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Sub-prefecture of Savoie (73)

Population: 8,200

Specialities: diots and pormoniers (Savoy sausages), farcement (potato and bacon cake), beaufort, persan (red wine) 

Celebrities: Doctor François-Emmanuel Fodéré (founder of legal medicine), Pierre Balmain (couture), Joseph Opinel (knives), Damien Saez (singer), Kamel Belghazi (actor), Jean-Noël Augert, Jean-Pierre Vidal, Jean-Baptiste Grange (ski), Damien Spagnolo (mountain bike), Jérôme Meyer (climbing), Gilbert Chaumaz (cycling)

Sport: some thirty clubs (2,320 members). Events: every year a game of Chambéry Savoie Handball, Maurienne Bike Festival (June), 10 km of St-Jean (October, running)

Economy: metallurgy (aluminium, Trimet comany). Strong economic link with Italy (1h30 from Turin). Tourism.

Festivals: Cultural Week (May, shows, concert), fête de la Saint-Jean (June), Cloister Arts Meeting (July)

Labels: Land of art and history / Most beautiful detours of France / Ville fleurie 3 flowers

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The Opinel family forged metal from the very beginning of the 19th century in the little village of Albiez-le-Vieux, near Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. But it was Joseph Opinel who, in 1880, designed the knife that would make a fortune and the family’s name, before deciding to dedicate production solely to cutlery. In 1909, the brand and logo name were registered, the latter adorned with the thumb, index and middle fingers of St John the Baptist pointing at a crown – the three fingers were brought to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne by St Thecla in the sixth century and also appear on the town’s coat of arms. This simple but practical knife, with a fishtail handle cut from beech or birch and stylish carbon steel blade, has been an outstanding success. At the beginning of the Second World War, 20 million of them had been sold. This figure has now increased to 260 million units, most of them fitted the safety catch introduced in 1955 and improved in 2006. In 1973 production moved from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Cognin, near Chambery, then to Chambéry itself. But the town that was the origin of France’s most famous knife retains a museum dedicated to it. One of the most popular in Savoie, the museum now receives more than 55,000 visitors each year. St. Jean de Maurienne also placed a giant Opinel on a roundabout coming into town. For the amateur cyclist, a race known as Montée de l’Opinel, held in August, leads from St. Jean de Maurienne to the village of Albiez where the Opinel saga started -- the climb is as sharp as a blade.

Rond point - Opinel © Barghouti Mehdi

While the Tour de France shunned St. Jean de Maurienne until 2006, it made amends since, holding stages in town in 2010, 2012 and 2015. The finishes suited the French with victories by Sandy Casar in 2010 and Romain Bardet in 2015. To snatch his first stage win in the race, Bardet attacked in the Glandon and displayed his downhill skills to reach the line on his own, with a 33-seconds lead over Pierre Rolland. The Frenchman finished 9th overall and was voted the most aggressive rider in that edition.

St. Jean de Maurienne is a town where sport tourism is king, in the winter in the ski resorts of the Maurienne (La Toussuire, Valloire)or in the summer, when the town claims to be the world capital of mountain gran fondos with 48 cycling paths, 1,600 km of cycling routes and ten famous mountain passers, including six HC ones.

Tour de France 2015 - 24/07/2015 - 19ème Etape - Saint Jean de Maurienne / La Toussuires-Les Sybelles - 138km - Le groupe Joaquim RODRIGUEZ (KAT), Romain BARDET (ALM), continuent de gagner du terrain sur le groupe Maillot Jaune. © ASO/B.Bade
Tour de France 2010 - MORZINE AVORIAZ / ST JEAN DE MAURIENNE - Sandy Casar © Presse Sports / A. MOUNIC

The Cathedral
It consists of a cathedral crypt where early examples of Romanesque art can be seen, a cathedral (11th to 15th centuries) containing an exceptional collection of Gothic stalls, and a 15th century cloister.

Opinel Museum
Created in an old workshop in which the celebrated knife used to be manufactured, the museum was entirely renovated in 2013. Next to the machines and the forge a film tells the story of the Opinel family and the fabrication secrets of the most famous French knife.


© Bruno BARBIER / Musée Opinel

Snails of Fontcouverte
Since 2006, Carole Milan, a snail breeder, settled in the village of Fonrtcouverte, between St. Jean de Maurienne and La Toussuire and sells her production in the markets, groceries and some restaurants of the region. The snail farm, which has more than a thousand snails, can be visited in the summer on request.

L’Escargot de la Maison Blanche. 73300 Fontcouverte-La Toussuire

Closeup of eating the fried snails with garlic butter. © iStock / Getty Images Plus
© Barghouti Mehdi
© Sébastien Bonfils
© Barghouti Mehdi
Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne © Pierre Dompnier

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