THE ROMAN & MEDIEVAL ERAS – TWO FACES OF VAISON LA ROMAINE

Vaison la Romaine. Photo, Alamy

Provence is renowned for some of the most spectacular and extensive remains of the Roman empire.  There are sites whose main claim to fame are the vast Roman arenas—most, if not all, still in regular use—monumental arches and temples dedicated to honour a variety of deities, including emperors themselves.  We all know of the Pont du Gard and the spectacular arenas in Arles and Nimes, the theatre in Orange etc., and the many other great destinations in Provence that have impressive Roman remains.  As though these weren’t enough, this region also has numerous towns and villages with outstanding examples of its medieval past.  The picturesque town of Vaison la Romaine has both.

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L’ISLE-SUR-LA-SORGUE – THE ANTIQUES CAPITAL OF PROVENCE

The river Sorgue flows in and around the town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

Many of the towns and villages of Provence have something quite individual that has defined what they have become and what they are known for.  Some have marvellous Roman ruins, stunning views, or perhaps a medieval fortress or two.  L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is one of our must-visits and we often plan our itinerary around its most famous attraction—the Sunday market which takes over the entire historic centre of town.  However, there’s even more to discover in this totally charming town, and if you’re interested in antiques or simply a vintage treasure to decorate your home, this is the town for you.

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SIMIANE-LA-ROTONDE & A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN – LITTLE-KNOWN GEMS IN HAUTE PROVENCE

Approaching the perched village of Simiane-la-Rotonde.

We tend to think that there’s not many undiscovered places left in Provence these days.  However, there are interesting little corners of the region that still remain relatively untouched and almost devoid of visitors.  Simiane-la-Rotonde is one such place: clinging to a small hill on a high plateau to the northeast of Apt and the Luberon, with groves of pines and cypresses rising up the slopes.  One of its great joys is that in June and July, the surrounding fields explode in a profusion of lavender, the emblematic plant whose flower is the colour of Provence.  What took us there though, aside from the lavender, was to find out about the ’Rotonde’ for which the village is named.

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ITALY’S IDYLLIC LAKE GARDA

 

The moat and drawbridge of the medieval fortress guards the entrance into Sirmione. Photo, Alamy

There aren’t many places in Europe more beautiful than Italy’s Lago di Garda.  Its stunning scenery is due to the extensive backdrop of the Dolomite mountains to the north, together with all the picturesque towns and medieval villages dotted along its shore, it’s the perfect region to spend some time.  It has long been a favourite destination of ours, and we tend to gravitate to the beautiful town of Sirmione on the southern shore, which is a great base to explore a number of the other gorgeous small towns via the lake ferries.

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THE BEAUTIFUL RENAISSANCE CITY OF FERRARA

Castello Estense is in the centre of Ferrara. Photo, Alamy

The north of Italy has an abundance of riches for the visitor, and it’s almost impossible to make a list of top favourites.  There’s the sublime beauty of the various lakes, the glories of Venice, and numerous small Renaissance cities to choose from.  We’ve spent many wonderful trips exploring these Renaissance gems over decades, and they all have their own unique character and attractions.  Recently, we re-visited the beautiful city of Ferrara, a little over 110 kms south of Venice.  We hadn’t been there for years, and thought another visit was well overdue.

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