•Alpes-Maritimes (06420) • Population: 337 • Altitude: 497 m
St. Sauveur-sur-Tinée is in the geographical center of the Vallée de Tinée, 25 km up the D2205 after it branches north off the N202, 32 km north of Nice. The town sits astride the route to the upper valley and the ski stations of Isola and Auron. As you approach St. Sauveur from the south, you'll see Roure perched high on the side of the mountain to the left. Further up the valley to the left of Roure, the village of Roubion is also visable from some places in St. Sauveur.
This is a true mountain town, with the buildings grouped tightly together down in the valley, where two east-west valleys join: the Vionène river valley to the west and the Vallon de Rocaille to the east, below the cliffs of Roccagia.
St. Sauveur is a pretty large place, considering its small population, with a lot of buildings, interesting little streets and vaulted passages. Some of the streets are just a bit wider than a person, so there's not much risk of traffic in the old section. Many of the buildings are interesting because of old, fading trompe l'oeil style painting [photo-4], or ancient stone or bright Provencal colors.
An interesting discouvery in our wanderings was the several ancient doorway lintels, some engraved with the date and the name of the builder, and some with symbols of the occupant's trade. We found one with the scissors, comb and razor of an ancient hairdresser [photo-5]. We wouldn't have recognized the razor without the help of the current owner, who also explained the painstaking work she had invested in restoring the engravings from their previous cover of cement. Another doorway had an engraving of sheep, representing an unknown (to us) metier. The oldest know one is dated 1504 [photo-6].
Also in the old village we found a moulin (mill) and four (the old communal oven), both clearly marked. Both were closed on that Saturday morning, with no signs about opening hours or opening days. We also liked some of the fine wrought-iron balconies at various places in the village. The church bell tower, visible across the tiled roofs of the houses, was built in the 15th century and restored in 1532. Above a side door to the church is a marble statue of Saint Paul.
St. Sauver, in the heart of the Moyenne Tinée Valley, hosts a large fire department and a mountain gendarmerie: the gendarmes trained in all aspects of year-round mountain rescue. A large, very-nicely decorated building is the home to the fisheries section of the department of water and forests [photo-7].
The road through St. Sauveur continues up the Upper Tinée Valley, via Isola, Auron, St. Etienne-de-Tinée and over the Col de la Bonette pass 54 km north. Past the Col de la Bonette, it's another 24 km of switchbacks down the other side to Jausiers, beside Barcelonnette.
Traffic through town tends to be mostly tourist cars (of course), carrying mountain bikes in the summer and skis in the winter. Summertime traffic includes lots of motorcycles and bicycles; great roads for both. Even with traffic, St. Sauveur is a quiet, relaxed place. The Tinée river flowing down past the village and the little Riou flowing into the village from the east to join the Tinée provide that lovely mountain sound of constantly rushing water. The high hills on all sides are heavily forested, with some large patches of the red schiste (a slate used for the roofs) exposed here and there.
There's only village-level commerce in St. Sauveur, and no real shopping possibilities. The village shops are all located along the main road through town [photo-8]. There's one boulangerie beside the main square and fountain[photo-9], and another down the street that also serves as a tiny grocery store. There's a small magazine shop, and that's about it.
Camping Municipal - tel: (33) 493 02 03 20; 15 jun - 15 Sept
The local campsite is located beneath shady trees beside the river at the north end of the village. It's a a lovely spot[photo-12].
Discover more in ProvenceBeyond
History of Saint Sauveur-sur-Tinee
First record, 12th century Sanctus Salvator
Tel : 0493 02 00 22; Fax: 04 93 02 05 20
The Mairie (town hall) serves the funtion of the tourist office. The Marie was closed on a Saturday morning in August (2001), with no posted info on opening hours.
What was open on Saturday was Parc de Mercantour tourist office, on the main street. Other than information on the Parc, they have hiking maps for the region.
• GPS: 44.082583, 7.105608
IGN (1/25,000) #3641 ET "Moyenne Tinée"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #9 "Mercantour"
The grande randonnée GR5-52A crosses through St. Sauveur. To the east it passes Rimplas and Valdeblore/St.Dalmas, where the GR52 goes on to Saint Martin-Vésubie. To the west, the GR52A climbs steeply up to Roure (1132 m) and then crosses the Col de la Couillole at 1678 m before continuing on west.
Several loop hikes are possible from St. Sauveur:
• One loop to the east circles the Pointe de Campanier peak (1070 m), but you don't climb all the way to the top.
• Another loop to the south circles the "Ruinas", a series of rocky valleys on the side of the mountain. The trail climbs to about 1000 m before starting back north.
• To the east, a trail goes up to the Nôtre-Dame-du-Villars chapel, at 1040 m. It's about 3 hours up and back. The chapel is stone, built in 1974-76.
St. Sauveur has two or three café-bar-restaurants, including a hotel-auberge. We found a couple of places open for lunch. We had a pleasant but simple lunch, sitting beneath shade trees beside the Riou river.
Transportation Saint Sauveur-sur-Tinee
Bus. We don't have schedules, but there is bus service between Nice and the Tinée valley. We've seen a Nice-Auron bus (by the Santa Azur company) passing through St. Sauveur.