Saignon is a small village atop a hill and is just a few miles from Apt, our hometown. On the top of that hill, a massive granite slab stands overlooking the Luberon Valley. The charming village houses look as if they're chained to the hill around that giant rock.
The area has been inhabited since the middle Palaeolithic age, then by the Romans. Three châteaux were built between 900 and 1200. It's believed Saignon's rock was used as a signal station to help protect the village and nearby Apt, down in the valley, from invasions. The Abbaye Saint-Eusèbe, just outside the village, celebrated its 1000th anniversary in 2004. The beautiful Notre-Dame de Pitié, the Roman village church, was built during the 12th century and has been a stop for religious pilgrims since the middle ages.
There are just over 1000 inhabitants in Saignon. There's a small shop, a boulangerie, a school, several B&Bs and a handful of restaurants, including one of our new favourites: Un jardin sur le toit. Its terrace is on the remains of the former Crugiere castle at the top of the village, right next to the rock. The food is a modern take on classic Provençal and Mediterranean dishes, served with local wines. The menu is delicious and refined without being pretentious. Watching the sunset from the terrace is just breath-taking. Every Thursday morning, there's also a small authentic market where you can find fruits and vegetables from farms just outside the village as well as cheese, honey, and more...
There's a viewpoint on the top of Saignon's rock which can be accessed by a small path carved into the side of the hill. There's an incredible 360 degree view. Look north and you'll see Mt Ventoux, south the Luberon summit, east you can see both the Alpilles and the Alps on a clear day!
I have plenty of amazing child memories of that village. There is a small trail which starts next to my grandfather's house in Apt and goes all the way up to Saignon. I remember walking the dogs on there or riding my mountain bike. Most Wednesday afternoons - when French children have time off school - my grand parents would pack the dog, my brother and I into the back of their white Citroen C15 van and we'd drive past Saignon to our favourite walking spot near the next village up, Auribeau. We'd stop every time on our way back so my brother, the dogs and I could drink from the pristine ice cold water from the fountain next to the local post office in the village.
Saignon has become a more touristy village over the years, but it has not lost its authentic charm and is still very much inhabited all year long, rather than just hosting empty holiday homes during the winter months. The village doesn't look too manicured like the nearby villages of Gordes or Menerbes. There's also a photography club in the village who regularly exhibit beautiful photographs all around the village. The auberge in the centre of the village remained closed for many years. We're delighted it has reopened not long ago and they have resuscitated the existing bar terrace on the main square of the village that existed ten years ago. We loved that they recobbled the main street of the village using a traditional method, as the result is stunning and looks really authentic. Saignon seems to be changing for the better without losing its identity or its authentic charm. You must visit it if you travel to the Luberon Valley!