Simiane-la-Rotonde is a beautiful village, clinging onto a rocky hilltop next to a high plateau in Haute-Provence. From Apt (our hometown), it’s 15 miles north-east. That region of Provence is beautifully preserved and authentic. It is not mobbed by crowds of tourists and is worth a visit, any time in the year!
Like many local villages in our region, the heart of Simiane is nestled on the side of the hill and was built just under its chateau. It not accessible by car and time seems to have stopped there hundreds of years ago. Its name comes both from the family who reigned over it, the Simiane-Agoult, and the large rotunda or keep next to its castle.
The Simiane-Agoult family was one of the most powerful noble lines in the region. They reigned over this region of northern Provence from the Middle Ages almost until the French revolution. Their empire included the Luberon’s main town, Apt, and pretty much all the villages around it: Gordes, Goult (named after the family’s name), and further afield in Haute-Provence, Viens and Simiane, where a new branch of the family was born.
The village is magical. Narrow old houses surround it to form the ramparts that protected the village from assailants. The tiny cobblestone streets take you (not with ease, as some are very steep!) to the different levels of the village. The houses that remain today were mostly made between the 1600s and the 1800s. Many have beautiful gardens with bright hollyhocks and oleanders.
The chateau, built in the 12th century and is a great example of the Provence Romanesque architectural style. One wing of it can be visited and sometimes hosts local exhibitions, as well as a classical music festival each August.
Remains of this golden era of the Luberon are still visible to this day in most villages. When wandering around their streets, look around and pay attention. You may see a statue at the corner of a house, a sun compass, or a beautifully carved wooden front door which has adorned village houses like these for centuries. Simiane is the perfect example. Thriving thanks to the booming glass industry, many stunning private houses and mansions were built in the village in the 16th century. Some still sport to this day sculpted lintels, carved doors and mullion windows. At its peak of its prosperity in the 16th century, the village had twice the number of inhabitants it has today: 500 of them!
One of my favourite spots in the village is the view from the little square where the covered market was—you can see it in the main image of this post. Come in July and you can look at the valley painted in purple with all the lavender fields surrounding the village.
If you come to Simiane to shop, you may be disappointed. There’s just one little restaurant, a pottery workshop and a small antique shop in the village. Recently the village was extended outside its old centre at the foot of the hill, but this area doesn't add much to its charm.
Beautiful trails including the GR4 and the Lavender Road are accessible from the village. Drive down towards Rustrel and you can visit our local Colorado trail with beautiful landscapes of brightly coloured rocks
I mentioned it in my previous post about Viens (read it here, by the way), our favourite part of Provence is the northern part of the Luberon, the one described in the books of Giono. It’s the raw and authentic Provence. One that hasn’t changed in centuries, one that is often unknown and understated. It is the Provence Tariette strives to share with you with our stories, our products, our wine and our food!