Fayence is a commune in the Var department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of the South of France.
Fayence is one of a series of “perched villages” overlooking the plain between the southern Alps and the Esterel massif, which borders the sea between Cannes and Saint-Raphaël. The village is located on the road to Mons, which later on joins the Route Napoléon (linking Nice to Grenoble through the Alps). The medieval town is famed for its elevated position and its outstanding views.
Larger than most of the villages in the region, Fayence is a very attractive town and a good base for exploring the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. There are no end of interest places surrounding Fayence, all of which are most worthwhile to visit while you are on holiday. It is also within easy reach of the coastal areas and beaches of the Côte d’Azur such as Fréjus, Saint-Raphaël and Cannes. Nearby is the Fayence Gliding Centre, considered to be one of the best in Europe. Its Mediterranean climate, the charm of its old streets, traditional restaurants and bistros with Provencal flavours really do make Fayence a great area to visit.
As you approach this area of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region from the north of France, you will notice the deep gorges, rocky outcrops, vineyards, fields of lavender and olive groves along the way. This is an unmissable stop for the lovers of historical towns and relaxing landscapes characteristic of Provence. Fayence is a must-see area within the region and is highly popular with tourists. This is also thanks to the climate; the long summers are warm averaging around 25C and dropping to a mild 10C from December until February.
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 Bégude and the Moulin de Camandoule. The Saracen invasions devastated Fayence, leaving the town deserted, although the Monks of Lérins had an important convent here at the Notre-Dame-des-Cyprès from the 11th century on. In the 12th century, Alphonse 1st d’Aragon gave the fief of Fayence to the bishops of Fréjus. In 1391, Turenne destroyed the village of Callian, 5km to the east, and the fleeing people came to Fayenc and repopulated it for the first time since the Saracens had passed through.
The area is steeped in history and has a few aspects to which are still famed to this day. In 1522 the local Bishop (l’Evêque de Fréjus Nicolas de Fiesque) had four bread ovens built in Fayence. Named rather prosaically as: le four plus haut (the highest oven), le four plus bas (the lowest oven), le four du mitan (the middle oven), and le four du hameau Saint Paul. The Fayence village bread ovens were used at different times by village bakers or as communal ovens. Two of them, le four plus bas and le four du mitan were active bread ovens for about 400 years, serving until 1947. Le Four du Mitan has been turned into a museum (free entry). In addition to the realistic decor, an audio-video presentation is available to the visitors. Le Four du Mitan was the largest of the village’s bread ovens, and was located, along with a chapel, in the building just beside the present-day museum. It is highly recommended to visit the museum and gain a greater appreciation of the area and significance of the bread ovens.
There are other attractions also within the town which are a must-see, including a traditional stone-built lavoir (Place Gabriel Peri, towards the bottom of the old town), ornate carvings in the stone lintels above the doorways and numerous traditional Provencal fountains. All these features are what given Fayence its feel and ambience. They give the town a very traditional French look and feel. You will also see the Church of Saint Jean Baptiste (18th century), a 14th century entrance through the original ramparts (the Saracen Gate), and the Chapel Notre Dame des Cypres, the oldest Christian church in the area situated 2km out of town and encircled by tall cypress tress, built on the site of an old Gallo-Roman villa. At the top of the hill in Fayence, just past the remaining fragments of the castle that once stood there, is the clock tower, surrounded by a viewing platform that has very far-reaching and impressive views in all directions.
In the 18th century, the château was pulled down by Monsignor de Fleury who deemed it ‘too expensive and useless’ to keep. Only the remains of the tower are left but it is worth climbing up to the Place du Château for a splendid panoramic view of the mountains from the terrace. One remaining gate has survived from the original fortifications, the so-called Saracen Gate as mentioned. Some of the carvings and machicolations (projecting parapets) can still be seen and have proven influential to the look and appearance of the buildings that comprise the modern day architecture of the town.
Fayence is an area of natural, well kept beauty and tradition in every sense of the word.
The Pays de Fayence region has several traditional Provencal villages in close proximity to Fayence. The village of Tourrettes is very close, and Seillans (a beautiful classified village of France) and Callian are also nearby, well worth a visit when you are in the area. Among the many other pretty villages in the region, Mons is just a short distance north of Fayence and particularly recommended.
North of Fayence, the D563 road goes through oak-forested hills to Mons, and beyond to the Route Napoléon. As you get closer to Mons, you’ll discover deep gorges cutting through the hills, with rocky cliff faces showing here and there through the green vegetation. This is home to some of the most breathtaking views and scenery around and this is a must see area should you be in the area.
Visit the Lac-de-St Cassien (10km away) for fishing and water sports, walking and horse riding. Don’t miss the glorious Gorges du Verdon (54km) and turquoise blue waters of the inland Lac-de-Sainte-Croix. Do go to Grasse (30km) for its perfumeries and, further afield, glitzy St Tropez (80km) and Monaco (90km) for a day out. With such a great number of attractions close by this area is very popular in the summer time of visitors from abroad taking their holidays in this region.
The immediate area is full of attractions and the big Saturday morning market is a good place to find a wide selection of locally grown produce and Provençal goods.
Hiking and cycling are increasingly popular with dedicated trails mostly following the small roads, paths and forested areas around the town. One of these leads to the south/southwest about 5 to 6km to the Maures mountains, another (about 6-8km) 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.
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. The Chapel of Our Lady of Cypress is a small jewel of Romanesque art, with a single nave, dated around the 10th century. It was the first paroissse vraissemblablement Fayence and is dedicated, as its name suggests, to the Virgin Mary which is celebrated on September 8th in Fayence. The Virgin Mary is indeed the patron of Fayence.
Golf is also big in the region. There are a large number of golf courses nearby and the Terre Blanche Golf Resort is just under 5km from Fayence, offering one of the best courses in southern France. 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. On a weekly basis the market sells some of the finest fresh local produce made by the locals within Fayence. The Fayence Antiques Fair is held 3 or 4 times a year, selling period pieces and second hand ‘Brocante’ items. This is set in a shady setting under secular plane trees in the garden of an old Provençal bastide.
Like with all regions of France, there are some amazing eateries all worth visiting in the Fayence area. Most notable is La Table d’Yves, serving up many of the regions most traditional dishes and noted for its spectacular views. 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 that 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 the Esterel. This is the place to go if you want a true quality Provençal dining experience.
For a dining experience on a whole different level there is the Michelin starred Faventia restaurant, within the Domaine de Terre Blanche resort. This is a chic five-star resort with award winning cuisine and one of Europe’s most beautiful spas.
If you like the sound of everything you have heard about Fayence, 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, which also offer great links to other areas of France.
Overall, Fayence is the perfect go to resort if you want a holiday where you can see France in a most traditional light. This is a very un-spoilt area to visit on holiday, famed for it’s traditional, iconic French architecture.