•Var (83690) • Population: 472 • Altitude: 650 m
Tourtour is a picturesque little village in the central Var, northwest of Dragignan and southeast of the Lac de Ste Croix. The road into the village from the south enters past an old stone fountain and through an arch (photo above). The center square is well shaded, including by a some emormous olive trees.
Tourtour is one of the Most Beautiful Villages (Plus Beaux Villages) of France.
The oliviers (olive trees) replace a pair of enormous elms planted in 1638 when Anne d'Autriche stopped on her pilgramage to Cotignac.
The lovely terrace cafés on one side of the village square are shaded by the old olive trees [our photo-5, taken in 1995]. On the opposite side of the same square, the terrace cafés are shaded by a row of plain trees [photo-6, from 2006].
The village center includes an imposing 16th-century chateau with massive round towers at each corner (one dating to the 12th century). The chateau is ancient, well restored, and in use: one side houses the Mairie [photo-4] and another houses the post office.
The Abbaye de Florielle was located about 4 km southeast of Tourtour, just before the Roman Bridge. To get there, head northeast out of the village on the D61 (direction Ampus). At about 1.2 km, a small road angles off to the right (southeast), following the Floriye Vallon, and following the ancient Roman Road (voie Romaine). The little Florielle chapel, ruins and oratory are on the left, just before the left-hand hairpin approaching the bridge.
The original Cistercian abbey was built here in 1136.
According to the book L'ordre cistercien by Francois Cali, the abbey was moved to Thoronet (see Thoronet Abbey) around 1146 ("1136. Le 14 avril, Paulin et douze moines de Mazan fondent Floregia, dans la petite vallee de la Florieille, pres de Tourtour en Provence. Vers 1146 ils se deplaceront au Thoronet, pres de Lorgues." Contributed by Elizabeth, Jan 2007.
This medieval perched village has a magnificant view out across the surrounding countryside, especially from the low hill where the restored 19th-century church and cemetery sit.
The hillsides are all forested, and you can identify distant, lower villages with the help of the "table d'orientation", and if it's clear you can the Maures, the Luberon, Ste. Baume and the Ste. Victoire near Aix-en-Provence. Tourtour is nicknamed the "village dans le ciel", or village in the sky; viewed from afar it seems to sit on top of the horizon dominating the rest of the landscape.
There's a 17th-century olive-oil mill (Moulin à huile) and a fossil museum (Musée des fossiles) right in the village. On the rue de le Lavoir along the edge of the village is a very nice lavoir, fed by a small stream that flows along the edge of the road.
History of Tourtour
First record, 4th century: Pontus Tortorii; 12th century: Tortor.
Prehistoric: There are traces of prehistoric man at Arquinaud.
Gallo-Roman: this region has been inhabited since antiquity. There are Gallo-Roman ruins at Colombier, Evoué, St. Pierre and Treilles. In the small Vlorièye valley alone there were five oppidums and a Roman guard post. The Aurelian Way (Voie Aurélienne) passed by, and can still be seen about a km east of the village.
Medieval: In 739, Charles Martel met the Saracens. In the 12th century, the Cistercian abbey was established at Esprains and then Florièye; this was later moved to Thoronet, where you can see it today. In the 13th century, the Seigneurie des Blacas ruled, followed by Puget and Esparron. In the 17th century, five Seigneurs (Lords) shared the rule.
Aug (1st Sun) - Fête folklorique
• GPS: 43.589303, 6.302249
IGN (1/25,000) #3443 OT "Aups Salernes"
There are several hiking trails in the hills and valleys surrounding Tourtour, with many loop possibilities. Some of the trails pass through the line of villages: Sillans, Salernes, Villecroze, Tourtour and Ampus. The forested hills to the northwest and southeast are also have several marked trails.
Tourtour has a good selection of restaurants, café-restaurants, and tea-shop types of places to eat, most with shaded outdoor terraces. If you prefer to "do-it-yourself", there are picnic tables beneath the trees in front of the church, on the low hill with the observation table.
Department 83, Var Buses
- See Beyond's Var Department Bus Schedules for downloading the Var bus-lines map [Plan du Reseau] and bus-line schedules [Horaires] (link for PDF files).
- Schedules for the Var bus lines are on the VarLib Horaires-Ligne page (http://www.varlib.fr/horaires_ligne/?rub_code=6") - type the line number in the Numéro ... ligne box to access the bus schedule PDF link. (Type a couple of digits in the box to get a list of route numbers.)