Four little-known French villages near Monaco that are worth a visit

villages near monaco

A sunny spring day is the perfect opportunity to hop in the car and take a drive out to some of the picturesque towns and villages that line the mountains above Monaco. 

A winding 30-minute drive from the centre of Monaco will take you to Gorbio (pictured above), a place where the homes of its residents look like they’ve been hewn from the rock they stand on. There’s plenty of history within this little village due to the many counts and aristocratic families who built châteaux within its boundaries over time, such at the Château des Lascaris from Ventimiglia in the 12th century and the Malaussène of Aix-en-Provence in the 17th.  

A 300-year-old elm tree shades much of the sleepy village square. It isn’t always quiet place though, as, come summer, a lively schedule of traditional festivals takes place. 

There’s lots of hiking and mountain trails to be found nearby, such as the Tour de Mont Gros and the Route de Bausson, which will lead you to our next destination… 

Perched at almost 800 metres above sea level and designated one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France, Saint-Agnès has an air of the medieval about it thanks to the many crafts workshops that line its streets. The 12th century château and its gardens are worth a visit, if only for the stunning views offered from the vantage point high on the cliffs.  

Beneath the village lies the remains of a fort that was the most southerly bastion of the Maginot Line, a network of fortifications dating back to WWII. Today it is a museum

At almost 800 metres above sea level, Saint-Agnès is Europe's highest coastal village. Photo: Pango Visual
At almost 800 metres above sea level, Saint-Agnès is Europe’s highest coastal village. Photo: Pango Visual

Further inland and on the road to the saffron-producing town of Sospel is Castillon. You might not realise when first visiting the village, given its charming, traditional-looking houses, but this is actually one of the “youngest” villages in France. It was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in the 19th century and then again by bombing during WWII, but was rebuilt thanks to American funding some 70 years ago.  

Its green shutters are a reflection of the rich greenery that surrounds the village, which is found in a Natura 2000 zone. Hiking is aplenty up here. A two-hour walk along an old mule track will take visitors back to Saint-Agnès while a trek through the Forêt de l’Ubac Foran offers incredible views from the top. 

New, but old too… Castillon joins up with Saint-Agnès via an old mule trail through the hills. Photo: Drone de Regard

Our final stop is Saorge, just over an hour in the car from the Principality. Found in the Vallée de la Roya, Saorge is known for two things: its beautiful Franciscan monastery and how easily this beautiful village can be missed from the road if you aren’t looking out for it. It can only truly be reached on foot; its old, narrow streets just aren’t suited to cars. But that makes it all the more special.  

The Baroque monastery, complete with its 17th century frescos and typical monastic gardens, has been given a protected status under the Monuments Nationaux classification. Today, in the place of monks, it is a haven for writers and artists throughout the spring and summer months. It is open to the general public too with guided tours on offer during high season. 

For naturists, this village is a must-see – and must-swim – destination on the French Riviera. The crystal clear waters of the Roya make for ideal wild swimming conditions, particularly at the Bain du Sémite. What are you waiting for?  


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Main photo credit: Vincent Jacques

Johnny Depp to open Cannes Film Festival, marking comeback after infamous defamation trial

Historical film Jeanne du Barry starring actor Johnny Depp will open the Cannes Film Festival this year, his first time film since the end of his highly publicised defamation trial with ex-wife Amber Heard.

The Cannes Film Festival will set the scene for the dramatic return to the screen of Johnny Depp, who was mired in controversy over a defamation case between him and his ex-wife Amber Heard that had many wondering if the actor could recover from the ugliness of the trial.

The film, entitled Jeanne du Barry, is a biopic tale of the life of Louis XV’s working class, and working girl, lover who climbed her way up the social ladder against all odds to become King’s favourite, scandalising his court as his last official mistress.

The drama was directed by Maïwenn, who is a Cannes darling, having screened two of her other films, Mon Roi and Polisse, at the prestigious festival. She also plays the starring role against Depp’s Louis VX, who incidentally had to learn French for the film. He is also a co-producer under his company IN2 along with Why Not Productions.

The last time Depp was cast in a film role was in 2020’s Minamata, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Depp was already embroiled in court cases at the time, losing a March 2021 libel suit against UK newspaper The Sun for calling him a wife-beater. This was followed up by a very public legal battle against his ex-wife who accused him of domestic abuse in an op-ed piece. He won the case, and the two parties settled, but the event left a bad taste in the mouths of many.

Jeanne du Barry will open in French cinemas the same day as the premiere and is expected to join Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon and Disney’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny when the official selction list is revealed on 13th April.

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Football: Monaco squander lead to draw at Nantes

Monaco's Axel Disasi v Nantes

AS Monaco squandered a two-goal advantage against Nantes (2-2) on Sunday as they squandered their chance to close the gap to the podium.

Les Monégasuqes were looking for a third consecutive win, and the signs were positive in the opening exchanges.

Axel Disasi gave Monaco the lead early in the first half, latching onto Caio Henrique’s corner, controlling on his chest, and blasting into the roof of the net on the half-volley.

The Principality club then doubled their account shortly later, and it was once again an Henrique corner that created carnage in the Nantes box. This time, Alban Lafont missed his interception with the ball deflecting off Eliot Matazo and into the goal.

“It is clearly two points lost.”

But as they often have done throughout the season, Monaco then took their foot off the pedal and were punished. Mostafa Mohamed halved the deficit with a headed effort. However, Monaco then had the chance to restore their two-goal cushion, but Wissam Ben Yedder’s goal-bound effort was headed clear by the recovering defender.

Nantes, who should have been tiring physically after competing in the Coupe de France in midweek, then levelled through substitute Ludovic Blas. Les Canaris almost found a winner, but Mohamed’s effort was rightly ruled out for a tight offside.

“We had the match in our hands, and we had the chances to kill the match. It is clearly two-point lost this afternoon. We leave the Beaujoire with a very bitter taste. We’ve missed the chance to close the gap to Lens and Marseille,” said Disasi post-match. Monaco next face Lorient next Sunday at the Stade Louis II.


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Photo by AS Monaco

Tennis: Hugo Nys and Lucas Caterina fail to qualify as Monte-Carlo Masters gets underway

Hugo Nys at the MCCC

Hugo Nys and Lucas Caterina both lost their Monte-Carlo Masters qualifying ties on Saturday, meaning that Valentin Vacherot will be the only Monégasque competing in the competition. 

Nys, an Australian Open doubles finalist earlier this year, had to pass through the qualifying rounds to make it into the final draw, but he fell at the first hurdle at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.

The Monaco player faced a tough tie against Finnish player Emil Ruusuvuori, and succumbed in straight sets (6-3, 6-4). Nys is a specialist doubles player, and he will still have the chance to go far in the competition in that discipline, alongside Polish partner Jan Zielinski.

Romain Arneodo, another member of Monaco’s Davis Cup team, will also compete in the doubles alongside Austrian partner Tristan-Samuel Weissborn. However, they face a tricky opening match against a double team that includes Alexander Zverev.

Later in the day, Lucas Caterina lost against Ugo Humbert (6-7, 4-6), meaning that both Monégasques exit the competition at the first hurdle. Vacherot is therefore the only singles player remaining in the tournament after he received a wildcard to compete in the tournament. Vacherot will learn the identity of his first opponent upon the completion of the qualifying rounds.



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Photo by Manuel Vitali