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Located in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of south eastern France, Fayence is midway between the mountains and the sea. Perched on the side of a hill, it overlooks the plain between the southern Alps and the Esterel massif which borders the coast between Cannes and Saint Raphael. A fine example of traditional Provençal architecture, Fayence lies on the D562 road between Draguignan and Grasse, and is a gateway for visitors wishing to explore the surrounding area. North of the town, the D563 road leads through oak forested hills to Mons and beyond to the Route Napoléon which links Nice to Grenoble through the Alps. Fayence has long been a secret destination for tourists driving towards the interior countryside of the Var with its deep gorges, rocky outcrops, vineyards, fields of lavender and olive groves along the way. It is an unmissable stop for the lovers of historical towns and relaxing landscapes characteristic of Provence. The long summers are warm averaging around 25C and dropping to a mild 10C from December until February.
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The name of the town derives from the Latin, Faventia Loca, which means ‘a favourable location’ and vestiges of early Roman occupation have been found nearby at Notre-Dame-des-Cyprès, La Begude and Moulin de Camandoule. Fayence was greatly influenced by Saracen invasions which devastated the town leaving it deserted apart from the monks of Lérins who built a convent here in the 11th century. In 1391, Turenne destroyed the village of Callian, 5 km away and the local people fled to Fayence, repopulating it for the first time since the Saracens passed through.
In the 18th century, the château was pulled down by Monsignor de Fleury who deemed it ‘too expensive and useless’. Only the remains of the tower are left but it is worth climbing up to the Place du Château for a splendid panorama of the mountains from the terrace. One remaining gate has survived from the original fortifications, the so-called Saracen Gate, and some of the carvings and machicolations (projecting parapets) can still be seen.
The old town of steep, winding streets and stairways is clustered round the 18th century Église St-Jean-Baptiste, an imposing building with frescoes and a baroque marble altar made by local mason, Dominique Fossati. The houses are mostly built of stone with terracotta roofs and pastel coloured doorways in the traditional manner of the hilltop villages in Provence.
Fayence is a big centre for local crafts and there are lots of workshops to visit as you stroll around the streets: pottery, stone and wood-carving are all undergoing a revival and the big Saturday morning market is a good place to find a wide selection of wares.
Hiking and cycling are increasingly popular with dedicated trails mostly following the small roads around the town. One of these leads to the south/southwest about 5 to 6 km to the Maures mountains; another about 6 to 8 km goes through the hills to the Lac de St. Cassien and to the north/northeast, a trail runs through the Fôret de Tourrettes to Mons. All of these have amazing views but it is advisable to take into consideration the heat of the summer months and perhaps schedule trips in the Spring or Autumn – or at least during the cool of the day.
The flying club of Fayence-Tourettes, once a military zone, is now considered to be the best gliding centre in Europe. Founded in 1935, it is located just south of the town. Flying and gliding lessons can be arranged easily and enthusiasts from all over the world come to enjoy spectacular flights over this beautiful region.
There is a history of four local bread ovens which produced bread at different times of the day, two of which were in operation for 400 years and only closed in 1947. Le Four du Mitan was one of them and it has been turned into an interesting little museum with free entry.
Two kilometres outside the town is La Chapelle Notre-Dame-des-Cyprès, a 13th century vaulted Romanesque chapel encircled by tall cypress tress, built on the site of an old Gallo-Roman villa.
There are a large number of golf courses nearby and the Four Seasons Terre Blanche Resort is just 3 miles from Fayence offering one of the best courses in southern France. The beaches of the Cote d’Azur are within easy reach with La Napoule just 14 miles away. Swimming in the mountain streams and in the lake at St. Cassien is also permitted. Other sporting activities include horse-riding, mountain biking and naturally, pétanque is played in the shady squares.
Market days are held on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Beginning of August: Foire à la Brocante. This is a famous Antiquary Fair with period pieces and second hand ‘Brocante’ items held in a shady setting under secular plane trees in the garden of an old Provençal bastide.
Mid August: Fair
End June: 13-14th July – Fête
8 September : Fête (4 days)
Accommodation & Restaurants
The region is brimming with good restaurants and La Table d’Yves, 1 km south of the village, is a pretty house with blue shutters which has a wonderful view from the terrace and serves excellent Cuisine du Terroir (local delicacies). Le France at 1 Grande Rue de Château is good value and Le 8 is a well recommended brasserie. La Farigoulette, tucked away at the top of the hill, is popular with local residents who appreciate the warm welcome throughout the year.
The Castellaras restaurant is in a beautiful Provençal farmhouse which holds the title ‘Table Gourmet du Var’ offering delicious Mediterranean dishes and a good choice of wines including several produced locally. On sunny days the terrace is shaded by a majestic plane tree and visitors are welcome to enjoy the rose garden with views of the Fayence valley and the hills of Esterel.
The Four Seasons Provence at Domaine de Terre Blanche is a chic five star resort with award winning cuisine and one of Europe’s most beautiful spas. In addition to the Michelin starred Faventia restaurant, there is a hilltop terrace for al fresco dining and the Tousco Grill for casual meals or cocktails by the pool. The hotel offers exceptional service in beautiful surroundings and is a wonderful base for family holidays. Amenities include a beautiful outdoor swimming pool with fantastic views, an indoor pool, tennis courts and two internationally acclaimed golf courses. Only a short drive from the glamour of the Cote d’Azur, the Four Seasons offers luxurious comfort in a tranquil setting nestled in the hills of Provence. The hotel has 115 suites, all with open-air terraces, overlooking quiet courtyards.
The closest Airport is Nice Côte d’Azur International which has direct daily flights from the UK.
Train and bus services are available between Fréjus and other towns along the coast, including Marseille, Cannes and Nice.