Vaison-la-Romaine is a town in the Vaucluse, in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region, 28 km north-east of Orange.
The municipal area of nearly 27 km² is located between the corridor of the Rhone Valley to the west and the foothills of Mont Ventoux and Baronnies Provencal in the east.
Crossed by the course of Ouvèze, the site of Vaison is inhabited since Prehistory but it is under Gallo-Roman Antiquity that the city develops. Capital of a Celtic tribe vanquished by the Romans, it becomes one of the richest cities of the Narbonne province after an alliance with Julius Caesar.
Initiated in modern times and continued in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, archaeological excavations will highlight this golden age and give its name to the city.
In the Middle Ages, the Count of Toulouse builds a castle on a rocky height and a second city surrounded by ramparts, safer for the inhabitants, takes its rise.
Now consisting of an upper town and a lower town in which the ancient relics alongside the contemporary urban extensions, Vaison-la-Romaine which has nearly 6,200 inhabitants has preserved a rich heritage covering more than 2000 years of history. In addition to its wine vocation (Côtes-du-Rhône appellation wines), it is a key tourist attraction in the heart of a region with a privileged climate.
On either side of the Ouvèze, whose deadly flood in 1992 still haunts memories, the upper town and lower town form a formidable open-air museum that appeals to heritage lovers.
You can start a long journey discovered by the upper town, surrounded by medieval ramparts.
The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption was built on the east of the hill in the fifteenth century, and was enlarged in the late sixteenth. Its rich decorations were victims of looting during the Revolution then it was abandoned in favor of the first cathedral cathedral, in "low city". Restored, the building now houses regular cultural events.
Dominating the whole, then direction the castle of the Count of Toulouse built in the thirteenth century, including three fortified building and a square dungeon surrounding a beautiful courtyard. From the forecourt one can enjoy an unparalleled view of the whole of Vaison.
It is pleasant to stroll through the narrow and winding streets of the medieval city, dotted with old houses and picturesque squares decorated with fountains.
After this city in the city, the visitor is called to plunge into a more distant past still apprehending the 15 hectares of ancient ruins of Puymin and Villasse. Old thermal baths, opulent villas, water tower, shops and magnificent theater: you will discover these well preserved remains of the prestigious Roman city during a free visit or commented. Special sessions for families are also scheduled. Open all year except the second weekend of January to the second weekend of February. Price: 4 and 9 euros (pass valid for all archaeological sites). Information and reservations on +33 4 90 36 50 48.
We will not forget the Roman bridge built during the first century and listed as a Historic Monument since 1840. A strategic site for utilitarian and commercial purposes, this large work has withstood weather and flood thanks to its clever architecture.
See also the Cathedral of Our Lady of Nazareth, built from the eleventh century (before the rise of the upper city), and for which were reused blocks of ancient monuments. Imposing or even austere (few openings), it is however an example of Provencal Romanesque art with its sculpted decorations. In the twelfth century, it was endowed with an octagonal cupola where the evangelists appear. The remarkable cloister adjoining the cathedral, with its galleries and ornamentations, completes the visit.
On the religious level again, the chapel Saint-Quenin dating from the twelfth century was built on an old necropolis. A visit can admire its amazing triangular apse and its very elaborate Romanesque decorations. Access by reservation only at +33 4 90 36 50 48.
Logically, this rich heritage and historical journey ends at the Théo Desplans museum where are presented numerous statues and collections of objects testifying to everyday life during the Gallo-Roman era. Models, frescoes and 3D reconstructions including the medieval city are also proposed. Access included in the pass including archaeological sites.
For a quicker tour of the city, a small tourist train travels all over Vaison and connects its main sites from April to September. Price: 3 and 5 euros.
In addition, guided tours of the various sites and monuments, and even of certain districts in particular, are possible all year long. Information at the Tourist Office on +33 4 90 36 02 11.
The city is also renowned for its important cultural leisure offer.
Housed in a typical Provençal farmhouse, La Ferme des Arts programs throughout the year exhibitions of contemporary artists (painters, sculptors, visual artists, photographers). Information on +33 4 90 28 84 49.
To go also, the singular Garden of 9 Damoiselles with its granite blocks carved and engraved with contemporary poems. Free access.
In another genre, away from the city, the observatory of Vaison Ventoux with its 8 telescopes and astronomical glasses welcomes for observation evenings discover children and adults. To privilege in summer where the nights are particularly clear. Price: 7 and 12 euros. Reservation desirable to +33 7 88 37 08 75.
The city, its surroundings which announce the valley of the Rhone where the pre-alpine summits in the east are also suitable for hiking or mountain biking. Some circuits are specifically dedicated to wine tourism. Maps and information on +33 4 90 36 02 11.
For those who prefer a horse ride in these typical landscapes, join the Palis equestrian center at +33 4 90 36 25 82.
From mid-June to the end of August, a cool break including swimming and relaxation is possible at the summer pool, which enjoys a wooded setting and has a solarium and lawns. Entry: 1.50 and 2.50 euros. Information on +33 4 90 36 50 00.
Finally, for a game of tennis, you must reserve a court with the local club at +33 9 51 76 59 56.