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Saint-Tropez

Pays de Maures, Côte d’Azur, Var

43.273296,6.639621
43°16'23.87"N 6°38'22.64"E
Published: April 2010
last updated: March 2011
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The visit

The beaches of Saint-Tropez are probably the most glamorous place of Provence. The legend of Saint-Tropez was born in the 1950s, when it became summer capital of the artists of New Wave (Nouvelle Vague): Jean-Paul Sartre, Boris Vian, Françoise Sagan, Paul Poiret and certainly Brigitte Bardot. The beaches occupy 12 km of the golf of Saint-Tropez - a walk from Tahiti beach in the town to the legendary golfe de Pampelonne will take over three hours. In summer the beaches of Saint-Tropez turn into a non-stop party place, to enjoy their natural beauty you’ll have to come off tourist season.

To fall in love with Saint-Tropez, start from its port. First a fishing and military port, then one of the most important commercial ports of France it started its third life in the middle of XX century as the harbour to the most beautiful yahts from around the world. The rich and famous have to share the colourful port of Saint-Tropez with simple fishing barks of the locals. The quay is divided between painters, terraces of restaurants, street artists and crowds of tourists. On the right side of the port you’ll see Announciation chapel le Musee de l’Annonciade now hosting a great collection of avant-garde french painters. Then enter into the old village, walk in the direction of the bright village church in barocco style built in XVII century. Next to the church find rue de la Ponche (you’ll recognize it by the imposant building of townhall) - this street will take you to la Porte du Revelen - the old gate of the village and to la Ponche. This pretty village district was built extra-muros in XVII-XVIII centuries to satisfy rapid population growth. The district of craftsmen and fishermen la Ponche had a small fishing port, nown turned into a beach.

Take a detour to the Citadel of Saint-Tropez built in the beginning of XVII century. Even if you are not a fan of military constructions you will surely appreciate the view on the golf and the old village opening from there. Returning to the old village don’t forget to walk along la rue Gambetta - the symbol of prosperity and glory of Saint-Tropez in XVIII century. Every house on this street was built for the rich families of local merchands and sailors. Next to this street you’ll see la Chapelle de Misericorde (Mercy chapel) built in XVII century. You’ll understand the spirit of Saint-Tropez once you reach the vast shadowy place des Lices (next to rue Gambetta). Tuesday and Saturday morning the square is occupied by the local market and every afternoon you can watch locals playing pétanque - the legendary provencal sport.

History

The name Saint-Trpez is due to a beautiful legend. Noble roman officer Caius Silvius Torpetius was converted to christianity by Saint Paul and decapitated by the emperor Neron in 68 A.D. The body of christian martyr was put in a small boat together with a chicken and a dog and left in the sea. The boat made a long way until it crashed on the coast near greek colony Héraclea-Caccaliera. With the end of Roman Empire the greek period on Côte d’Azur finished as well. The region suffered from pirates, then fell into the hands of Sarrazins. Medieval history of Saint-Tropez starts in the end of X century, when Guillaume I count of Provence orders to build there first defensive tower. In XV century René le Bon invites the families from italian Genoa, led by Raphael de Garezzio, to settle on the coast. In return he promises to exempt them from all taxes (indeed the inhabitants of Saint-Tropez were exempt of taxes until 1672, when Louis XIV canceled this treaty). Raphael de Garezzio builds Saint-Tropez as he would build an italian town. It becomes a little republic, governed by the consuls, administering a small fleet and an army. Saint-Tropez was a successful military and commercial port. It resisted spanish and turkish attacks and even sent ships to protect nearby towns Frèjus and Antibes. Famous bravade (popular parade) of 15 june is dedicated to the victory over 21 spanish ships in 1637.

In 1793 the town got official name Héraclée and in 1801 was renamed Saint-Tropez. Saint-Tropez was the first town in Provence to be liberated by the allies in 1944. From 1950s Saint-Tropez becomes summer capital of Europe.

Practical information

If you want to come to Saint-Tropez in summer season, get up early and have patience. Two routes lead to Saint-Tropez: famous D93 (Route des Plages) that passes by the legendary beaches Pampelonne and Les Salins. You can also take N98 that goes from Hyéres to Saint-Maxim and after the village Cogolin change to D98A (Route de Saint-Tropez). All these routes are rather narrow and in the summer blocked by enormous traffic-jams. Off-season, when the routes are almost empty and the tourists are few we advice you to drive N98 and then D1098 that will take you from Saint-Tropez to the beautiful calanque Esterel along the seashore.

Sports and nature lovers can take long walks or bicycle tours around Saint-Tropez: along the golf (direction Pampelonne) or into the woods Forêt Domaniale des Maures (entry prohibited in summer).

Be extremely careful with fire, especially during summer season! Every summer ecologists count hundreds of fires in Provence. We ask you not to light any fires and to never throw your cigarette butts!!

Once in Saint-Tropez, don’t miss an opportunity to taste the local wine - one of the best in the region.

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