Only an hour or so from Nice, Breil-sur-Roya is one of the most delightful of all the region's mountain villages. Far from being a hilltop village though, Breil is on the floor of the Roya valley; steep forested cliffs rise behind the village and more hills rise in the distance.
The star attraction of Breil-sur-Roya is clearly the Roya river which swells into a pond in the centre of the village before continuing its rush to the sea. Within the village, winding little streets are lined with stone townhouses; some have been lovingly restored while others are appealingly tattered. Breil is known for its small black olives gathered from the many acres of olive trees that stretch out from the town.
What to See and Do
Stay in Breil-sur-Roya
The town church, Santa-Maria-in-Albis, is a triumph of 18th-century baroque architecture and has been classified a Historic Monument. Notice the choir stalls from 1766, a magnificent organ-case from the 17th century, an altarpiece from 1500 and the frescoed vaults.
The sparkling waters are a great favourite of trout and the anglers that fish them. Too laid back? Get your pulse rate up by rafting the Roya rapids or canyoning in the nearby Maglia river. Royaevasion can outfit you with gear and take you out on the river.
Every four years the townspeople of Breil stage "A Stacada", a reenactment of the revolt of the Breillois against a tyrannical nobleman in the 14th century. This open-air theatrical event involves costumes, horses, a mock swordfight and mock imprisonment of the "oppressors". Afterward, everyone sits down to a nice lunch along the lake while local musicians play traditional Breil melodies. The next A Stacada will be July 19, 2009.
Getting to Breil-sur-Roya
From Nice take the A8 motorway to Ventimiglia and then take the SS20 and N204 following signs to Breil. More scenic is to take the D2204 from Nice to Sospel through the mountains and then descend to Breil-sur-Roya.
There are several direct trains daily from Nice that take about one hour and several slightly longer trains that stop in Ventimiglia. From April to October the Train des Merveilles runs from Nice to Tende, stopping at Breil and other villages in the Mercantour. The train runs weekends and holidays except in July and August when it runs daily. The train has a local guide that provides a running commentary during the trip. The train leaves Nice at 9am and arrives in Tende at 10.456am.
There's a weekday bus that runs from Menton to Breil and Tende.
The Breil-sur-Roya tourist office is at the entrance to the town and is open weekdays and Saturday mornings.
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