Provence is an incredible region situated in the southeastern France, with an impressive history and a more impressive cultural and artistic life. The beautiful landscapes and the geographical variety are only complimented by the regional cuisine, the traditional wines and the French Rivera, also called the Côte d'Azur. Discover Provence and you’ll never forget its taste!
Inhabited since prehistoric times (some traces have been fund dating around 900,000BC), Provence was under the influence of many great and powerful cultures. First there were the Greeks, who established today’s Marseille, and there were the Celtics and the Gauls, and then, in the 2nd century BC, Provence has become a Roman region, and it maintained its status until the 5th century AD.
Provence’s history is rich in visitors, each leaving a certain trace in the cultural heritage if this beautiful region. The 5th century also corresponds with the arrival of Christianity in Provence, and nowadays we can still see and visit the oldest still-existing Christian structure, dating from the 5th century (a baptistery in the cathedral of Fréjus). Provence has managed to survive the Germanic invasions, the Merovingian, the Carolingians, the three different dynasties of Counts who ruled it during the Middle Ages, the popes (the Roman Papacy moved for a period of while in Avignon, before returning to Rome).
One of the best historical periods in Provence was the time the region has its king, called “The Good King Réne of Provence”, a generous patron of art. Provence gave some good heroes during the French Revolution, and enjoyed a century of peace and prosperity until the World Wars, when it was consumed by the political and the real battles. It even has been occupied by the Italians and the Germans, until being released at the end of the Wars, by the American army.
Since 1940, Provence began renewing. Some major cultural renewals took place, starting with the Avignon Festival of Theatre, founded in 1947, the reopening of the traditional and more than famous Cannes Film Festival, begun in 1939, the opening of Paris-Marseille highway, allowing mass tourism, and the arrival of TVG high-speed train. Since then, Provence never stopped. This is why it’s one of France’s most favorite regions to visit.
Among Provence’s cultural personalities, who deeply influenced the historical and artistic character of the region, there are a few names that definitely need to be mentioned: the writer Alphonse Daudet, the filmmaker Marcel Pagnol, who was actually the first filmmaker to become member of the French Academy, the expatriate writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. Very inspiring due its warm climate and sunny light, Provence was the home of many great names in arts and painting during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Here, famous painters were born or just moved to paint: Paul Cezanne, Vincent Van Gogh, Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse or Pablo Picasso. Also, this French region has a special place in the film history, as the Lumière brothers made one of the first projected motion movies in the train station of Ciotat.
There are so many places and things to see and taste in Provence that is a real challenge to do them all. But, anywhere you might go, the cuisine of Provence will surely impress you.
You should definitely try the classic seafood dish in Marseille called Bouillabaisse, or the ratatouille, a traditional dish of stewed vegetables, or the fougasse, the traditional bread of Provence, with a round and rather flat shape, with holes cut out by the bakers. And when it comes to traditions, besides the incredible wines of Provence, cultivated since 600BC, one should definitely try the Pastis, the traditional liqueur of Provence, flavored with anise and with a high concentration of alcohol.
What cities to visit when going on a trip in Provence? There’s Aix En Provence, which is the historical capital of Provence, famous for Paul Cezanne who was born here, a beautiful and a delightful city, full of artistic and cultural events.
Saint Tropez is Provence’s most famous holiday spot, officially put on the map by Brigitte Bardot in 1950. Since then, this ex-fishing village has become a renowned destination with luxurious accents, cosmopolitan guests, intense nightlife and very trendy beaches.
Most of the Hollywood stars go to Saint Tropez. Other incredible cities are Arles, also known as the ancient roman city, home of numerous ancient Roman monuments listed by UNESCO as world heritage sites; Avignon is renowned for its theatre festival, but also for the Pont Saint Bénezet, which inspired the children’s song “Sur Le Pont D’Avignon.”
Saint-Rémy de Provence is one of the oldest archeological sites in Europe, including famous residents like Nostradamus or Van Gogh. The city is renowned for its Renaissance facades, for the very chic and bourgeois homes, delightful shops, artisan chocolate makers and many notable restaurants.
If Marseille is one cosmopolitan and vibrant city, a vast commercial port, the second city in France and the third largest metropolitan area, its smaller opposite correspondent is Gordes, an ancient village, with houses and buildings made go white stone. This small French village was actually voted as one of France’s most beautiful villages, side by side with other splendid French villages like Lourmarin, Gourdon or Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.
Tags: provence travel, visit provence, provence france, french rivera, south france, travel tourism, provence france
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