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The French Riviera Travel Guide

  • Photo: Christian Musat / Shutterstock

Vallauris

This ancient village in the low hills above the coast, dominated by a blocky Renaissance château, owes its four-square street plan to a form of medieval urban renewal. Ravaged and eventually wiped out by waves of the plague in the 14th century, the village was rebuilt by 70 Genovese families imported by the Abbaye de Lérins in the 16th century to repopulate the abandoned site. They brought with

them a taste for Roman planning—hence the grid format in the Old Town—but more important, a knack for pottery making. Their skills and the fine clay of Vallauris were a perfect marriage, and the village thrived as a pottery center for hundreds of years. In the late 1940s Picasso found inspiration in the malleable soil and settled here, giving the flagging industry new life.

Nowadays, Vallauris has a split personality (and a shady reputation, so keep your hands on your purse): the commercial, souvenir-shop tourist section vaunting bins of pottery below, the dense medieval gridwork of the Old Town looming barren and isolated above, with little to see but laundry and cats.

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