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Tour of Provence on the road

di Alice

Our journey to discover southern France begins in the second half of September.
For our tour of Provence on the road we chose an itinerary starting from Provence and then moving to the Côte d’Azur.
Below is the day-to-day itinerary of our four days in Provence, with our tips on where to sleep and eat the best, to fully immerse yourself in the most evocative atmospheres of the South of France. To see our itinerary of the French Riviera click here.
If you are interested in advice on how to organize a trip to Provence and French Riviera click here.

Four-day itinerary on the road in Provence

Our Provence on the road tour starts from Bologna on Monday morning. Direction Aix-en-provence, the central village of Provence, and in my opinion also the most characteristic. Here we stayed the first four nights of our trip. We booked an apartment through Airbnb (you can find it here) that we literally fell in love with.

Aix-en-provence, Porquerolles, Cassis, Roussillion e le gole del Verdon

First and second day: Aix-en-provence

Aix-en-provence is the cultural, historical and artistic capital of Provence, located 25km from Marseille.
If I had to describe Aix I would say it is romantic, beautiful and elegant, it embodies the model of the French city full of charm, with a typical Provençal landscape. It’s also the birthplace of the post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne. It is also perfect as a stop to visit Provence, as it is close to all major destinations.

Once we arrived and took the house we dedicated the rest of the day to the visit of Aix.
Usually when I plan a visit to a city, especially if I decide to stay for several days, I inform myself about everything there is to see and I organize a tight itinerary with all the most important points. But this time I preferred to shoot “randomly”, not planning itineraries but letting myself be carried away by the city and its alleys in which to get lost. This is the perfect city in which to do it, its old town is small and on a human scale. Full of a thousand streets all special that connect to the main street.

to know more about what to visit in Aix-en-provence read my dedicated article.

Third day: Porquerolles Island


We continue our tour of Provence on the road heading to the third day in Porquerolles.
Porquerolles is the largest of the islands of the archipelago of Hyères. It’s a little corner of paradise with dreamy beaches, a few minutes by ferry from the port of Hyères.
We left from Aix early to the port la tour fondue; the distance is about two hours.
The directions to the island are very easy to follow, from the port depart three ferries that go each to each island, the most famous island is Porquerrolles and is also the most popular.
The ferry is very large and for those like me who suffer from seasickness I can assure you that it is a feasible trip. The trip takes 20 minutes and the ticket costs 20€ each.
If you decide to travel by car in the port there is a large car park that costs 10€ for the whole day.

The island of Porquerrolles is quite large, the ferry arrives in the port, where you will find many bars, restaurants and tourist attractions to do on the island. From here there are two roads that reach the two main beaches of the island, one on the left and one on the right.
The Plage d’Argent is located to the right of the port and is definitely the one with the most beautiful water, here we spent the morning. It can be reached with a walk of about half an hour (if you are trained people even less). In the afternoon we moved to the most famous beach, the Plage of Notre Dame, , which can be reached from the port with about an hour’s walk, and this is definitely the one that has the most striking view, as well as a beautiful sea.

The Hyères Islands are one of the most paradisiacal archipelagos in Europe. These islands are so precious that even the Romans were amazed by baptizing them “the golden islands”.
Here I can say that I found the most beautiful sea of the whole French Riviera. Calm, warm and sandy, with a really crystal clear water.

Four day: Cassis and the Calanques

Cassis e le Calanques

Cassis is located about 45 minutes from Aix. It is a small fishing village very characteristic.
 It is located 20km from Marseille but is little frequented by mass tourism. For those looking for an authentic and charming corner of the Provençal coast, Cassis is the ideal destination.
The old town of Cassis has characteristic houses colored in soft pastel shades and small streets that connect the area of the old port with the upper part of the village.
The area of the old port is the most picturesque, is characterized by small colorful boats of local fishermen and this row of houses all colored overlooking the port.
Along the road that runs along the port is full of bars and restaurants, if you decide to stop to eat here you are spoiled for choice.
We visited Cassis passing by, we did a short tour in the center and then took one of the boats that makes the tour of the calanques, I recommend you do it, already just see the array of colorful houses and the port from the sea is worth it. We took the last tour of the day, which started just before sunset and the spectacle of the calanques colored by the golden light of the sun is magnificent.

