Gilette & Revest-les-Roches

August 17, 2020

Distance: 84 kilometers (52 miles)
Time: About 4 to 5 hours depending on your pace
Departure: Vence
Difficulty: Somewhat difficult (long with a fair amount of climbing)
Elevation Gain: 1,170 meters (3,839 feet)
73 Villages by Bike Challenge: 2 villages

Perched mountain villages have fascinated me since I first started exploring the back country of the Alpes-Maritimes many years ago. Inhabitants originally built these small towns to protect themselves from invading marauders and armies. The location of these villages is rarely random. Most of the time there is some type of geographical advantage to the position. Where the Estéron River flows into the Var River, north and a bit west of Nice, an interesting landscape is formed. Just as the two rivers come together the two valleys do as well. If you look on the east bank of the Var, high above on a tiny little spur of rock, sits La Roquette-sur-Var. Across the valley, looking out across the Var and the Estéron, high on the side of the mountain is Le Broc. On the other side of the Estéron, a bit farther up the valley you’ll find Gilette. Together the three villages form something of a triangle of protection. Between the three you have fantastic views up and down both the Var and Estéron valleys. I can only imagine that this was no accident and that this perched village triad provided security and protection to the inhabitants of all three villages. Were they partners? Did they communicate with each other about approaching danger? I don’t know (I’m sure someone does), but it’s intriguing to think about.

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Vence to Gilette

This ride begins in Vence and starts out at a slight downhill grade. From the big roundabout at the entrance to the town take the M2210 north, crossing over the Lubiane River. Continue through Saint-Jeannet (about 6 kilometers) and into Gattières (another 4 kilometers). This is a very well maintained road though it can be a bit busy at certain times of the day. When you reach the main roundabout in Gattières take a left on the M2209 which leads to Carros village. At this point you’ll begin to climb though it’s very gradual from there to Carros, about 5 kilometers. The road here is very quiet and you wont’ find a lot of traffic on it. It winds along the side of the mountain through the trees and vegetation. You’ll get a great view of Carros up ahead when you are a few kilometers from the village. Just before you reach Carros the M2209 will connect with the M1. You want to stay on the M2209 as it passes under and next to the village and begins a long, winding descent of about 8 kilometers down to the Estéron river. It’s not particularly steep and the road is well maintained so you can make some good time on the descent.

When you reach the river you’ll turn right (still on the M2209) and follow the river for a short distance to a large roundabout where you’ll turn left on the M901 and head north along the Var river. At the Pont Charles-Albert bridge you’ll come to a large roundabout with signs pointing to Gilette and Bonson via the M17. This is where the real climbing begins. The road travels alongside the mountain making four or five long switchbacks along the way. After about 4 kilometers you’ll reach a roundabout and the turn off to Bonson (the D27). We’ll return to this spot later in the ride, but for now we’re going to stay on the M17 to Gilette which is only another 3 kilometers away. It’s a good climb up to Gilette, not particularly steep, but steady the entire way.


Gilette is another ancient perched village that has been occupied by man for thousands of years, first by the Celto-Ligurian tribes and then the Romans. A castle, Chateau Gilette (listed as a historical monument), was built by Alphonse I, the count of Provence, in the 1200s and it still remains today, though it is now in ruins. From the castle you will find panoramic views of the Estéron valley and its junction with the Var River. Its position on the mountain made Gilette very difficult to get to and because of that it became a “stronghold” over the ensuing centuries. The famous “Battle of Gilette” between the soldiers of the French Republic and the Sardinian and Austrian armies (won by the French) occurred on October 18, 1793 and is inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Gilette is a pretty little village and its location at the foot of a large rocky spur makes it very interesting. You’ll find the Église Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption et Saint-Pierre, a 17th century church, and several small chapels: the Chapel Saint-Pancrace, the Chapel Saint-Roch and the Chapel Saint Honoré. As with all small French villages there is a World War I memorial commemorating the fallen soldiers from the village. A nice fountain sits at the main square in town and a very good boulangerie is right next door.

