The fascinating old city of Vaison-la-Romaine which describes itself as ‘a beautiful detour’ is divided into two parts by the river Ouvèze.The upper town south of the river, which is medieval, and the lower or modern part north of the river, which was paradoxically built over the even older Roman City.
Founded by the Celtic Vosconti, Vaison became part of the Roman Empire in the late 2nd Century although the inhabitants had long been allies of Rome.The town declined after the Romans left and was eventually abandoned in favour of the rock across the river which was more easily defended. During the 18th century however, the inhabitants moved back to the lower town and this is where the commercial centre is today.
The extensive remains of the Roman occupation including a theatre and some villas can be found in the lower town in the Quartier de Puymain and the Quartier de la Villasse.
Don’t miss: the old Roman bridge across the Ouvèze which was badly damaged during the devastating floods of 1992 which cost 37 lives. Amazingly only the parapet was damaged – the bridge itself remained in place! There are markings on the bridge to show the height to which the river rose.
Market day: Tuesday morning (also Sunday morning during July and August)