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The excavations at Vaison-la-Romaine

Thème : Visit - Auteur : Gerlinde (03/14/2019)

Vaison-la-Romaine is usually off the beaten track for tourists, making it a unique port of call.

It was at the start of the twentieth century that Abbé Sautel began to excavate the town that then came to be known as ‘La Romaine’ because of all the ancient splendours that the excavations brought to light.

Le Puymin and La Villasse are two ancient districts of Vaison. The former contains the ruins of the two main villas of the town: the Laurelled Apollo House and the Tunnel House . Le Puymin is the place to go to find the Archaeological Museum, where the objects discovered during the excavations are displayed, and the first-century former theatre. La Villasse provides a breathtaking spectacle with the ruins of the former merchants’ gallery from the rue des Boutiques and the surrounding villas, one of which still shows the remains of mosaic floors and fresco-adorned walls.

To reach the medieval city of Vaison-la-Romaine, you cross the Roman bridge dating from the 1st century BC. This stone bridge spans the River Ouvèze, linking the lower, Gallo-Roman part of the town with the ‘Upper Town’ on the hillside. The hill is crowned by the ruins of a 12th century feudal castle, from which there is a superb view of the area. The narrow, twisting cobbled streets invite you to stroll around them. Here you will discover the Belfry, which was once part of the fortifications of the medieval city, the tall cathedral and the little squares adorned with fountains.

On your way back, linger a while at Place Montfort, a square lined with cafés, restaurants and shops. It lies in the middle of the Lower Town, and is dotted with park benches. This welcoming public square, formerly known as the Market Square, provides a shaded spot in which to relax and take a break.

Between river and mountain, nestled in the Rhône Valley and beneath Mount Ventoux, the Vaison-la-Romaine landscape is dotted with hills scented with grapevines and olives.

Here are some must-sees for your visit to Vaison-la-Romaine:

- The archaeological sites of Le Puymin and La Villasse.

- The Théo Desplans Archaeological Museum on the Puymin site.

- Our Lady of Nazareth Cathedral and its cloister: a former bishopric dating from the 11th and 12th centuries and reflecting a mix of Gothic, Merovingian and Romanesque architectural styles. Inside, you will see the remains of the ancient Roman structures of this historic site, as well as the medieval stonemasons’ marks etched into the stone walls.

- Saint Quentin’s Chapel.

- The Ancient Theatre.

- The Medieval City and the Château Comtal.

- The Roman Bridge.

Annual events not to be missed:

- Vaison-la-Romaine Gourmet Days, every year in November.

- The Choralies, the International Festival of Song, every three years in August.

- The Ancient Theatre Festival, every year in July.

- The Arts Farm presents exhibitions all year round.

- The Soup Festival in late October brings together Vaison-la-Romaine and a dozen local villages.

- The Great Provençal Market, every Tuesday in the town centre from 8 am to 2 pm.

- Vaison Dance Festival: an international festival of dance taking place over 3 weeks in July every year. It attracts the biggest names in contemporary dance.

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