FRANCE  |  The Vaucluse, France Travel Guide
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Vaison la Romaine

Medieval quarter of Vaison la Romaine, France (cc)
Photo: Mimova

Vaison la Romaine

Vaison la Romaine, surrounded by wooded hills, is a festive town. This is true particularly during Les Choralies, a 10-day festivity in August that draws choristers from all over the world. During Les Choralies, small groups can be found singing around the fountains in town, while à cappella quartets hum in the parks and different choruses rehearse along a boulevard of cafés, led by conductors in halter tops, shorts and straw hats.

However, the real reason for visiting Vaison la Romaine is to see its Roman residential districts and the medieval haute ville. Excavations of the Roman town began before World War I. Almost 40 acres (of an estimated 150 to 175) of streets, shops, large residential villas (some of the most spacious in Roman Gaul), thermal baths and working people’s quarters have been unearthed. Compared to the monumental or triumphal Roman structures found elsewhere, these streets are distinctly domestic and exploring them is evocative and uncanny. Decorative details and objects, including a silver bust and a complex mosaic floor, can be seen in the adjoining museum.

Across the Ouvèze River, linked to the (mainly) 18th-century town and the Roman districts by an unusual, single-arch Roman bridge, is the medieval town. Built on a hill for defensive reasons in the 14th century, it was virtually abandoned in more peaceful periods as residents moved down to the fertile valley floor. It has been restored in recent times, primarily through residential development, without losing its distinctive medieval character.

In 1992, the Ouvèze flooded, destroying or damaging more than 300 modern homes along the river and washing out the modern bridge. Older buildings and the Roman bridge were undamaged.

Last updated March 15, 2012
Posted in   France  |  The Vaucluse
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