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Only 10km from the border with Italy , the town of Briancon sits on a rocky outcrop 100km east of Grenoble and is one of the highest cities in Europe , with 300 days of sunshine per year. The fortified old city guards the Roman mountain pass leading to Italy, the Col de Montgenèvre at 1850m above sea level. The Romans improved on an extant Gallic settlement in order to safeguard one of their most important routes back to Italy, the road from Vienne to Milan. The République des Escartons, a coalition of mountain communes in the Middle Ages, made Briancon their capital as they strived to defend themselves, their rights and freedom.
Briancon attracts a lot of tourists in the summer, unlike the quieter town of Queyras nearby, and so to avoid the crowds you might want to park at the Champ de Mars on the hilltop and make that your base for exploration of Briancon. The upper Vieille Ville (old town) was built first on the hilltop and overlooks the Ville Basse (lower town) that gradually grew down the slopes as Briancon expanded over the years. The two parts of town are connected by the avenue de la République and you enter the old town either through the place du Champ de Mars (northern side) or through the Porte dΆEmbrun if you approach from the Ville Basse.
Vauban, a military architect in the late 17th-century, reconstructed the town after it was razed to the ground during a local feud. Hence the old town is dominated and enclosed by some sturdy walls, which contain ancient houses and streets full of padestrians.
Food in Briancon is very Italian in feel and style and there are lots of good places to eat. The place du Temple is a good starting point for looking at menus.
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