On hot summer days, La Turbie provides the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Monaco and the Riviera coastline. With beautiful cafés and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, La Turbie is a fantastic place to come for a long lunch. Throughout history, there has always been a stream of people going back and forth between La Turbie and Monaco, many Turbiasques working in Monaco and many Monegasques enjoying the peaceful way of life of La Turbie. Indeed many residents of Monaco also own homes in La Turbie. Having been under Monegasque rule for many years, the connection between the two places is as strong as ever today and helps maintain a reality to this town that perhaps other villages on the Cote d’Azur have lost with the influx of tourists. La Turbie is a place where one can wander around the old ramparts through narrow streets, where neighbours could almost shake hands across the road, amongst beautiful pot plants and flowers and stunning beautifully renovated medieval doorways and steps and yet see not one gift shop or touristy coffee shop or bar. The old town of La Turbie has remained a place to live in peace and tranquility for it’s residents, which makes La Turbie an absolute delight and a joy to visit.
The very pretty town of La Turbie grew up around Le Trophée des Alpes, first constructed in 7 BC as a monument to celebrate the victory of Emperor Augustus over the Ligurian tribesmen in the locality. Even before Roman times, there is evidence of Celto-Ligurian settlers using this spectacular location, but it was the Romans that in 13 BC began work on the road running between Provence and Italy (now the Moyenne Corniche). La Turbie (the name derived from Trophy in Latin), situated on a ridge of Mont Agel was the perfect spot to erect the magnificent edifice that commanded incredible views along the entire coastline from Nice to Italy and could also be seen by all around either from above or the sea as a sign of Augustus’ victory. This is still pretty much true today although Le Trophée des Alpes has taken on many transformations since Roman times. What remains today is the work of thirty years of careful reconstruction ending in 1931 of part of the original structure. Impossible to rebuild in its’ entirety due to a huge amount of the original stone being used earlier to build much of the town including the church of St Michel, the 1930’s construction is a tribute to the original structure and is now once again beautifully displayed as a feature of the entire coast and not just the town. During the middle ages the original monument was rebuilt to create a serious fortress, destroying much of the building’s original integrity and beauty, but then for some reason the entire structure was destroyed in 1705 when Louis XIV blew it up!
La Turbie boasts several wonderful bakeries and cafés around the edge of original old town, along with two especially good restaurants offering superb food. La Cave Turbiasque, situated in the Place Theodore de Banville, offers a delightful menu, traditionally French with many local and mountain dishes, combined with the Italian influence of being so close to the border. The food is refreshingly different to that served on the coast and yet is comfortingly local. The welcome is super friendly as you would expect from the restaurant’s Thai owner, she and her husband are more than happy to speak to guests in English. All staff take the time to carefully explain every dish on the menu with a big smile, her husband often jesting with clients that don’t quite understand what a“clafoutis” is for example, and ensuring everyone is made to feel at home. Booking is generally recommended and is a must for Sunday lunch! Very popular with people from Monaco and of all nationalities. Totally unpretentious!
Across the road is the renowned Cafe de la Fontaine, the Owner Bruno Cirino is a bit of star in La Turbie, a highly regarded Michelin starred Chef, he has turned this pavement café into something very special indeed. Always busy, on first appearance this place looks like any other brasserie found across France. A red awning, the usual plastic chairs outside, and inside the tables are laid with red and white checked paper tablecloths. But the staff are exceptional, something immediately noticed when the Maitre d’ holds open the door to welcome each guest. His team are smart and attentive and one almost feels like the place has “borrowed” staff from a smart Monaco restaurant for the day, but no it gets better! The menu is simple and uncomplicated with not a huge selection but what a relief! Looking at the mouthwatering menu alone would tempt event the most fussy guest, but once the starter is served then you’re in heaven!! This is truly an exceptional place to eat, and I’m grateful for the simple appearance that helps it maintains it’s local feel. The Cafe de la Fontaine is full of locals, not only French but the Dutch, German, Scandinavian and British people who make up the multi-cultural population of La Turbie. Many tourists may pop in for a coffee on the terrace outside but inside it’s a delicious haven for those in the know and offers exceptional value for money!
But for lucky few who remember to book early (think months!), tucked away in the old town is other restaurant of Bruno Cirino, the Michelin starred Hostellerie Jérôme! Bruno and his wife opened here in the late 1990s and the general consensus is that they just get better and better, many critics believing that Bruno should have been awarded a third star instead of losing his second last year! Hopefully it will not be long before this is reinstated! Bruno’s wife runs the restaurant and is also the Somellier, presiding over a cellar to rival that of any two star establishment. The interior like its’ café partner is unfussy, tables are well spread and private conversation is easy. The menu focuses on French cuisine of the very highest standard and is renowned for producing dishes using a large array of ingredients, combined in ways not everyone would think of, but on tasting Bruno’s dishes it just all makes perfect sense!
For those guests not relishing the idea of trying to find a taxi in La Turbie late at night (Monaco taxis will drop you off but not pick you up, so be sure to use a limousine company), the Hostellerie Jérôme has a few beautifully appointed rooms, but book well in advance to secure one. La Turbie is high above sea level and usually quite a few degrees cooler than on the coast, and ladies are advised to take a shawl with them to dinner. But to wake up here and take in the cool morning air walking to the bakery or back across the road to Cafe de La Fontaine for fresh coffee and pastries is a truly relaxing, refreshing way to start the day. This ancient, pretty town has grown and thrived since Roman times and is simply a true French gem right here on the Cote d’Azur!
This article was written by Rachel Coles, charter broker at Bespoke Yacht Charter.
To discuss luxury yacht charters in the south of France and Monaco, please contact Rachel Coles at Bespoke Yacht Charter: