Whole village of Fontan

The village of Fontan develops mainly along RD 6204 road, on the right bank of the Roya river. Tourette district, another historic grouping of houses, is on the left bank.

Period XVII

Accessibility Yes

Visitable Yes

The hamlet of Fontan was created in the town of Saorge by order of the Duke of Savoy, Charles-Emmanuel I, in 1616. The road in the Saorge Gorges, open to traffic in 1593, then prevented climbing to the village from Saorge. Fontan became a stopover hamlet for travelers.

The site was chosen as being convenient, wholesome, abundant in spring waters and possessing land suitable for growing vegetables, vines and fruit trees.

The increase in merchant traffic between the port of Nice and Turin prompted some Sorges families to set up shop in Fontan to offer their services.

The linear organization of the village was imposed by the activities related to the route, traced following the Roya river. Many houses have a double opening: road and river.

The purple schist extracted from the town, which is still visible on the roofs, steps and floors, reminds the importance of this material in the history of Fontan and Saorge.

In 1632, the construction of Our Lady of the Visitation Church (Notre-Dame de la Visitation) was decided to prevent the parishioners back and forth to Saorge.

In 1860, when the county of Nice became part of France, Fontan became a border town with Tende remained Italian. Customs settled there, strengthening the population.

On September 20, 1870, Fontan and Berghe’s two hamlets were detached from Saorge to form a new independent town.

The development of motor vehicle performance during the last decades of the twentieth century gradually reduced the importance of Fontan’s stopover, which nevertheless retained some establishments for travelers’ catering.

A stop at Fontan enables to visit the 17th century church, which forms a beautiful ensemble with the presbytery and the chapel of the White Penitents. It is also possible to discover the modernist hydroelectric plant of 1913, the elegant war memorial statue, as well as some pretty facade decorations on both sides of the river, which remained there in its natural state.

Conditions of visit

The village of Fontan is crossed by RD 6204 road.
Easy access, parking in the village, on both banks of the Roya river. Some streets have steps, only accessible to valid people.
Permanent opening to the public. Generally private buildings.


Additional information


  • Botton Charles et Gaber Jean, Histoire de Saorge et Fontan, Les Editions du Cabri, Breil-sur-Roya, 2009.
  • Braun Michel, Histoire Insolite : Le monument aux morts de Fontan, Magazine Le Haut-Pays n°4, Les Editions du Cabri, Breil-sur-Roya, 1985