•Alpes-Maritimes (06450) • Population: 142 • Altitude: 1155 m
Venanson is pretty little village perched dramatically on a very-narrow, high rocky ridge overlooking the upper Vésubie Valley, surrounded by mountains, forests, streams and amazing scenery.
The view from the village is outstanding, with the Vésubie river flowing by far below on the east side, St Martin-Vésubie tucked away towards the north, and the Riou de Venanson flowing by below to the south.
There aren't enough "sites" in Venanson to draw a tourist trade, but once here the village is interesting enough for a tour. Long, narrow layout of the village streets, defined by the long, narrow ridge where the village sits. The main square at the entrance is open and light, and hosts a single café-hotel-restaurant.
The streets eastward through the village culminate at the Descente de Serre, where the cobblestone lane descends to a lookout point with an incredible view to the north, east and south (and the site of a small world-war II blockhouse).
Among the interesting things to watch for while exploring these village streets are the trompe l'oeil images at the small square called La Placette, which has a magnificent view to the southwest.
On the lower street immediately to the south of the main square is the village lavoir, which hosts curious (and probably unique) inhabitants. At least we've never seen this before in any of the hundreds of other South-of-France French villages.
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History of Venanson
First record, 11th century in Castro Venacione: 1109 Venacionis; 1388 Venaczoni; 1499 Venasson; 1760 Venansson; Venanson. Derived possibly from a Ligurian root indicating a height, or from Venatio, for hunt or hunting country.
The "Castrum de Venanson" was reported here in the middle of the 11th century, at the time the lord Hugues Rostaing gave all of his holdings to the Bishop of Nice; who then returned half of it back to him as a fief. Hugues Rostaing's chateau, and the original castrum, was probably on the heights above the current village. The original village was located on a lower plateau to the southwest, where the current tiny hamlet of Les Granges now sits.
The origin of Venanson is attributed to the Templars, who dominated the Vésubie Valley. The Chapelle Sainte-Claire was built in 1431 by the Templars.
The Chapelle Saint-Sébastien at the entrance to the village was built in 1431, to protect the community against the plague and other epidemics of the time.
In February 1664 an earthquake destroyed the parish church of Venanson. The church was rebuilt between 1644 and 1650. In July 1739 the village was completely destroyed by a fire. The replacement village was built at its current location, perched on the high, narrow rock-ridge.
• GPS: 44.053472, 7.253027
IGN (1/25,000) #3741 OT "Vallée de la Vésubie"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #9 "Mercantour"
Bus #730 serves Nice to St Martin-Vésubie. From there it's taxi or hiking to Venanson village.
Nice - St Martin-Vésubie Bus
- Bus #730. Nice to St-Martin buses: Two Mon-Sat (morning, evening); one bus Sunday mornings. St-Martin to Nice buses: three Mon-Sat (early morning, morning, mid-day); one bus Sunday evening. Trip time 1h40. Route: Nice Gare routière, Airport Terminal 1, Colomars Gare, Plan du Var, St Jean-la-Rivière, Lantosque, Roquebillière, Berthemont, St Martin-Vésubie.