Set up in the hills about 10 km from the sea, and with abundant water and the sheltering Pre-Alpes behind, Vence has always been a city of significance. Its Ligurian inhabitants, the Nerusii, put up stiff opposition to Auguste Caesar, but to no avail; Roman funeral inscriptions and votive offerings from the period embedded in the fabric of the old cathedral. In the dark ages of Visigoth and Ostrogoth invasions, the bishop of Vence , Saint Veran from the St- Honorat seminary, was as effective in organizing the defense of the city as in rebuilding its moral fabric. He died in 481 and was canonized by popular request. In those days the democratic principle was the voice of the people as the voice of god operated. But, when the Saracens razed their town and the cathedral St-Veran to the ground, the people of Vence had no spiritual power to save themselves from the Saracens.
In the 1920’s Vence became another haven for painters and writers, including Andre Gide, Paul Valery and DH Lawrence who died here in 1930. At the end of World War II Matisse moved to Vence to escape the allied bombing of the coast and its legacy is the town’s most famous building. The Chapelle du Rosaire, built under his design and directions. Vieux Vence ( Old Vence) has also its charms, with its ancient houses, getaways, fountains and chapels.
A walk through Medieval Vence.
A giant ash tree is the entrance to the tour- hour stroll through the old Vence with its old paved streets and medieval houses. Before you enter Portes de Peyra, make a stop at the Chateau de Villeneuve, which hosts programs of contemporary art and design exhibitions. Then turn right , it will take half an hour to walk rue du Marche where rows of shops selling herbs, fruit, fresh pasta and fish will make your mouth water. At the end of the street turn left and walk across both place Surian and Clemanceau to the beautiful cathedral- You will see Roman inscriptions dating back to almost 2000 years ago carved when Vence was the Roman settlement of Vintium. Also on the oak choir stalls you can see satarical figures, commissioned by a witty 17th-century bishop.
Also you can walk up rue du Seminaire and turn left to follow the old walls along Rue , de La Coste. Leave the old quarter by the Portail Levis, which takes you back on Place du Frene. You will see a lot of cafes and restaurants, one of them is Auberge des Seigneurs where you can enjoy a light lunch and a drink.
Hotel des Alpes, 2 Avenue General Leclerc on the eastern edge of old Vence. Nothing fancy but a very friendly place to stay and also very economical.
La Roseraie. 14 Avenue Henry Giraud. Classic and rich Provencal homestead with ancient cedar trees and magnolias overhanging the terrace on the road to the Col de Vence, northwest of town.( 04-93-58-02-20).
Auberge des Seigneurs. Place du Frene ( 04-93-58-04-24). Just within old Vence, with rooms named after the painters who lodge there. The food is excellent.
Diana. Avenue des Poilus ( 04 -93-58-28-56). http://www.hotel-diana-vence.com. Modern building in a quiet location.
All inclusive. ( Air fare not included).