From earliest times Provence, being a coastal frontier province, has always been susceptible to attack and invasion. Firstly pirates then Saracens, Franks and border disputes between France and Savoy, the Popes and later France and Italy. With such threats the easiest way to defend one’s home was to build it on top of a steep hill, adding a castle and walls to the natural features for greater defense. Hence were created the hilltop villages of the Provence.
We were fortunate in being able to visit the following famous “villages perchés” of Provence, : Oppède le Vieux, Gordes, Roussillon, Bonnieux, Menerbes and Lacoste. All are featured in the AA publication Secret France—charming Villages & Country Tours, and were within 30 minutes of our gite. Once you have visited the six villages you will have seen the best, and maybe your full of hill climbing!
Remember that these are “hilltop” villages and as such most require a climb before reaching the village, followed by an even steeper climb to the castle above. You need good walking shoes and a reasonable level of fitness!
Above - Bonnieux Castle gate at Lacoste