The next stop on our tour around the villages of the Luberon Valley is Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt.
Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt is a beautiful village perched on a south-facing hillside with the Luberon massif right in front of it. It has arguably the best view of the Luberon mountain range—you can see it in its totality from the village.
Home to only about 2,000 inhabitants, the village spreads over a vast domain, climbing from an altitude of 400m up to 1,000m with several hamlets and even beautiful churches along the way.
It's hard to pick a favourite church, but we have a soft spot for the little chapel in a hamlet called Croagnes. It's on the outskirts of Saint-Saturnin, on the way to another famous village: Roussillon.
Settlements in the village date back to 300BC. It was almost wiped out by the Saracen invasion in the 800s. In the 12th century, it was the fief of the powerful Agoult family. A fort with extensive ramparts was built to protect the village and a beautiful church and dungeon were added to the rocky spur at the top of the village.
Not much remains of the fort, but the Roman chapel right at the top has been restored beautifully and can be viewed from the outside. One wonders how it was possible then to build such a beautiful church on such a narrow stretch of rock.
You can walk from the village to the top using a cobbled trail on the side of the cliff. Right next to where the fort stood, there's now a beautiful reservoir which used to serve as the village's water supply. This little lake adds even more drama to the scene. One can even buy a licence to fish in the lake from the local newsagent. I'm not sure there are many fish left these days, but I remember going there to fish a few times as a child!
I love wandering the streets of this village at any time of the year. Its south-facing location means you enjoy sunshine all year round, even during the harsh winter. There are signs of wealth in the village, with some beautiful ornated doors on rue de la République.
The village is surrounded by cherry orchards and olive trees. There used to be many more cherry trees in the valley around the village to supply the local candied fruit factory in Apt. Sadly now, the fruits are imported more and more from abroad to the factory, and the cherry isn’t a very valuable crop anymore. Most local producers have turned instead to more lucrative olive oil production. Nevertheless, some orchards still remain around the village and it’s incredible to visit them as they blossom in spring.
Another foodstuff that to this day plays a big part in the local economy is the black truffle. In the village, you'll find a statue of Joseph Tallon, a native of Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt, who invented the modern way to cultivate truffles using oak trees in the early 1900s. He later made a fortune selling his mushrooms locally and further afield!
Going back to the village, another local landmark to visit is the 16th century windmill on the west side of the village. It’s been carefully restored and there is a little car park next to it. From there, you can access some beautiful trails around the village via the fort or to the top of the Monts de Vaucluse mountains at the rear of the village.
There are a few little restaurants around the village and some cute cafés in the main squares. The Saint-Hubert Hotel restaurant has been an institution here since the late 1980s, and was even featured in a season 1 episode of Keith Floyd's “Floyd on France”. Check out BBC player or YouTube to watch it. It’s changed its head chef and management since then, but it is still an authentic Provençal restaurant with a great menu. As you can expect from most villages around here, there’s also a great butcher in Saint-Saturnin.
One of our favourite days to visit the village has to be Bastille day on July 14th. On this day, there’s a vide-grenier and a brocante taking place in the streets of the village. It’s often very busy—cafes and terraces are bustling with locals and tourists alike, with others wandering the streets for a bargain or a stunning antique find under the scorching July sun. And of course, there are plenty of festivities happening on the day, from fireworks to petanque competitions.
Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt has become more affluent over the years, with a handful of Brits, Americans, and Belgians buying or building second homes in and around the village. However, the village has kept its charm, authenticity, and originality. It’s only a few miles from Apt, our hometown. If you ever visit the region, pay it a visit!