Rising above a stretch of commercial-industrial quarters along the coast from Antibes, the village perché of Biot (pronounced Bee-otte) sits neatly on a hilltop,and, as some claim, near an ex-volcano. Threaded with cute alleyways and dotted with pretty placettes (small squares), the old town is so picturesque it almost demands you pick up brush and palette—mere photographs don't do it justice, especially as it's not on the receiving end of much light. For centuries home to a pottery industry, known for its fine yellow clay that stretched into massive, solid oil jars, Biot has, in recent generations, made a name for itself as a glass-art town.
Despite the new commercialism, traces of old Provence remain in Biot, especially in the evening after the busloads of shoppers leave and the deep-shaded squares under the plane trees fall quiet. Then you can meander around the edges of the Old Town to find the stone arch gates known as the Porte des Tines and the Porte des Migraniers: they're the last of the 16th-century fortifications that once enclosed Biot. Step into the 15th-century église, which contains an early-16th-century altarpiece attributed to Louis Bréa and depicting the Virgin Mary shielding humanity under her cloak; the surrounding portraits are as warmly detailed as the faces and hands in the central panel. Truly Nikon-worthy is centuries-old Place des Arcades, the ancient heart of the Old Town which was first colonized by the Knights Templars and then the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem. Found between the tourist office and the church, just behind Rue Barri, it has an otherworldly grace, with its Gothic arcades and tall palm trees. Picturesquely curved and shop-lined, the center of town remains Rue Saint Sébastien.
Most unfortunately, Biot was heavily affected by the violent storms that swept across the French Riviera on October 3, 2015, as a result of which both La Verrerie de Biot and Marineland suffered 90% damage. At the time of publication, both of these sites were closed due to massive flooding.