Aspremont, Levens & La Roquette-sur-Var

July 27, 2020

Distance: 81 kilometers (50 miles)
Time: About 3 to 4 hours depending on your pace
Departure: Vence
Difficulty: Somewhat difficult (a fair amount of climbing)
Elevation Gain: 1,138 meters (3,734 feet)
73 Villages by Bike Challenge: 3 villages

The Var River descends out of the Alpes and cuts a very wide swath through a small valley that separates the Côte d’Azur into two sections. To the east is Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Monaco, Menton, the Italian border and more. To the west is Saint-Laurent-du-Var, Antibes, Cannes and a long string of coastal towns all the way to Saint-Tropez. Vence lies up in the hills on the western side. I often ride from Vence down to the river, cross over the bridge and then visit villages on the eastern side of the valley. It means a descent to start with, then some climbing on the other side, eventually another descent back to the river and a final climb back up to Vence. All three of the villages featured in this ride are quite lovely and well worth the time. The course makes a big loop up into the hills behind Nice and then back to Vence. There’s a lot of alternating between climbing and descending and each of these three villages requires a little bit of a detour from the main road if you don’t want to just ride past it. One of the highlights is the amazing view of the river and the valley, both to the north and to the south, from the perched village of La Roquette-sur-Var.

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Vence > Aspremont

From Vence I head out of town towards Saint-Jeannet on the M2210. The first 10km of this route (to Gattières) are the same as the last 10km of “The Vence 7 Village Loop.” It’s slightly downhill and at certain times of the day there can be a fair amount of traffic on this road so be alert. There are some very nice views of the valley and the river below along the road as you work your way down. Upon arriving in Gattières continue straight on the M2210 through the large roundabout. At this point the road becomes a bit steeper (still downhill) and makes lots of turns. As you approach the bottom, near the river, it’s very difficult to describe how to make your way through two roundabouts that will take you to the bridge, the Pont de la Manda. The bottom line is you need to reach a very large roundabout just next to the bridge and, still on the M2210, cross over. There is often a lot of traffic here so be careful in the roundabout and going across the bridge. It really amazes me that this is the only bridge between the this point and the coast, a distance of over 14km. You would think that more bridges would have been built over the years, but, alas, this is not the case. Anyway, once over the bridge turn right on the M6202. This is a very, very busy road with lots of traffic moving at high speeds, so again, stay alert. You won’t be on it for long, just about 1km.

When you reach the first big roundabout you’ll take the M414, also known as the Route de Colomars, and head up the side of the hill. From this point, it’s all uphill until a little ways past Colomars. After just 1.4km the road dead ends into another road and you’ll turn left here. In fact, this is still the M414 and it will take you all the way into the small village of Colomars, about another 4.5km. There’s not a lot to see in Colomars and I usually just ride through it without stopping. If you want, you can turn right on Rue Etienne Curti, but really, there’s not much worth seeing here. Continue through the village on the M414 and just as you leave you’ll find a nice, but very short, descent. After another 5km, almost all uphill, and you’ll arrive in Aspremont.


The village of Aspremont is one of sixteen villages which the métropole Nice Côte d’Azur tourist department groups together as the “Route des Villages Perchés” (Route of Perched Villages). Carros, Coaraze, Èze, Levens, La Roquette-sur-Var and Saint-Jeannet are the others on this list of 73 villages. To protect the village, Aspremont was built in a series of tight concentric circles on top of a small hill that overlooks both the Var River valley and the Paillon de Tourrette valley. As you ride into the village this becomes quite apparent. Instead of the usual “switchbacks” that often lead up to a perched village, the road to Aspremont circles around and around as it goes up and up. The fortified village once saw production of wine and olive oil, but today it mostly produces fig trees, fruit trees, grapes and olives. If you have the time and inclination to explore the village you’ll find two chapels (the Chapel of Saint-Claude and the Chapel of Notre-Dames des Salettes), the Church of Saint-Jacques le Mejeur and the Fort of Mont Chauve. The ruins of another medieval village are close by on Mont Cima.

