Only 5 km up the Tinée Valley (from the Pont de la Mescla where the D2205 turns off the N202), turn right and follow the narrow and very twisty D32 for a 7-km drive up to the village. Twisty in this case means some hairpin switchbacks as the road climbs from 228 m at the river, up the side of the mountain, to 600 m at the village. It can take a half an hour to drive up, as you'll probably stop occasionally for the spectacular view down the valley. The mountain sides are covered with oak and Scots pine, with fig trees nearer the village. Along the road there is a monument to a pair of aviators who were lost in the valley in 1934.
You can also get here from Utelle, above the Gorges de la Vésubie to the East. The road from Utelle is just as small and just as twisty, and much longer.
Place des Tilleuls, the center square of the village, is shaded by large lime trees (tilleuls). The 16th-century gothic Eglise Saint Martin dominates one end of the square. Other buildings have arcades, and some are painted (in 1975) with outstanding trompe-l'oeil facades. A pretty fountain dated 1895 sits in the shade of the trees. The 15th-century Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs on the northwest side of the village has a nicely restored facade. The inside isn't restored, but the frescos, painted in 1491, are still in pretty good condition with bright colors.
A tall mountain towers over the village at the northeast end. Look closely and you'll see a waterfall coming down from the very top, as if there were a giant spring at the peak. In fact, the water is coming down the (hidden) ridge from a spring 15 km further to the north at Les Granges de la Brasque. The water comes down the mountain side and passes through the mills as it arrives at La Tour. If you take the short walk out to the north end of the village, you'll pass the lavoir along the way, and then an old waterwheel sitting back to the left in the shadows of trees, identifying the oil mill. The lavoir was built in the 18th century, and rebuilt in 1847, 1876, 1906 and 1966.
Commerce and Lodging
The Auberge de la Tour, on the Grand Place, is open all year, closing for vacation in January. The restaurant, with its pleasant outdoor tables, serves only lunch after the summer season. The hotel has one room, with one or two more to be added (end 1996). tel: (33) 493 02 08 20.
The Café des Panissiers (Chez George) is beside the square, and has outdoor tables shaded by climbing lilacs.
A distillery, located at the back of the oil-mill building, was used for making the village's eau-de-vie. The space is empty now, but is going to be rebuilt and working alembics installed.
A four communal (communal oven) in located in a small street just off the square. The oven dates back "over a hundred years" according to the baker, and is still used daily to bake the bread for the village. The room with the oven smells, of course, of fresh bread and pizza. A table holds several glasses recently emptied of red wine; this is a social stopping point for local people going to or from the square.
Olive Oil and Flour Mills
Both the olive-oil mill and the flour mill are beautifully restored, and you can probably get a guided tour. Ask anyone in the village, or contact C. Robles - tel: (33) 493 02 06 01
History of La Tour
First record, 12th century: La Torre
Gallo-Roman: La Tour was on the "Voie Romaine" that went between Nice, Embrun and the northern Alps, well before a road was built in the Tinée valley below.
Medieval: Part of the medieval community of St. Jean d'Alloche (mentioned in 1251), the original village was in the mountains to the northeast (possibly at the Chapelle St. Jean), until completely decimated by the plague (la peste) in the 14th century. With no survivors, the "new" village of La Tour was build at its current location. La Tour belonged to the lords of Grimaldi de Beuil from 1400 to 1621, when Annibal Grimaldi was executed. In the 16th century, the village was wiped out by another major plague epidemic. By 1754, the village had grown to 1300 inhabitants.
Some of our historical information came from an old resident [photo], born here not long after the turn of the century. Good at ancient history and with a good memory, he remembered well when this area became part of France and he therefore became French.
Aug (2nd Sun) - Fête patronale
• GPS: 43.946306, 7.183869
• The GR 510 (Grande Randonnée) goes through the village, exiting through a low arch just at the entrance to the oil-mill.
• Several hikes are sign-posted in the village (Balise #9, Moyenne Tinée).
Chapelle Ste. Elizabeth (alt. 523 m)
Brec d'Utelle (alt. 1427 m). This is a day-long loop, via the GR 510, northeast to the GR 5
• Another hike is to Roussillon and back: Go north out of La Tour, east to le Cianet (587 m) and northeast to Roussillon (314 m). Once in Roussillon, you can return on the same trail, or loop back on another trail that passes further to the north. That will take you past La Borne (1058 m) and give you some good solid climbing.
Transportation La Tour
Bus Line 750 Nice - Isola 2000
- - 90 km (about 2h30)
- Cost (one-way): Some buses are standard, 1 euro;
some are 100% Neige, 4 € reserved online (www.lignesdazur.com); 5 € sans reservation, space permitting.
- - Departs Nice Vauban (then Gare SNCF, Airport term-1, term-2):
7h20, daily, 100% Neige
11h00, weekends Feb-Mar, 100% Neige
13h00, sat, 100% Neige
16h30, daily except Fri
- - Return departs Isola 2000 Les Hameaux (then : Isola 2000 Station, Village
9h20, weekends Feb-Mar, 100% Neige
12h50, sat, 100% Neige
16h50, daily, 100% Neige
- The Nice - Isola 2000 standard bus stops are: Nice Vauban, Gare SNCF, Magnan/Promenade, Carras/Promenade, Airport Terminal 2, Airport Terminal 1, Robini, Colomars Gare, St Martin-du-Var, Pont Charles Albert (RN 202), Plan-du-Var, Le Chaudan, La Courbaise, La Tour-sur-Tinée (gare), Roussillon, Pont-de-Clans, Bancairon, Marie (gare), La Bolinette, Rimplas (gare embranchement), St Sauveur (village), Pont de Paule, Isola Village, La Génisserie, HLM Ecole, Isola 2000 station, Les Hameaux.
- The Nice - Isola 2000 10% Neige bus stops are: Nice Vauban, Gare SNCF, Airport Terminal 2, Airport Terminal 1, Robini, Colomars Gare, Plan-du-Var, La Tour-sur-Tinée (gare), St Sauveur (village), Isola 2000 station, Les Hameaux.
An official list of Alpes-Maritimes bus lines, with links to the schedules for each line (PDF), is available on the following link: http://www.cg06.fr/fr/servir-les-habitants/deplacements/transport-collectifs/lignes-et-horaires/lignes-et-horaires/
Line 750 schedule link (PDF): http://www.cg06.fr/document/?f=servir-les-habitants/fr/750.pdf
- Web: www.cg06.fr/fr/servir-les-habitants/deplacements/transport-collectifs/lignes-et-horaires/lignes-et-horaires/
- Note - Bus stops are along the valley and can be a fair distance from the villages. The Clans bus stop is 6 km by road (3 km hiking) from the perched village.