Despite its small size and small population, Belvedere, a small dot on the map of Provence, has a fairly rich and interesting history. The remains of ancient fortifications which have been preserved in the town and in the suburbs to this day remind about that.
It is known that in 10th century BC the tribes of Liguria dominated on these lands. They were replaced by Phoenician sailors, and later – by the Hellenes - Phocaeans (6th century BC.). At that time the trading settlements along the Cote d'Azur (Marseille, Nice, Antibes) actively developed, the wine-growing and olive trees was cultivated. In 5th century BC the Celtic tribes of Gauls settled here, and in 2-3rd centuries BC a new period in the history of the region which was proclaimed a Roman province – Provence begun. At this time Belvedere was visited by the next of kin of the Roman emperors who are known to have taken the thermal baths here.
Subsequently, the region fell on hard times of hardships and destructions that were brought there by the barbarians, the Moors and Saracens. This has led many residents to run further into the mountains. Thus was formed the majority of mountain settlements of the Department among which was Belvedere. Then the town was ruled by princes of Provence, and later - by the princes of Savoy as part of the Kingdom of Sardinia already. Active development of the coastal area of the Department at that time, however, did not affect Belvedere which remained isolated from the outside world and kept a primitive household because of lack of roads and the development of trade. The French Revolution of 1789 has brought nothing good to the town, as well as military operations of the French army against the Austro-Sardinia the part of which was Belvedere at that time. The town was sacked and it was a mess. After Napoleon's victory over the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia Belvedere again became a part of France for a while. In the 19th century this area was used for royal hunting. And only in 1947, Belvedere, finally for this time, returned to the bosom of France and began to develop as part of the recreational area of the Department.
The coat of arms depicts a fox and pines that emphasizes the positioning of the town as part of the world famous park. Mercantour is of great value to the region as a Biosphere Reserve, where flora and fauna are carefully protected, where a man feels great enjoying the proximity to pristine nature. At the same time, the park has a lot of artefacts since the Stone and Bronze Ages which were left by the ancient people. For thousands of years overcoming the rugged paths along the canyon of the valleys of the Roja River the locals rose to the top of the Mont Bego which was considered sacred, and on the way to the rocks and stones left the petroglyphs - writings and drawings with images of humans, animals, household and labour items, hunting scenes. The petroglyphs a magic value had for ancient people. Despite the impact of nature and time, many of the petroglyphs are well preserved. However, to find them on your own will not be easy, it is better to do it with an experienced guide. Only in the area of the Valley of Wonders which is on the other side of the Bego Mountain in the park of the Mercantour the researchers found about thirty thousand ancient graffiti. No one so far knows the exact meaning of the drawings, but with a guide you can try to decipher the messages of the ancient people giving them a proper explanation.
French Mercantour National Park
borders the similar Italian Argentera Park. In 1987 they were united which allowed the wild animals to feel freer the tourists to travel around. The reserve is good at any time of the year. Among the green valleys and beautiful alpine meadows you can see how animals the image of which you know perhaps only from the books run by: wild boar, roe deer, wild sheep, wolves, deer. And looking up you notice the eagles, golden eagles and vultures sailing through the sky.
Here you can also meet a lot of different plants of which two hundred are endangered, and another 2 dozen can be found only here. In spring you cannot take your eyes form a riot of blooming mountain tulips, anemones, rhododendrons, as well as the symbol of the park - saxifrage - a fragile flower that survives well among the rocks. And you breathe and cannot get enough with a clean air infused with scents of pine and larch trees, saturated aerosols with icy mountain lakes, waterfalls, alpine flowers. By definition of a classic author, you want to drink this air with «drinking glasses»!
Mercantour is interesting not only with the wealth and diversity of well-preserved nature. Like other French reserves, it is more than the reserve: an active, well-organized tourism is obligatorily present here. There are almost 250 km of the marked and well-groomed footpaths only. There are also many monuments and cultural heritage.
The pretty villages are situated on the mountain slopes – a sort of microcosms with their culture and traditions which have been formed for centuries. The residents of Belvedere, as well as of other mountain villages are distinguished by the hospitality and warmth. They are always happy to offer visitors a roof over the head and local entertainments.
Belvedere guests have excellent opportunities for hiking and trekking, mountaineering, horse riding and fishing. Yet it will be interesting to visit the local Museum of Milk. And visiting cafes or restaurants try the delicious local cuisine.
In late September, Belvedere noisily celebrates the Feast of Shepherds’ Return from the Pastures accompanied by the sounds of horns and drums, as well as the exhibition of old local crafts - blacksmithing and basket weaving.
The Festival of Cabbage, the Festival in Honour of St. Blaise, and other traditional festivals bringing together adults and children, locals and town visitors are also held cheerfully.
The beauty of the town could not be ignored by the filmmakers. In 1965, the town became a place of filming the television series «Belle and Sebastian» famous at that time that tell the story of a six-year old boy named Sebastian and his dog Belle who lived in a small alpine village on the French side of the border with Italy.
It is also known that in the 16th century in the town the future professor at the University of Montpellier and the personal physician of King Henry IV - Andre Lourenti was born and lived.
Staying at Belvedere provides many opportunities to get acquainted with other attractive tourist sites in the region that are in close proximity. This Marineland Aquarium, Antibes (47 km); towns and villages of Nice (35 km), Goudron (43 km), Menton (30 km), Grasse (51 km); magnificent gardens and parks (20-50 km), and many others.