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Aspremont > Levens

We’ll leave Aspremont on the M14 headed towards our next village, Saint-Blaise, about 7km farther down the road. Just as you’re leaving town there is a fountain and wash house on the right hand side of the street, so if you need water this is a good place to fill up.

It’s all downhill to Saint-Blaise, another small, and not particularly interesting little village. The road here is in great condition, nice and wide, so it’s a good descent. You can turn into the village and almost immediately you come to a small square in front of the church. If the church is open (which it often is), take a look inside, it’s very nice. Then back up to the M14 and a long, narrow bridge spanning a small gorge. Once over the bridge we’re back to climbing and will continue all the way into Levens, another 8.5km. The ride is pretty uneventful at this point, though there are a few nice switchbacks here and there and one very small tunnel. You’ll also pass by a church called Saint-Aintoine-de-Padoue (or Saint-Antoine-de-Siga). There’s nothing on the map about a village or hamlet with this name, but clearly there was at one time because there is a small plaque on the side of the church dedicated to the six men lost in World War I. Before long the M14 will dead-end into the M19 and you’ll want to take a left here. Just a short ways up the street, on the left, is one of my favorite pâtisseries in the area, Boulangerie Alexis. They have the best tropézienne I’ve ever had. If they are open I almost always stop.

Tarte Tropézienne

Also known as “La Tarte de Saint-Tropez” this is one of my very favorite pâtisseries. It’s basically a round brioche (sweet bread, almost like cake but not quite), cut in half and then filled with a vanilla/lemon cream. Some type of powdered or crystallized sugar is sprinkled on top. It was created in the 1950s by a young Polish baker living in Saint-Tropez named Alexandre Micka. Legend has it that Brigitte Bardot and her husband, Roger Vadim, were in Saint-Tropez making the film …And God Created Woman. Both Vadim and Bardot were relatively unknown at this time, though both would become quite famous in the following years. Vadim hired Micka to cater the film set and Bardot fell in love with the delicious pastry. Supposedly, it was her idea to name it after the town. Over the years, la tarte tropézienne became one of the most famous deserts on the French Riveria. Today you can find many different variations, sometimes with strawberries or raspberries. It’s made in lots of different shapes and sizes, but the traditional large round version, cut into pie shaped wedges is my favorite. And the one at Boulangerie Alexis, is, as I said previously, the best one I’ve ever had.

To reach the old village of Levens, you’ll need to turn left off the main road at Avenue Mal Foch which almost immediately turns into Avenue Edouard Baudoin. Just follow the signs for “Levens – centre.” It’s a bit of a climb, but nothing much. Levens is a wonderful place to stop and wander around a bit. The small, narrow streets of the village are very picturesque and you can spend some time soaking in the atmosphere. Just past the main parking lot in the village there is a nice square with several restaurants and cafés so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding something to eat or drink if you want. But be careful. The first “entrance” to the village leads to a parking lot and an elevator. You don’t want this! Stay on the road and take the next left turn which will lead you directly up to the village.


The history of Levens goes back far before the Romans who constructed a mule track that passed through the village on its way from Cimiez to Saint-Martin-Lantosque. It is constructed around an old feudal castle that was built sometime after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Not much is left of the castle now, but you can still find some of the remains near the highest point in the village. The Saint-Antonin parish church, dating back to the 1200s, can be found in the main square. Two chapels, the Chapel of The White Penitents and the Chapel of the Black Penitents are easy to find in the village. It is one of the sixteen villages which the métropole Nice Côte d’Azur tourist department groups together as the “Route des Villages Perchés” (Route of Perched Villages), along with the other two villages on this ride, Aspremont and La Roquette-sur-Var. The village has set up a series of bronze arrows which are installed in the ground and pavement throughout the village to direct visitors on a little “tour.” You can find more information about these, and the sites they guide you through, at the Office de Toursime. Over the years I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Levens and not just passing through on my bike. Carole and I spent a winter’s afternoon exploring the village and I’ve gone several times to their Marché de Noël (Christmas market).

