Nothing beats a lovely stroll through medieval alleys on a clear sunset looking down on the jet-setting Montecarlo harbour. The millionaire yachts look like toy boats in a bluer than blue garden pool and the suffocating high-rise condominiums nothing more than Lego constructions made by kids.
All this is a few hundred meters below our feet, while here, in the picturesque old village of Roquebrune, the only sound we hear is the cry of seagulls perching on top of the keep of the 11th century fortress.
Almost forgotten by the present, this hamlet is a perfectly preserved sample of traditional west Ligurian architecture – in the past Roquebrune belonged to the Genoa city-state – with narrow lanes flanked by stone houses with coloured shutters, precipitous steps ascending to the stronghold, secluded gardens bordering the alleyways, ancient stone fountains, slate benches and small churches with brightly coloured façades, peace and quiet everywhere, only a few kids kicking a football around the little square where the millenarian olive tree stands in the middle, surrounded by a wooden bench for sitting, enjoying the panorama, meditating…
In the square a brown cliff (roque brune?) rises, a type of clastic (sedimentary) rock known as “puddinga”, the natural bluffs on which the village was built, which rise several hundred meters behind it, creating a suggestive backdrop.
Roquebrune has had some famous residents, including Le Corbusier, W.B. Yeats, André Malraux, Jacques Brel, and the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia, who died here. There is an art museum and antique markets are held regularly.
At least five restaurants and pizzerias welcome tourists and gourmets. The most central is Les Due Frères, which commands sweeping views over the sea. Then there is Casarella, a Sicilian restaurant with tables downstairs and a single table in a tiny terrace with gorgeous sight over the tiled roofs and Monaco.
Then there is our favourite, Au Grand Inquisiteur, a tiny "hole in the wall", a dimly lit cave redolent of centuries of history and mystery, taking the cue from its name, Grand Inquisitor, whose grim mock portrait hangs at the entrance, may apparently be designed to inspire terror. Of course it obtained the opposite result with us, making us curious to try the place. So glad we did: it was an unforgettable experience for all our senses.
15th June 2015