Provence Area Guide
Provence in south-eastern France extends from the lower Rhône River on the west to the Italian border on the east, and from the Mediterranean in the south to the mountains in the north. Today it mostly falls within the administrative region known as Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.
The coastline has some of the earliest known sites of human habitation in Europe. Primitive stone tools dated to over 1 million years BC were found in the Grotte du Vallonnet near Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and more sophisticated tools, worked on both sides of the stone and dating to 600,000 BC were found in the Cave d’Escale at Saint Estėve-Janson. More tools from 400,000 BC and some of the first fireplaces in Europe were found at Terra Amata in Nice. The region has a history which includes the Ligures and the Celts around 10th century BC, the Greeks from the 7th century BC, and the Romans from the 2nd century BC.
For the Romans it became their first province beyond the Alps and they called it Provincia Romana, hence its present-day name. Christianity arrived between the 3rd and 6th centuries, and the Germanic invasions of the Holy Roman Empire occurred between the 6th and 9th centuries. Various dynasties of Counts ruled the region from their Capital in Aix en Provence during the middle ages, and the alternative and deadly challenge to Rome, the Popes of Avignon ruled the Catholic Church during the 13th century. The people had to endure such horrors as the Black Death which reduced the population of the region by a half, and the Hundred Years War during the Middle Ages. The rule of the Counts of Provence ended in 1481, when it became a province of the Kings of France, but to this day it retains a proud and distinct cultural and linguistic identity.
Today the area is remarkable for the numerous and well-preserved remains from Roman times. Arenas, baths, forums, temples and theatres can still be seen all over Provence. For visitors, there is the rich history, but there is also one of the most alluring and beautiful coastlines in the world, mountains, rivers, the deepest and most beautiful canyons in Europe, and hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of natural forest reserves.
Add to all that a quality of life and a climate renowned and recognised around the world – with 300 days of sunshine, world class wines and gastronomy, and the absolute freedom to enjoy it all. Put together these qualities make Provence and the Cote d’Azur the most sought-after destination for holidays, for second homes and for primary living that exist anywhere in today’s world. It is a trend that began millennia ago but gathered momentum with the arrival of the railway in the latter half of the 19th Century. With easier access and travel, and the popularity the region quickly acquired with the Victorian English and the Russian aristocracy, Provence “took off”.
Today Provence is the jewel of France and possesses the most sought-after real estate in the world.