and a way of life.
Let’s climb up out of Grasse and explore Cabris, on its rocky spur.
Cabris is derived from the Latin word “capra”, or goat, and you can easily imagine the herds passing through the ancient village. On arrival, you are met with a large meadow where you can play or picnic in the protective shade of the chestnut trees. What fun! The village, nestled around its very old castle, was once frequented by Camus, Gide and Saint Exupéry, and is now full of craft stores and restaurants. The moment that grabs you is when you arrive at the esplanade of the castle and are met with the extraordinary panoramic view stretching from the Saint Cassien lake to Napoule and right up to the foothills of the Tanneron massive.
Just outside Cabris…
Continue on to Saint-Césaire sur Siagne, a small, peaceful, authentic village overlooking the river Siagne. Saint Césaire is known for its caves with incredible stalactites that have formed fantastical sheets of stone, so refreshing in the midsummer heat. Its cooler climate makes it a good place to stop for a break in the middle of summer.
Personally, as well as the delightful Place à la Fontaine, my two favourite spots in Saint Césaire are another square with a belvedere adorned with a magnificent olive tree, which offers an extraordinary view over the Pays de Siagne, and the foothills of the Alps in the countryside around Grasse.
Saint Cezaire also offers a hiking trail from the village to the Siagne, through an olive grove, at the foot of which you are rewarded with a dip in the natural pool of the Siagne. A delight.
To top it off, simply return via Pegomas
Behind Cannes, taking in the last fields of Centifolia roses and irises, grown by the Mul family. Cultivated using traditional methods, the tradition of fragrant flowers lives on through these plants. They are part of our heritage, not just because the cut flowers have long been purchased by the great names in perfume (Chanel, Guerlain), but also because they are carefully harvested by hand, like the vines for a great vintage wine.
Renting a villa or apartment on the Côte d’Azur gives you lots of options, including exploring a hinterland with Provençal overtones, where each village exudes endless charm. The Côte d’Azur is also about taking the time to have lunch in the little restaurants, wandering through the narrow streets, taking in its incredibly diverse flora…And you can count on Riviera Holiday Homes to help you discover everything it has to offer.