Jamie Ivey, the author of the Moon Guide to Provence (Dec 2019), selects his favourite “secret sights”
La Chapelle Notre Dame de La Pitié; Sanary Sur Mer
High on the headland to the west of Sanary Sur Mer port is the chapel Notre Dame de La Pitié. It’s accessed by a set of steps that climb away from the port area. The tiny building was built in the 18th century as a vantage point during storms and for spotting enemy boats. It was subsequently used to house plague victims and the injured from the Franco Prussian war. In 2008 a restoration took place and it is now a peaceful small chapel from the steps of which there is a sweeping view out to sea. The simple chapel and the panorama conjures a rare sense of closeness to God.
Musee Fakyod; Tourtour
A sculpture garden located in a wood between Aups and Tourtour is a surprising find. It calls to mind the realm of the White Witch in Narnia, the sorceress who turned all her enemies to stone. The collection is the creation of Maria Fakyod, a renowned French sculptur who was born in Hungary to a Swedish father and Hungarian mother. The sculptures are notable for the sense of movement which seems to inhabit them. Subjects include Princess Diana and Mozart.
Barbegal Aqueduct, Route de Aqueduct, Fontvieille
Forget the Roman Arena in Arles, Glanum in Saint Remy etc….instead head out to two unheralded Roman aqueduct systems that once met just outside Fontvieille. One used to carry water from springs north of the Alpilles, the other from the south. Together they supplied Roman Arles with water. Ingeniously this aqueduct network also powered 16 overshoot watermills to make flour. The academic Kevin Greene described the system as “the greatest known concentration of mechanical power in the ancient world ” The ruins of the mill complex are about 250 meters to the south of the parking for the aqueduct.
L’église Louise Bourgeois, Bonnieux
Louise Bourgeois was a surrealist artist working during the 20th century. Towards the end of her career she installed various works in this deserted chapel in the hills above Bonnieux including a cage like confessional, an iron cross with hands, and a mother suckling her child in a vacuum container. The shock-factor of the images is increased by the religious setting. Seeing the works can be challenging for some.
Chapel Notre Dame d’Aubune, Beaumes de Venise
The Chapel is one of the finest examples of Provencal Romanesque art. According to local legend just after the building was completed the Devil hurled a rock down from the hillside to crush the building. Just in time the Virgin Mary appeared and intercepted the missile. There is a small medieval garden in the grounds of the chapel which visitors can explore.