Poised as it is on the edge of the deepest natural harbour in the eastern Mediterranean, Villefranche has been the object of envy of many invading armies over the centuries. This gives the town a varied and interesting history evident in its fortifications. At various times it has been ruled by the Greeks, the Romans, the Dukes of Savoy, the French and even, at the turn of the century, Imperial Russia, and has been attacked by countless other invaders. Villefranche still offers a superb shelter from the strong Mediterranean winds but under somewhat more peaceful conditions.
Upstaged by Marseille in 2008 as the largest leisure marina in France, Villefranche still has tremendous watersports and sailing opportunities. It is the venue for the world championships of 'Apnée' or 'Freediving', where divers plunge - without oxygen - to depths of up to 70 metres, and in late February there are the flower battles which take place in the inner harbour when bunches of flowers are thrown at the spectators. The spectators are supposed to throw the flowers back at the chaps in the boats - hence 'la bataille' - but are just as likely to keep them as precious souvenirs!
The town offers some spectacular views and has attracted more than its fair share of celebrities who come to enjoy the climate, the ambience and the cuisine.
The citadel on the waterfront is amazing. Enter the interior through the drawbridge or go around the sea walkway to the second entrance called the d'Arse here is a small beach and old galley-slave pens. The main church in the old town has a wooden sculpture carved by one of these slaves.
Beaulieu is a 15 minute walk along the beachfront or via the Basse Corniche. Cap Ferrat is on the other side of the bay and has some wonderful beaches such as Fossa to be found just behind the village.
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