Biot is one of the Côte d’Azur’s most charming villages. Not as famous as the neighbouring tourist towns of Antibes, Cap Ferrat and Saint Paul de Vence, this little settlement nevertheless holds its own in terms of beauty, even in this very beautiful corner of France. It’s also an easy place to visit if you are staying in one of the bigger tourist towns, situated just 6km from Antibes and 26km from Nice – and well worth a visit to enjoy its centuries-old winding streets and rustic beauty.
This region has a long and turbulent history: it was originally home to Celtic tribes, followed by Roman colonists. The first records of Biot are Medieval, and the town fell under the control of the Knights Templar between the 11th and 14th Centuries.
The rule of the knights ended in 1308 when the town passed into the hands of the Knights of the Order of Malta, as a direct result of the Papal order to disposess the Templars of all their wealth. The years of darkness continued for this beautiful place, and in the 14th Century the plague ravaged Biot until it was all but destroyed in 1387 by soldiers hunting for the pirates and bandits said to have taken refuge in the town.
In 1470, King René decided to repopulate Biot with 50 families from Liguria, the area of Italy which today shares a border with France. In modern times, Biot has seen better fortune: thanks to the wealth that tourism has brought to this area, the population has swollen from just 2700 at the end of the 1960s to over 10,000 in 2012.
As well as the beauty of its cobbled streets, another reason to visit Biot is the museum dedicated to Fernand Leger, located on the outskirts of town. Biot is also famous for ceramics and glass, and the Rue Saint-Sebastien is a nice place to browse the individual shops selling local products. There is a small museum dedicated to local crafts, the Musée d’Histoire et de Céramique Biotoises, on the same street. The Tourist Office has lots of useful resources including self-guided walking tours and a smartphone app – try following their historical trail to learn the stories behind Catastrophe Square and the town’s ramparts.
For lunch, there are lots of great options – we particularly liked the restaurants on the quirky and peaceful Place des Arcades, at the heart of the Medieval town.