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Provence: Roman remains, medieval villages and natural wonders

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Provence is a historical region of south-eastern France, located roughly between the Rhone river and the Alps, it has the city of Marseille as its main center and is included in the French administrative region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Provence includes today’s departments of Var, Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Maritime Alps (Alpes-Maritimes) and a part of that of the Hautes Alpes (Hautes-Alpes), also the city of Nîmes and the Pont du Gard although beyond the Rhone, and today part of Languedoc-Roussillon (Languedoc-Roussillon) are considered part of historical Provence.

Provence is made up of a very varied territory, to the east the region is closed by the Alps, which reach heights of over three thousand metres, the highest peak in Provence is the Aiguille de Chambeyron (3,412 metres), along the coast there are the The Maures and Estérel mountain ranges, in the interior of the region are Mont Ventoux (1,912 metres), the Luberon massif, and the Montagne de Lure. On the western side extends the Rhone valley and its large delta which forms the Camargue region, the coast is often high and rocky, but also has vast sandy beaches.

The region, originally inhabited by Ligurian tribes, was colonized starting from the 7th century BC. by the Greeks of Phocaea (a city in today’s Turkey) who founded numerous commercial emporiums and cities including those of Massalia, today’s Marseille, Antipolis (Antibes) and Nikaia (Nice).

In the 2nd century BC. the Greeks of Provence called upon the Roman troops for help several times to stop the Ligurian rebellions. In 125 BC. the Romans, called to stop a new rebellion, decided to occupy the region and in 122 BC. they founded the city of Aquae Sextiae (Aix-en-Provence).

In the following years, Roman colonization became more and more intense, roads and aqueducts were built, and numerous new cities were built, among these, Nemausus (Nîmes), Arausio (Orange), Arelate (Arles), Carpentorate (Carpentras), Forum Iulii (Fréjus ), Glanum (Saint-Rémy-de-Provence), Vasio (Vaison-la-Romaine). Provence in Roman times was part of the vast province Narbonensis, which extended from the Pyrenees to the Alps, and had the city of Narbo (Narbonne) as its capital.

With the fall of the Roman Empire, the region, like the rest of the lands that had been Roman, became the scene of raids and destruction by barbarian tribes. In the 8th century it became part of the Kingdom of the Franks, in the 9th century it became an autonomous kingdom, and remained so until the 15th century when, in 1486, it became part of the Kingdom of France.

Provence is, from a tourist point of view, the most important region of France, there are grandiose monuments from the Roman age, such as amphitheaters (Nîmes, Arles, Fréjus), temples (Nîmes), theaters (Orange, Vaison-la-Romaine , Arles), aqueducts (Pont du Gard), triumphal arches and monuments (Carpentras, Orange, La Turbie).

The Middle Ages left religious buildings in fine Romanesque style (Arles, Marseille, Avignon, Orange, Sénanque, Saint-Gilles, etc.) and Gothic (Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, etc.), fortifications and defensive structures such as Avignon, Aigues-Mortes, Tarascon, Salon, to finish with the numerous delightful medieval villages found in every corner of Provence (Èze, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Les Baux-de-Provence, Bonnieux, Gordes, etc.).

Other major tourist attractions are the landscapes of the region, from the wild and rocky coasts of the Calanques and Estérel, to the fashionable resorts of the Côte d’Azur (Cannes, Nice, St. Tropez, etc.), to the Alpine peaks, to the canyons such as that of the Verdon, to the Camargue marshes.

The region is rich in typical handicraft products, food and wine products and folkloristic events, and is famous for the cultivation of lavender, there is even a tourist route called the “Route de la lavande”, July is the best month to see the flowering lavender.

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