Perched high on a hilltop only 4
km from the Mediterranean between Antibes and Nice is Biot, a
picturesque 2500-year-old medieval village. Like most Mediterranean villages in
this part of Europe, Biot's location reflected the need for strong defenses
against foreign invasions in ancient times. Although not as high as other
towns, such as Saint Paul-de-Vence, the site is nonetheless quite dramatic. Biot,
is an absolutely delightful village -- tiny but packed with charm.
Known worldwide for its arts and crafts, particularly glass and pottery, Biot embraces its kinship to the arts with unique signs on the buildings, beckoning visitors to come inside so they can demonstrate their skills - and hopefully - sell their wares. Even though it is a popular place for visitors all year round, tourism hasn't changed Biot's natural charm and feeling of antiquity. The local families seem to go about their daily business while visitors relax in cafes and soak up the calm slow pace of village life.
The streets are extremely appealing with the typically Mediterranean architecture on both sides of narrow lanes. The villages are a bit short on gardens -obviously, from lack of space but the residents hang flowering plants in pots in thick profusion from porches and flowerboxes. Watered daily, they reach up for the little sun that that passes overhead briefly between rooftops.
Charming traditional Mediterranean-style houses on narrow streets with petite gardens
Rue Saint Sébastien, the main street in the center of Biot, is lined with cafés, restaurants and numerous glass and pottery shops. Except for residents, cars are not allowed to drive through rue St Sébastien or any other street in the old town.
Rue Saint Sébastien and La Fountaine Square
Every French medieval village must have a central square with an urn-shaped water fountain. Biot is no exception.
Place des Arcades is a attractive square that owes its name to the ancient arcades of the surrounding buildings. Most of them date from the 13th and 14th centuries. Some of the arches are thought to be older, belonging to the castle of the ancient Romans constructed for use as a military defensive position. In fact, place des Arcades was the centre of this castrum.
Englise Sainte Marie-Madeleine
The main church in Biot, Eglise Sainte Marie-Madeleine dates from the late 15th century. It was built over the ruins of a 12th century Romanesque church, which had been destroyed a century earlier. Pre-dating the church, the original site is believed to have held a Roman temple during Roman times. The church is located on Place de l'Eglise, a small hidden square accessible from Place des Arcades via an arched passage.
The village is rich in art, boasting the Musee Fernand Leger, devoted to its namesake, who lived in the area from 1905 to 1955. There are a range of sculptures and architectural masterpieces around the village. Fernand Léger, whose museum stands at the foot of the village, and Eloi Monod, who started the village's glass-blowing tradition, are just 2 of the artists to have fuelled Biot's artistic drive. Take your time to admire the beautiful doors, vaults, stairways, stonework, sundials, cobblestones, and the perspectives from one street to another.
Connective arches for vitality and strength
The photo above shows some of the artwork around town. In addition, there are several museums that showcase the pottery and glass manufacture traditions of the village
Crafts shops abound in every alleyway and little street displaying art, crafts and the beautiful Biot glassware
ABOUT BIOT GLASSWARE
Before glass, people lugged
around their wine and olive oil in clay jugs. Amphorae, the two-handled
jars with a narrow neck used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to carry wine
or oil were exported worldwide until the 18th century. Biot was
adept in fashioning
these containers mainly because the surrounding terrain was rich in sand,
quality clay and manganese... and even volcanic tufa for making the kilns.
Glass-blowing replaced the
manufacture of clay jugs and the skill reached a high level in Biot after
the 18th century. The town is now famous for producing glasswork --
typically a clear or colored transparent glass with little bubbles inside that fetch a respectable price in the numerous
small shops around town. Biot's famous glass bubbles are formed by rolling
hot glass in baking soda then trapping the bubbles with a second layer of
glass. You get to see this process on the guided tour.
Stop by the shops for a look, as they may have some factory "seconds" that are slightly imperfect - and discounted. They make great gifts for friends back home.
There are several glassworks down the hill around the
outskirts of the village, and you can watch the glass-blowing process as the
pieces are made. Visit La Verrerie de Biot,
just outside town. It's open daily. The glassblowers’ studio
(Free admission) Fifteen master glassblowers draw the living substance
from the fire, blow, create and model unique objects before visitors´ eyes
Or, you can get a more precise perspective on Biot's artisanal tradition by visiting the Musée histoire et céramique Biotoises (closed Monday & Tuesday).
Another highlight of Biot is the Fernand Léger Museum which contains some 350 works by the master. It's in grounds that Léger bought shortly before his death in 1955.
The train station described "gare Biot" on the map is in fact on the coast several
kilometers from the actual village. Although you can walk, it is some
distance. Do not be deceived by the train schedule on the Cote D'Azur...the
stop that is labeled Biot refers to the lower beach area. Biot-Village
is where most people intend to go, and it is much easier to access by bus.
From Antibes, it is a quick 30-minute trip.
Bus: There is a bus (number 10) which goes to the village fairly frequently. Cross the busy road from the gare Biot and there is a bus stop. Be sure to inquire where and how - you get the return bus back. If you are forced to take a taxi back it would be expensive (30 EURO for 5-minute-drive)