Come visit this very convivial and traditional festival celebrating the specialities of Tourrettan soil: violets, local Provençal produce and the arrival of the new olive oil.
f you’re thinking of spending a few days on the French Riviera in March and wondering if there’s a festival you can visit, then may we suggest the “Fête des Violettes” in Tourrettes-sur-Loup? Created in March 1950 by Victor Linton, a local artist who was much enamoured by the village, this charming festival currently attracts not just the locals but visitors from all over France and Europe.
The festival was originally intended to celebrate the specialities of the Tourrettan soil: violets, creations of local craftsmen and arrival of the new olive oil. Normally held on the first or second week of March to mark the end of the violet season, this convivial and traditional event has grown over the years and is now a huge success and much loved festival.
The festival is held in the town centre on Place de la Libération. If you come by car and you’re early enough you should still find a space at “Parking de la Madeleine”, located on Route de Vence. Alternatively you can take the Bus #511 that links Tourrettes-sur-Loup with Vence and Grasse.
Early morning and a few locals rush to finish embellishing a corner of their house or shop window with sprigs of mimosa or other pretty flower arrangement.
I have been to this festival numerous times with family and friends when they come to escape the dreary winter weather of Belgium and England. And each time it’s a joy to visit it again – as is the village of Tourrettes-sur-Loup.
You will also find local violet producers here with stalls. The three main ones are: GAEC La Violette, Les Violettes d’Yvette and Quetin & Fils (Click here to read our article on Tourrettes’ violet industry). Bowls of freshly picked violets and floral bouquets made up of violets and mimosa are absolutely irresistible as is their natural violet soap and lotions. And for those of you with a sweet tooth you might enjoy the taste of crystallized violets and violet syrups.
The Fête des Violettes also brings together local and regional producers and is an excellent way of discovering a wide range of Provençal food at its best. The stalls brim with a gorgeous selection of produce: pains de campagne and fougasse, biological extra virgin olive oil, local honey, jams, snails, succulent cured hams, tasty cheeses and saucissons.
Further temptations come in the form of delicious jams and nougat as well as local wines from Domaine St. Joseph, and apéritifs and digestifs from Le Cellier du Cigalou and Chicouloun.
Around lunch time the enticing savour of pancakes starts to waft through the air and soon mingles with the distinct aroma of a wood-burning oven fired up to cook Socca – the traditional snack from Nice made with chickpea flour and olive oil.
From visiting the stalls in the town centre to strolling along Grand’rue it’s a joy to see so many decorative windows and shop entrances all gaily festooned with flowers and decorative artwork. Everyone participates in making the village a wonderful, colourful scene and I am each time very impressed by the amount of hard work and dedication that had gone into the festival.
In the afternoon the Mairie lays on free shuttle buses ready and waiting to take people to tour a couple of local violet producers (well worth doing if you have the time) and in the evening everyone meets up in the village hall at 20h00 for the traditional Brussaudo (garlic toast with olive oil and anchovies) and an evening of music.
The festival and Provençal market continues all through Sunday with a Grand’Messe sung in the St Grégoire Church on Place de la Libération in the morning by the choir members of Tourrettes-sur-Loup.
Sunday afternoon is the culmination of the Festival with a super Corso Fleuri followed by a Battle of Flowers. Floats, decorated with violets and other flowers make their way through the village to the sound of bands such as Les Jazzticots, La Banda del Paioun and Mare Nostrum.