Engel & Völkers French Riviera > Blog > The pluralism and diversity of the French Riviera properties

The pluralism and diversity of the French Riviera properties

Provence has a strong history of being a land of opportunities. Indeed, since ancient Rome, its coastlines have been an ideal migration spot for shepherds in search of pastures and for those who wanted to settle and make a living from agriculture (vineyards, olive trees ...). Nowadays, it is also because of its climate that the French Riviera continues to constantly attract new inhabitants. Full of a vast and exceptionally varied traditions, the Provencal housing heritage still seduces and fascinates. Discover an overview of some real estate treasures that can be found in this beautiful region.

The ‘mas’ or ‘bastide’ (country house), symbol of the French Riviera

This is the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Provencal housing. Yet, its definition, even today, remains unclear. Some people make a distinct difference between the ‘mas’ and the ‘bastide’, placing the ‘bastide’ in the Marseille region. The ‘mas’, former agricultural farm, may have originally been a modest residence with variable architecture surrounded by fields and cultivations. As for the ‘bastide’, it was supposedly a mansion far away from the villages, always with rigorously identical architecture: two floors, a flat roof with four slopes, tall symmetrical windows and a garden. 

However, in the local collective imagination, the difference between the two types of properties is not necessarily that obvious. Frédéric Mistral, the most famous author of the region who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1904 and wrote his entire life in Provencal dialect, was not able to distinguish the ‘mas’ from the ‘bastide’. He wrote in his Memoirs and Memories: "The old ‘bastide’ where I was born, in front of the Alpilles, touching the Clos-Crema, was named the ‘Mas du Juge’".

- Grande bastide entièrement rénovée
E&V ID : W-02E58F

The charm of the seaside properties, from Menton to Saint-Tropez

You can also find in French Riviera a wide choice of properties close to the sea. When you get closer to the coastline, you will find many properties in very different styles.

The distance from the beach is a key element of your real estate project ? The French Riviera is full of properties right in front of the water. These villas give you direct access to the sea, so you can admire the magnificent Mediterranean views.

If you prefer spectacular views of the sea, French Riviera offers magnificent contemporary villas located on the heights. Many have large bay windows, perfectly adapted to their environment, and offer the most beautiful views of the sea.

- Villa contemporaine

Finally, if you are looking for a house with character, there are many seaside Belle-Époque style properties. Built in the early XVIII century, these exceptional properties represent the architectural innovations of the beginning of this century, symbols of the emerging local bourgeoisie. New materials and new construction techniques bring character and history to these properties.

The Provence’s hilltop villages

The perched villages of the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region are undoubtedly amongst the most beautiful ones. They beautifully match the surrounding landscapes and shelter some true real estate treasures. You have probably heard of Baux-de-Provence or Gordes in the heart of Provence. In the Var hinterland or ‘maralpin’ for example, you will find the perched villages of the Pays de Fayence (Mons, Seillans, Callian ...), but also Gourdon, Eze or Saint-Paul-De-Vence. 

All of these small towns are what we call hilltop villages, clusters of houses sat on top of a hill, which usually overlook a cliff and almost always offer a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the houses being really close to each other, it is very quiet and the inhabitants are all part of a big family where everyone greets their neighbours every morning. There are even villages, such as Venasque or Villecroze, which have troglodyte houses, some of which are still inhabited today.

The staple features of a Provencal house

Before studying in detail the specs of all the beautiful properties that border the French Riviera, there are some elements to take into consideration in order to better appreciate them. First, it is very important to know that the reason why the Provencal house is traditionally oriented to the south does not reside in a will of having its doors directed to the sun or for the seaview. The incentive behind this specific placement is to be protected from the mistral wind that blows from the north or north-west, and can be icy in winter. 

Moreover, as it rarely rains in the region, the roofs are relatively flat and a simple cornice is usually used as a gutter to drain rainwater. Another assumption made about Provence is that flower beds and lawns are a typical feature, but it is not the case. The gardens are rather dry, although the classic Provencal person will gladly place some flowers in large terracotta pots placed around their home.

- Villa moderne "pieds dans l'eau"
E&V ID : W-026G0D

Diverse properties and comfort in all seasons

As you can now definitely imagine, in a territory as vast and varied as the Provencal region, there is a large number of properties which differ in their style and in their features. However, some elements have survived the centuries and seem immutable. All of the different houses are connected by a Provencal spirit, by an atmosphere inherent to the region, defined above all by the mildness of its climate. In summer, the heat is tempered by stone walls and large openings to the outside and the sea. 

During winter, the south orientation lets in the sun and warms the hearts. In the ‘mas’ backyards or in the gardens of the ‘bastides’, fruit trees and olive trees offer a welcome shade during the long summer afternoons while you seek sleep, lulled by the song of cicadas. Today, if the houses of the ‘Côte d'Azur’ are sought after in real estate, it is primarily for the unique comfort they provide in any season.

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