Vaison-la-Romaine Tourist Attractions
Vaison-la-Romaine lies to the northwest of the foot of Mont Ventoux, about 30km/19mi north-east of Orange. To the south of the town extend the regions of Séguret and Gigondas and the Dentelles de Montmirail.In the fourth century B.C. this was the chief place of the Celtic Vocones. Later the Romans founded Vasio Vocontiorum in the fertile region of the Valley of the Ouvèze and in five peaceful centuries this developed into a flourishing community. As early as the third century A.D. Vaison was the seat of a bishop and in 442 and 529 ecclesiastical councils were held here; in the 11th and 12th C. it was resolved to build a cathedral. However, a little later, Raymond, Count of Toulouse, laid siege and conquered the town, robbed the Bishop of his property and had a castle built on the highest spot of the mountain which rises above the town. The Upper Town was surrounded by a wall and not until the 18th C. was the territory of the former Roman city settled again.
To the west and the east of the Place du 11 Novembre in Vaison-la-Romaine can be found the two separate sites with Roman excavations. The eastern part corresponds to the Quartier de Puymin and the western to the Quartier de la Villasse.
Quartier de Puymin
The extensive gently sloping Quartier de Puymin is laid out like a park with oaks, cypresses, etc. In the lower part foundations of walls have been uncovered including those of the House of the Messii, the Portico of Pompey (pillared hall), the Nymphaeum, etc. The statues which have been set up on the excavation site are copies of the ancient originals which can be seen in the museum.
In addition to a large and very well arranged lapidarium (Roman tombstones, statues, etc.), the museum in the center of Quartier de Puymin in Vaison-la-Romaine includes a model of the theater. Other specialized subjects at the Vaison-la-Romaine Museum concern the Roman dwellings and Gallo-Roman pottery. Of interest is a showcase containing urns for ashes, some of which are made of glass. Immediately by the entrance there is a historic map on the wall showing the Province of Gallia Narbonensis.
Just above the museum in Vaison-la-Romaine a tunnel leads to the ancient theater which was somewhat smaller than those at Arles and Orange. It has been comprehensively restored and now serves its original purpose once more as an open-air theater.
Vaison la Romaine - Quartier de la Villasse
The Quartier de la Villasse is the second large excavation site of Vaison-la-Romaine. It has not been so thoroughly restored as the Puymin site and provides, as it were, a more original impression. Of interest here are the great arch of the former basilica and the carefully paved Roman street which was provided with gutters. In some places mosaic floors can be seen under a protective covering.
Notre-Dame de Vaison-la-Romaine
On the western edge of the Quartier de la Villasse in Vaison-la-Romaine stands the Church of Notre-Dame, the former cathedral. Its origins go back to Merovingian times, but the present building was erected between the 11th and 13th C.; its plan is smaller than that of its predecessor as can be seen from the former foundations which have been uncovered near the church. Adjoining on the north of the church is the cloister dating from the 12th C. but which had to be extensively renovated in the 19th C. Of interest are the beautifully decorated capitals of the pillars of the arcades.
South of the River Ouvèze, Vaison-la-Romaine's Upper Town rises up the castle hill. The river is crossed by a bridge originally built by the Romans and the path then passes through a medieval gate- tower. In the romantic narrow streets of the Upper Town which, protected by the castle, had developed from the 14th century, artists and craftsmen have settled in recent times, producing pottery, olive-wood carving, etc. At the eastern edge of the Old Town stands the church and, from the open space in front of it, there is a good view of the valley below. The cube-shaped ruin of the castle (the interior is not open to the public) stands right on the top of the Old Town and can be reached by a narrow, meagrely signed footpath. From the rocky plateau which in the south and west falls sharply and is completely unprotected (caution!) there is a rewarding panorama.
Vaison-la-Romaine Festival runs from early July to early August each year and includes a wide range of performances. There are at least 15 events organized every year, including operas, classical concerts, recitals, ballets and even jazz performances.The two venues are the Antique and Nymphée theaters.
Vaison - Surroundings
Outside Vaison is a hiking opportunity.
Dentelles de Montmirail
The western foothills of Mont Ventoux between Malaucène and Gigondas are appropriately called "Dentelles de Montmirail" (dentelles = lace). The chalk rocks with their vertical strata give more of an impression of the Alps than Mont Ventoux does and in spite of their modest height (Pic St-Amand 734m/2,408ft) they are a paradise for climbers; it is also a popular area for walkers.
In Gigondas, 15km/10mi to the southwest of Vaison, the best vines in the area grow, equal to those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with their own Appellation Contrôlée.
Map of Vaison-la-Romaine Attractions