A Provencal village
The charm of La Garde-Freinet lies in the patina of time passed, like the houses of uneven stone and red tiled roofs which leave the valley and end up clinging to the hillside. You need to cross this maze of sloping streets, past ivy-covered houses, and to take narrow passages sometimes carved out of the rock, to discover a church or chapel, an old wash-house or spring water fountain. The village seems to have escaped the ravages of time; on the terraces of café-restaurants the days drift by peacefully for the occupants, waiting for the inevitable game of pétanque. On Sundays and Wednesdays the pedestrianized road hosts a Provencal market. Here the brand that goes into your basket is “made in…” with vegetables from neighbouring gardens, walnut bread from the bakery at the end of the street and crème de marron still turned by hand. In October, gourmets come from far and wide for the Fêtes de la Châtaigne to sample the marrons glacés, hot chestnuts, chestnut chip ice cream and other delicacies.
Discover a heritage
Outside this festive period and that of the Bravade in May, the village’s tranquil appearance hides a lively cultural scene that revolves around art galleries, intimate concerts and local craftsmen skilled in the trades of their ancestors and showcasing a rich heritage. If you still need convincing, just pop into the chapel of Saint-Jean, a national monument belonging to the Conservatoire du Patrimoine (heritage museum). We can tell you about Fort-Freinet, one of the village’s early settlements perched on a rocky outcrop in the medieval period, the chapels of Saint-Clément and Miremer, or the history of cork, basketwork, beekeeping and even silkworms.
La Garde-Freinet - the nature resort
La Garde-Freinet is the starting point for many walks, mountain bike trails and horse rides, with or without guide, which allow you to immerse yourself completely in the Massif des Maures. You get a better idea of the vastness of this green ocean from the orientation tableau overlooking the village, near a giant cross: from the Maures plain to Notre-Dame de Miremer, Plan de la Tour to Collobrières, Nature in all her glory and infinite shades of green lies before you. But it’s not all green, especially if you take the Route des Crêtes, one of the most beautiful in the Var where you will discover the only stretch of white, a sparkling vein of quartz emerging from the shale: Les Roches Blanches. Welcome to the Massif des Maures, a kingdom of infinite panoramas.
A little history
In the 10th century, there were three areas of settlement on land that is now La Garde-Freinet: Miremer hill, then called Miramar, around Saint-Clément chapel and lastly near the hamlet of Moure in the Ville-Vieille. At the end of the 12th century, for reasons unknown, these people moved up to live on Fort-Freinet hill. This majestic, impressive site reveals the remains of dwellings and a wide moat cut into the rock. For centuries it was mistakenly believed to have been a hideout of the Saracens who were in Provence in the 10th century. From the end of the 13th century, the inhabitants gradually moved down to a route linking the Maures plain to the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, on the site of the village now called La Garde.
Fort-Freinet (a fabulous listed site with moat cut into the rock); Saint-Clément Chapel (revisited by Italian sculptor Di Teana in the sixties); Saint-Clément church - In the village: the picturesque streets and alleyways, old houses, weekly Provencal market, Place du Marché and bandstand (site of former fish market), beautiful fountains and old wash-houses, art galleries, Conservatoire du Patrimoine (heritage museum with permanent and temporary exhibitions, including model of the original Fort-Freinet), Saint Jean des Pénitents chapel (exhibition space) - Outside: hiking trails; and the Roches Blanches (white rocks)
Fort-Freinet: amazing look-out at an altitude of 450m, with panoramic view of the whole of the Mediterranean side of the Maures, the Argens plain and Provence Alps. La Croix des Maures: large cross above Fort-Freinet, with panorama and plunging view of the village. Les Roches Blanches: the highest point in the municipality at 638m: incredible scenery and view
A stroll in the village
From the Point Infos, cross Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, follow Rue de l’Ormeau to reach Place du Marché and bandstand (1872), once home to a fish market. On the right: a wash-house (1812) and further on Place de la Vieille Fontaine. Head for Rue de la Vieille Caserne, then Place de la Vieille Mairie and the prison. Cross Place de l’Amour towards Rue St Joseph to find the old threshing area (Aire de Battage); keep on up to Aire de la Planète, starting point for hiking trails to the big cross and Fort-Freinet. Return to St Clément church built early 15th century (bell tower); from Place du Baou to Place Vieille