You know those organized group trips? The ones that make you say “No I’m not going, you know what a mess?” I, a lover of solo travel, decided to participate in a group trip organized by Giovanni Arena, travel influencer who has depopulated on TikTok. Destination? French Provence – a bit to show who won the Europeans – leaving from Milan by bus. In addition to Giovanni, we were joined in our adventure by Rocco Toniolo and Gloria Schito, and of course 40 other people in love with the idea of discovering lavender fields.
La pThe first stop after endless hours by bus is the Abbey of Sénanque in the town of Gordes. Arriving from the winding road that goes around the mountain opens a spectacular view, the Cistercian abbey immersed and surrounded by lavender fields, is one of the most fascinating examples of monastic architecture. Founded in 1148, it boasts a beautiful dormitory, a beautiful church and a lovely cloister. Here silence and peace reign supreme and make the landscape suggestive and almost surreal.
Then do not miss the Luberon Regional Natural Park, the park is classified as a biosphere reserve and world geopark by UNESCO. Enjoy the diversity of landscapes that alternate between scrubland, forests, oak woods, plains, hills, vineyards, orchards and rocky areas. In the Luberon, you will be able to admire many traces of the past, walking in the picturesque perched villages such as Gordes and Rousillon.
Nel borIn the village of Roussillon you will find the Ochre Path also known as the Colorado of Provence. Partly due to the erosion of time and weathering, partly due to the exploitation of man, incredible rock formations have been created in this area with a fanciful appearance, with extravagant profiles, columns and pyramids that stand out for the wonderful colors that range from pale yellow to bright red through all shades of orange. The legend tells that this land became reddish because of the blood spilled with the suicide of the beautiful Sirmonde, wife of Raymonde d’Avignone. The girl threw herself from the top of the cliffs for the pain, after her husband killed his lover, a young and handsome troubadour from Provence. After a short excursion inside the park, walk through this village with its many stores, where time has stopped. For something to eat, I recommend the Boulangerie Gulini, a family originally from Umbria, just to remind the French that they should make fun of us a little less and maybe even try the lavender ice cream!
Gordes is another village that should not be forgotten. This wonderful village perched on a spur of rock is simply spectacular. Forgotten for years by tourism, it is back in the limelight thanks to a film shot in its main square, “A very good year” starring Russell Crowe. The white rocks that make up the houses make the village subject to the infinite changes dictated by the variation of light at different times of day and its location and perched make it unique and inimitable.
For the sunset move to Valensole, where there is a concentration of flowering fields of lavender that are lost in plain sight and create a landscape that seems straight out of an impressionist painting. The intense perfume that is released, the wonderful contrasts that appear at sunset are a unique and indescribable experience. It is not only a paradise for lovers of photography, it is a journey of discovery.
However, it must be known that there are two types of lavender, which are often confused with each other. Lavender is the purest and noblest version because of the quality of its essential oil. It is a bushy shrub that can reach up to 1 meter in height and grows in areas ranging from 500 meters to 1,500 meters. Lavandin, instead, is a hybridization of true lavender and lavender spica. It develops spontaneously in nature but is mainly found cultivated.
Not to be missed are the deep gorges of the Verdon River, which split the earth for 25 kilometers creating the most impressive canyon in Europe, thanks to its sheer emerald green walls up to 1500 meters high, surrounded by a lush and luxuriant nature. The roads that run along the gorges offer breathtaking landscapes, beautiful walking trails and beautiful perched villages that will enchant visitors. The Verdon gorges and the lake of Sainte Croix are famous for water sports. The water with its characteristic green color is irresistible and makes the river a magical place. The color comes from the presence of micro algae and the clay bottom, but the lake is actually an artificial basin created after the construction of the Sainte-Croix dam.
Finally, move to Grasse, which has been considered the capital of perfumes for 400 years: here the first perfumers made their fortune at the French court by starting to use the essences of local flowers to aromatize the gloves of noblewomen. Thus was born the production of fragrances which mixed lavender, jasmine, mimosa, centifolia rose, orange blossom and violet. In spite of the splendor of the past, this town today is a bit decadent and unkempt, but it is worth visiting the three most important factories/museums of the city, Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard, where you can discover all the steps of the production of perfume, from extraction to distillation and maybe even have you “create” your own essence.
Provence is a voyage of discovery of colors that end up identifying with precise scents. Nature and history that show a sweet side of France.