in 120 hectares of land dominating the Mediterranean Sea
In the French department of Alpes-Maritimes, 5 minutes from Saint-Paul-de-Vence, classified as one of France’s most beautiful villages, where artists have mixed with craftsmen for numerous years. Renowned for its violets exported throughout the world, the Medieval village to which the property belongs is but some 5 km away.
The nearest ski resorts of the Southern Alps are 40 km away. The Italian border is but 60 km away, Nice and its international airport are 30 km away. Grasse and Villeneuve-Loubet are just a stone’s throw away.
This property is perched high up in the Provencal sky, at an altitude of almost 850 m, between the Regional Nature Park of the Lower Southern Alps and the Mediterranean Sea. It is reached via a narrow but well-kept road that goes up the side of the mountain for about 3 km.
Numerous hiking trails lead to the Puy-de-Naouri which dominates the French Riviera at an altitude of over 1,000 m.
Between the steps and the castle, a wide terrace is bordered by plane and maple trees certainly hundreds of years old.
The building has the appearance of a stronghold house with its two quadrangular towers. The facade, missing its rendering in parts, provides glimpses of the stone load-bearing walls. An old sundial is but waiting to be revived. The roof and its roofing framework were fully restored a short while ago. Triple cornices, a symbol of wealth in Provence, border the old Romanesque roof tiles.
The house was constructed by César-de-Villeneuve, Count of Provence, in 1646. The estate was above all a country residence for its noble owners. It was handed down through the family until the French Revolution. After the taking of the Bastille and the “Great Fear” that gripped the aristocrats, the last heir, Joseph-César-de-Villeneuve, fled the country to take refuge in Italy where he was assassinated in 1793. The local villagers then covered the castle with inscriptions reflecting their hate of the nobility.
And yet, sometime later, it was André Masséna, the famous Marshal of the Empire, Prince-d'Essling and Peer of France, who took advantage of the chance to buy it. According to malicious gossip, it above all enabled its new owner to spend some time in a relaxing setting away from his wife.
The property’s land extends over more than 120 hectares of forest, cliffs (known locally as baous), arable plateaux, transverse valleys, arid moors and dry stone mountainside terracing. It includes protected wildlife, rarely found in the Mediterranean region, such as herds of deer and sometimes a golden eagle. Plant life includes wild gladioli, wild orchids, strawberry trees and wild thyme. The site has Natura 2000 classification.
This small rural castle dominates the Loup Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Its facade is in very poor condition and the rendering covering the stone walls is slowly crumbling. The building’s windows still have their slatted shutters. The ground floor windows have dressed stone framing, but that around the upstairs windows was probably covered up during previous renovation works. The main double entrance doors are simply adorned with wide bronze handles in the form of a Marshal’s baton. The framing ends in a keystone engraved with the construction date of 1646. The facade is bordered with a terrace made from wide stone slabs. An old chapel in ruins can be glimpsed after having climbed several overgrown stone steps and gone around the west wing building. It adjoins the main building. On the facade, above the door, is an inscription with two glorious crosses and an epitaph engraved in the stone in 1892, in honour of the Roustan family. The parklands near to the castle still have their elegant alleyways lined with tall trees. The building spans approx. 700 m². The first and second floors are in a state of ruin. The utmost care was taken in 2013 to completely renovate the roof and the roofing framework.
The entrance hall features dressed stone slabs. It provides access to the west section and its large lounge with terracotta floor tiles. Large French windows open on to the facade terrace. A large rustic fireplace dominates the room. The ceilings, with wide beams, are in a reasonably good state of repair. The windows, relatively recent but still with the original wide embrasures, open on to the gardens. On the east side, a large room separated by a central fireplace, communicates with an old kitchen where an original hearth has been fitted with a semi-circular stone bench overlooking the old hearth. Adjoining are two reception lounges where it is still possible to see the painted ceilings featuring floral patterned frescoes of Italian origin.
The first floor is accessed via the indoor stairway featuring stone steps covered with their original octagonal terracotta tiles and featuring wooden nosing. Before reaching the first floor, the stairway ceiling forms a gothic arch. A landing and various corridors, provide access to the old bedrooms and bathrooms. This level is very dilapidated, the ceilings having been taken down in places in order to save the load-bearing walls.
This level, under the rafters, comprises the old bedrooms used for the domestic staff. In need of full
The vaulted cellars, frequently damaged by damp over the years, still have their vaulted ceilings and their old solid doors.
The old chapel
Adjoining the rear of the castle, the chapel has but its facade, decorated with an epitaph and Christian symbols. The inside is in ruins and only has one architectural feature which would have been above the altar. It has packed mud floors.
The farm and the stables
At a distance of approx. 200 m, the old farm, spanning a floor surface area of approx. 600 m², also awaits restoration, although it was converted into dwellings some twenty years ago. Several areas in the vaulted cellars were used as stables, of which remain the loose box doors and metal railings amongst other equestrian fixtures and fittings. Near the farm are other abandoned outbuildings and henhouses. The sea and the French Riviera are spread out below.
Its location dominating the coastline from Nice to St-Raphaël is rare, if not unique. Although never classified or even listed, this small castle has miraculously survived all the ups and downs of property speculation, experienced by the French Riviera.
Both the building and the farm are in a very poor state of repair and some of their architectural features have been stolen, but they are free of any dubious renovation works. Newcomers will, moreover, be able to spice up their quest by looking for vestiges of the castle’s old underground passageway, all traces of which have disappeared.
With its large overhanging gardens, this residence is but waiting for a sound rehabilitation project which will not be hindered by French MH listing. A small section of the east tower does not, however, belong to the property and consequently other accesses have been made for each section of the residence.
|Land registry surface area||121 ha 28 a 41 ca|
|Outbuilding surface area||300 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||11|
Emmanuel Honold +33 1 42 84 80 85
NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.