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Gilette to Revest-les-Roches

After spending a little time in Gilette it’s time to head up to Revest-les-Roches. As you pass through town you’ll find that the M17 continues to the left towards Roquesteron. We’ll take the M227 which leads to Revest-les-Roches (it very quickly turns into the D227). The climb becomes a bit steeper at this point and in a little less than 3 kilometers the road will join up with the D27 where we’ll continue to the left. There are some wonderful views of Gilette behind you as you head up this road, so make a point of stopping now and then and taking a look back. As you continue to climb on the D27 you’ll see a village come into view perched high on the mountain ahead and to the left. Don’t be fooled! This isn’t our goal of Revest-les-Roches, but instead another small village called Tourette-du-Château. Revest-les-Roches is tucked back into the mountainside on the right and much more difficult to see. It’s about 7 kilometers from Gilette to Revest-les-Roches. The road is good, traffic is sparse and the scenery is wonderful.


Located on the right bank of the Var river the village of Revest-les-Roches sits 852 meters (2,795 feet) above sea level at the foot of Mont Vial. The first mention of the village in any official documents comes in 1007 when it is known as Revestis. It’s a very small village (less than 250 occupants) but there are some interesting and historical sites to see here. You’ll find the Saint-Laurent Parish Church and the small Chapel Saint-Roch. The tightly packed houses and small narrow streets are typical of these southern perched villages. In front of the church is an arched passageway and several of the buildings in town feature beautiful old doors. There’s also an old communal bread oven, an “arcaded house,” and a very nice wash house and fountain. The mountain landscape, lots of sunshine and an easily accessible road make the village popular with locals looking for an outdoor adventure.

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Revest-les-Roches to Bonson

From Revest-les-Roches we’ll turn around and head back down the D27, the same way we came up. However, when the D27 meets up with the D227 (which we came up on from Gilette), we’ll continue straight on the D27 to Bonson. It’s about 9 kilometers to Bonson from Revest-les-Roches and it’s mostly downhill. The road is very narrow in a few places and not in particularly great shape, so take it easy on the descent. You’ll see Bonson in the distance long before you arrive and the views are really great.

Bonson sits right on the edge of a foothill of Mount Vial overlooking the Var Valley. It’s a particularly strategic location with stunning views of not only the Var Valley but also the Vésubie and Estéron valleys. The St. Benedict Paris Church, Saint-Hospice Chapel and Chapel of Passet are easy to find in the village. Known for the many hundred year old olive trees in and around the village, Bonson hosts an annual Olive Tree Festival each June. To me Bonson is a much more interesting village than Revest-les-Roches, so I have no idea why it is not included in the Vu du Ciel: Villages book on which my 73 village cycling challenge is based.

Bonson Back to Vence

From Bonson you’ll continue on the D27 heading down towards the Var River. The road makes a big loop around the side of the mountain and it’s a very nice descent. When you return to the roundabout at the M17 take the M17 to the left. This is the road we came up on from the river heading towards Gilette. It’s a big road, very well paved, so your descent will probably be fast and short. There is sometimes a bit of traffic on the road though, so be alert. From this point on it’s the same route back to Vence as we took to get here. Just follow the M901 to the M2209, climb back up to Carros and head back through Gattières and Saint-Jeannet.

Overall, this is a fun ride. A fair amount of climbing, several really great villages, lots of spectacular views of the Var, Estéron and Vésubie valleys and rivers.

Steve and Carole in Vence - Gilette, Revest-les-Roches & Bonson
The route from Vence to Gilette to Revest-les-Roches to Bonson and back.

Important Notes: There is a fair amount climbing on this route. It alternates between uphill portions and downhill portions which provides a nice variety. The traffic is usually not too bad throughout most the route but during peak tourist seasons it can get busier. 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 and in the winter early in the afternoon when it’s warmest. 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 in each 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 Gilette, Revest-les-Roches, Bonson and back
Where: Vence, Gilette, Revest-les-Roches & Bonson (Google Maps)
When: All year round
Phone: Gilette Office de Tourisme – 04 93 08 57 19
Facebook: Things-to-do-in-Gilette

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