The calanques

We have dedicated most of the day to the calanques.
West of Cassis, a stretch of coastline is characterized by rocky canyons that create magnificent natural coves. Cassis calanques are Port-Mieu, Port-Pin and d’En Vau.
We arrived by car, just before the start of the Calanques there is a large free parking space where you can leave your car, from there the path that reaches the three calanques starts.
The part of the trail that reaches Port-Mieu is the easiest. It is a long dirt road with a few climbs every now and then.
We decided to continue to Port-Pin. The path becomes a little more difficult, as it runs along the coast by the sea, especially the descent to the calanque is not suitable for everyone.
I highly recommend hiking shoes, plenty of water (especially on hot days) and backpacks.
To get to Port-Pin are about 1h walk.
This calanque is characterized by turquoise waters surrounded by rocky inlets and framed by dense vegetation. The beach is of white pebbles, the ideal would be to have diving shoes, but the water is very beautiful and transparent.
From Port-Pin then the route starts to reach the Calanque d’En Vau, which is definitely the one with a breathtaking landscape. However, I do not recommend trying to reach it unless you are an expert in mountain hiking.
The path is very long and goes up along the whole side of the mountain in a very steep climb and then down to the overhanging sea. This is not a real path but a real climb.
We tried, but once we got to the top once we saw the overhanging staircase that descended into the calanque we gave up. Both for the vertigo, but also because we would not have been able to face that staircase upwards.Obviously there is always the possibility to rent a boat for the whole day and get to the calanque from the sea, but the cost is really exaggerated.

Five day: Roussillion and the Verdon Gorges

After leaving Aix we decided to end our tour of Provence on the road by visiting two stops and then moving to the Côte d’Azur. The first is Roussillion which is about 1h30 from Aix.
The road to get there is very characteristic and surrounded by nature, sometimes reminiscent of the roads that pass in the Tuscan hills.


Roussillion is definitely one of those we visited the most characteristic village. It is perched on a hill and is characterized by the walls of buildings painted in warm tones of ocher extracted in this region since ancient times. This is really a magical place, a living color palette where it is impossible not to observe every corner, especially if you are a photography lover like me you will stop every second to photograph everything.


Roussillion is also famous for the ochre trail, a path between red rocks and dust that you can visit in two ways: with a 30-minute trail and a 60-minute trail.
We did the 30-minute one for 6€.
the paths are marked with stairs and signs and are fenced with ropes. Along the latter there are scenic spots where you can rest and take pictures and admire from every angle these extravagant rocks.
The paths are covered with a soft and thin colored powder, so I recommend wearing comfortable and washable shoes.

The gorges of the Verdon

Once we finished our visit to Roussillion and the ochre trail, we moved to the Verdon gorges which are about 2h30 from Roussillion.
It is a large emerald green river that splits the earth for 25 km creating one of the most beautiful spectacles of Provence, a canyon where the rock walls fall vertically into the waters for an unparalleled glance, to be enjoyed from above along the streets to drive.
You can get there by taking the Route de Crêtes, a panoramic ring road that you can take from the center of the hamlet of La Palud and that develops over a length of about 23 km.
Along this road there are many viewpoints, the first of which is the Belvédère de l’Escalès.
About half of the route can be travelled in one direction, making traffic safer. For this reason the advice is to take it from the east side.
Another point not to be missed is the Sublime Point. From here the view is already beautiful, at the bottom of the road (no exit) there are signs that give indications for two paths: one passes through tunnels carved into the rock and leads to the water level of the river, The other one goes towards the Sublime Point. We have taken the path that leads to the level of the river, and here too the view is not bad.
This route is called Couloir Samson and its peculiarity is that it passes inside the rock of the mountains in a gallery of about 670 meters that occasionally has a window overlooking the river. The environment is rather cool even in summer, so it is advisable to have a mesh with you and especially a torch (or a cell phone) because inside the caves there is no artificial lighting and some stretches are immersed in pitch dark.

Gorgess of the Verdon

In the evening we then headed to Villeneuve-Loubet, in the French Riviera where we had booked the second house for the remainder of our road trip.

I hope that our tour of Provence on the road has inspired you to take this trip to the beautiful France of the south!
To read our Côte d’Azur itinerary instead click here.

N.B. General Council on France:
It is essential when you go to restaurants to ask for the carafe of water instead of bottled water.
In France, the jug is tap water and it is always free, while bottled water is a disproportionate charge. If you notice the French always order “une carafe d’eau”.

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