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The colors of Provence are luminescent like no others. There are golden hills graced by the green of olive, pine, and cedar trees, endless fields of purple lavender, and clear blue coastal waters. The fertile soil produces a variety of fruit and vegetables, including many excellent wines. For our purposes, this region includes the inland areas of Vaucluse, Haute Alpes, and the coastal reaches of Bouches-du-Rhone and Alpes-Maritimes. It is a diverse territory that has inspired many great artists. Here, your objectives should be to enjoy the subtle flavors of olive oil, garlic, and Mediterranean herbs, climb in mountains such as the Dentelles or the Alpilles, and repose in the incomparable sunshine.
A region of dramatic coastal cliffs and bays, this region is home to France's largest port town, Marseille. Like most cities, Marseille has its share of problems, including a long reputation for being both dirty and crime-ridden. In reality, however, Marseille is in the midst of a renaissance and supports a thriving artistic and intellectual community. New restaurants have cropped up and once decrepit neighborhoods have become newly chic. Exuding a decidedly down-to-earth vibe, Marseille is cosmopolitan all the same. Nestled in the inland countryside, Aix-en-Provence is a large, beautiful university town that offers some of the best Provencal cuisine. Next to Marseille, it is central Provence's most important city. In distinct contrast to Marseille, Aix is chic and impeccably attractive. The city's weekly open-air markets should rank high on your to-do list while enjoying a Provence villa rental! Plan on arriving in the early morning and shopping for your evening meal. Don't miss an opportunity to have lunch in one of many excellent restaurants.
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Set into dramatic mountain ranges, this charming inland area is know for its small, historic towns and vineyards. In the countryside you'll find fascinating traces of Roman heritage, as well as a glimpse into the traditional Provencal way of life. If you wish to linger in small, family-owned cafés or strike up conversations with the local baker, butcher, or grocer, then look no further than towns such as St. Remy, Vaison-la-Romaine, and Gordes. If you have a full day, then visit Avignon. It is a beautiful medieval city with a perfectly preserved historic center. Rich in art and history, the city of the popes comes alive in July and early August during the Festival d'Avignon. Curious to know how the popes once lived? Visit the fortress-like Palais des Papes, the city's most dramatic monument. Les Baux, a striking fortified village with an 11th century citadel, and Glanum, an ancient Neolithic settlement that was subsequently inhabited by Gallo-Greeks and later Gallo-Romans, are also fascinating day trips.
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Looking to rent a Provence villa and explore the French Riviera far from the crowds of tourists? Look no further than the Var. Extending from the wine town of Bandol (famous for its reds) to legendary St. Tropez, this stretch of seaside towns is a great place to enjoy history, beaches, and hiking. The idyllic islands of Porquerolles and Port-Cros are truly spectacular, offering trails and private bays. If you're craving a little glitz and glamour, then St. Tropez is a fun stop. Made famous by Brigitte Bardot's topless escapades, this town is certainly lovely, if excessively expensive.
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