The Karolingan castle of Roquebrune is between a true castle and a ruin. The place it is built is the (still) green hilltop in the centre of the old Roquebrune village (which appeared around the castle, that was a safe-haven for the inhabitants of the place that was built. The 26 metres high "Donjon" rises over the remaining pieces of the stronghold. Walls of 2 to 4 meters thick emphasis it's function as a defensive place. A walk through the castle shows where various rooms were situated, including a weaponsroom, a kitchen, the hall of knights and of course the dungeon. Four levels are open for visitors and clear explanation is given on tablets.
Surrounding the castle and beneath it's tower lays the village of Roquebrune. Winding narrow streets and alleys that are filled with staircases, built completely on the flanks of a steep mountain rising up from the blue sea. It is truely like in a book, how this village looks and the atmosphere that it breaths brings you back to medieval times. Curiosity grows when passing the small windows and colourful doors. Little stairways lead to yet other doorways, yet again, other secrets.
Medieval fort without which no perched village would be complete.
Built in 970 by Conrad 1st, Earl of Ventimiglia, as defence against raiding Saracens, the fortress included the whole village. It was sold in 1911 to a rich British tourist, Sir William Ingram.("Nice castle. I'll take it") Ten years later it was donated to the town.
Inaccessible other than by on foot, the beach at Roquebrune is mercifully peaceful. One snack beach bar looks after everyones requirements with friendly service.
The beach is stony and the position of the bay means it silts up with fine seaweed leaves. Nevertheless it has a certain charm and is fairly exclusive.
The number one attraction in this Cote d'Azur-manucipality is the old town of Roquebrune. Here narrow alleys wind around a rock on which an ancient castle is situated. The castle is special as it is the only remaining Karolian castle in France. This stronghold was built already in the 10th century by the count of Ventimiglia (just across the border in Italy): Conrad the first. In his battle against the Saracens, Roquebrune became an important place. Later for centuries the Grimaldi's (see Monaco) ruled over this castle and surroundings. Some more about the castle in the next tips ...
Stony beach which runs a kilometre or two in length to Carnoles and Menton. Its not very crowded, and it's not difficult to see why.
From the Avenue Winston Churchill commences a featureless morass of endless identical holiday apartment blocks. A legacy of soulless developers and the limited aspirations of their retirement purchasers.
The only features of interest are an odd eccentric moorish castle on the hillside, converted to apartments of course, and at the other end of the bay set back off the main thoroughfare, the Palais Carnoles (see Menton page)
This place is not very accessible for people with children's wagons, let even for those who are in a wheelchair. The streets are going up (or down) steep and stairs are everywhere. In the aberage warmth that is hanging over the Cote d'Azur, it is quite strenuous to walk around the whole village and cross every alley and street. This however is a joy for thise who love history and a typical atmosphere that is present everywhere in Roquebrune.
On the top of the castle, it's fourth floor, one can enjoy the spectacular view over Roquebrune, the Cap-Martin and the mountains that raise steep up from the blue mediterranean sea. Above evrything else, the French flag is prouldy waving in the wind and one can stay here for an hour and still discover new things in the magnificent view. Not for nothing that in the castle there is a part reserved as a theatre. Old Shakespeare plays or legends have as background the beauty of the Cote d'Azur, which only can make the atmosphere grow higher.
Within a junction of three alleys, deep inside the village core of Roquebrune, is a small square, just in front of the main church: Sainte-Marguarite. The colourful facade of the church is lighting up one side of this open place, where the sunlight scatters in beams frolically. Here is also a small monument for the fallen hero's in the both worldwars. Like in all French (and European) towns, they shall never be forgotten.
Every village has a church, at least here in Europe it is like that. In Roquebrune it is the Sainte-Marguarite, raised in the 12th century and later modelled in a baroque way. Colourful facade is visible, while the rest of the church, including the tower, is practically hidden in the masses of the houses in Roquebrune. The bell tower is however sticking out above the red rooftops and forms a remarkable part of the view over Roquebrune. the interior is very rich and colourful, with lots of gold, silver and marble as well as paintings and sculptures. Interesting is a small exposition about the processions of Roquebrune on Good Friday and on the 5th of August (see "local customs tips")
Roquebrune is proud of it. The thousand year old olive tree that belongs to the oldest living creatures in this world. One has to search a while and go through the streets towards Menton and just outside the village itself (Rue de la Fontaine), but the wonderful tree is very much worth to have a look at.
Conrad 1st, conte of Vintimiglia constructed this castle at the 10th century. In 1355, Roquebrune become the Grimaldi's possession during 5 century.In 1793 Roquebrune becomes french then once more become monegasque in 1814 before setting itself up as a free town in 1848 with Menton.Finally in 1860 joined France. Castle is bought by Sir William Ingram in 1911 and gave it to the town in 1921.
From its commanding position Roquebrune offers fine viws of the coast towards Monaco - I place which I think always looks better from a distance than it does close up.