For the yachting enthusiasts in search for good, safe and sheltered harbours are of paramount importance and to this end both Beaulieu and especially Villefranche could not have better credentials. It is not commonly known that Villefranche down the ages has harboured the entire Russian Mediterranean fleet and later the US. 6th Fleet. In fact the bay, which the town nestles into, is one of the deepest natural harbours in the Mediterranean and from the town’s fort of Mont Alban a lookout can spot the Italian coast.
Historically, both Villefranche and Beaulieu were linked together and during the period of Greek empire expansion when the town was named "Anao." To fully understand the chequered history that the twin towns have had, we need only search the four museums in Villefranche to see that in the 3rd century a monastery was built which survived until the 6th Century A.D. The Lombard’s then attacked the city and the inhabitants were forced to flee to the safety of the surrounding mountains. It was not until 1295 that Charles II Duke of Anjou and Count of Provence encouraged the hill dweller to return and he established Villefranche as a "free Port. This freedom lasted until the 18th Century despite the fact that in 1543 the Franco-Turkish army sacked the city, and annexed the whole area, after the "Great siege" of Nice
. During the 18th Century the city and its neighbour Beaulieu lost much of their trade to the new harbour built at Nice. In 1793 the French under Napoleon occupied the area until in 1814. The control switched briefly to Sardinia but by 1891 the two coastal towns became independent of one another and have since developed their own tourist attractions and fishing industries.
For those coming ashore from a chartered yacht moored in the bay, Beauville is a good place to relax and enjoy a few short walks. An interesting place to visit is the "Villa Kerylos" with its magnificent gardens. The villa is a facsimile of an ancient Greek luxury villa but this has a Botanical garden to relax in and is situated on the edge of the sea. Next on the list is to follow the nearby footpath to the Cap Ferrat lighthouse. It is well sign-posted and the 14 kilometre hike is divided in three parts for those only interested in short walks. First comes the walk to the Zoological park whilst further on is the Villa, "Ile de France" ... a mansion with more than 5000 works of art.
The neighbouring town of Villefranche is perhaps best explored by sailing around the Cap Ferrat and mooring in the magnificent inner harbour. The town has an altogether different layout. The old village has narrow roads, stairways and covered passages, again ideal for waking more than exploring by car. Many restaurants border the harbour and at the far end there is the lengthy Villafranche beach with its sunloungers and sunshades. The port, the citadel of St Elme, the old town and the museums all add to the charm of this area all the year round.