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Levens > La Roquette-sur-Var

Leave Levens the way you came in, on the M19. Just past the pâtisserie you will turn right on the M20, also known as Route de la Roquette. It’s just a short 6km to La Roquette-sur-Var and it’s almost all downhill. Perched on the top of a tiny hill the village requires a bit of a climb off of the main road. It’s so worth it! Just as you make it to the top of the road you’ll find an amazing belvédère (a scenic overlook) with a descriptive table d’orientation. The views of the Var River valley to the south and to the north are simply breathtaking.

La Roquette-sur-Var

One of my very favorite places to take photographs is on the road approaching La Roquette-sur-Var. The village sits on a high cliff overlooking the Var River below and as you make a big turn approaching it the view is just fantastic. To me it’s the perfect example of a “perched village” and the view of the road leading to it, the village sitting atop a little perch and the mountains from the other side of the valley behind it, make for some amazing photos. Like the village of Aspremont, La Roquette-sur-Var sits perched high on a hill overlooking the Var River valley. It’s location a bit farther north however means that it sits where the Esteron River and valley connect with the Var, making it strategically invaluable in the area. Just northeast of the village you can find the ruins of Castel-Vieil which date back before the Roman occupation. In the village you’ll find an old fountain and wash house, the Saint-Pierre Church dating from the 1600s and two chapels, the Chapel of Notre-Dame-del-Bosc and the Sainte Catherine Chapel. Like the other two villages on this ride, it is one of the sixteen villages which the métropole Nice Côte d’Azur tourist department groups together as the “Route des Villages Perchés” (Route of Perched Villages).

La Roquette-sur-Var > Vence

After taking a look around La Roquette-sur-Var head back out to the M20 and head down towards the river. It’s a fast descent winding back and forth across the side of the mountain through large groves of pine and olive trees. You’ll arrive at the M6202 the large road that runs along the side of the river through the entire valley. We were on this same road for just a few minutes after crossing the big bridge near the beginning of the ride. It’s a fast road with lots of traffic so keep your wits about you. The good thing is that there is usually a wide shoulder to ride on and there are often two lanes so cars can easily go around you. It’s about 8km back to the bridge where you’ll cross back over and retrace the route up to Gattières, Saint-Jeannet and back home to Vence. With any luck you’ll have the wind at your back on the M20 and it won’t take long. It’s long, but flat.

Important Notes: There is a fair amount climbing on this route. Basically you’re either going up or down, there is very little level ground. The traffic is usually not too bad throughout most the route but you will be on a very large, busy highway for about 8KM at the end of the ride. If there is any sign of rain I would suggest leaving the ride for another time. As always you’ll want to make sure you have a good bike and plenty of water. The best time to make this ride in the summer is early in the morning when it’s the coolest. You’ll want a helmet and sunscreen no matter what time of the year you go. You should be able to find food and water at most of the villages along the way. If you are riding alone make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you should be back. I always wear an identification bracelet that I got from Road ID.

Juste les Faits:
What: Bike Ride from Vence to Aspremont, Levens & La Roquette-sur-Var
Where: Aspremont, Levens & La Roquette-sur-Var (Google Maps)
When: All year round
Phone: Levens Office de Tourisme – 09 62 66 85 84
Facebook: Things-to-do-in-Levens

2 thoughts on “Aspremont, Levens & La Roquette-sur-Var

  1. Take me on this route when I’m there! I love the art pieces of the girl with the buckets and the girl with the goats.

    1. Sure thing, Les! I think the artist is a local guy who may even have a studio in the area. And I’ve seen more of his work at a few other villages nearby.

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