Var (83111) Population: 622 Altitude: 650 m
The village of Ampus sits out in the Var hills about 10 km northwest of Draguignan. The houses are clustered, shoulder-to-shoulder in a semi-circle around a low rocky hill, with a typically Medieval circular form, although the village isn't fortified. We did find, however, what looked like an ancient fortified entrance through a stone wall [Photo 8].
The older part of the village is centered around a tall rock hill, the site of the castle, with a fine view from the top out across the village to the surrounding countryside. The walk up through the trees to the top is themed with the Christian 12 stations of the cross, highlighted by colorful enamel-tile plaques (1970) for each station.
The historical center of Ampus is the 11th-century Saint-Michel church, enlarged and renovated in the 18th century.
The village "center" at the Place de la Mairie has a cyber café along with the town hall (mairie), terrace café and the nicely shaded restaurant "La Fontaine d'Ampus".
Provençal villages tend either towards the run-down or the renovated. Ampus is definitely in the renovated class, but nicely enough done to retain the historical feel. A little touch we especially liked were the very ancient street signs here and there, sometimes barely legible.
The old town around the base of the "rock" has narrow streets winding back and forth at different levels, with small squares now and again and other fairly interesting sites to reward a hour's wandering visit.
Reynier is located about 5 km southeast of Ampus, following the D49 towards Draguignan. On the east side of the road, opposite the Font du Pommier, are the ruins of a chateau and an abandonded village. The site itself dates back to Roman times.
The Water Trail
In the 16th century a canal was built to bring water to Ampus, powering oil presses and flower mills in the village and suplying the "lavoirs" with fresh water and even providing power for electricity.
The commune has set up "The Water Trail" (Le chemin de l'eau), a loop walk from the center of the village to tour these sites. The loop isn't very long (about a half-hour), but it's half up-hill and half down-hill so you'll need un-tired legs. A series of information plaques along the way explain the history of each element in 3 languages (French, English, Provencal).
When you start off from the Place de la Mairie and head up the Rue des Lauves, you'll quickly turn right up the steps to the first lavoir (not very well marked). The rest of the route is fairly obvious, up to the top of the village and the "Grand Lavoir", then right and right again, back down the steep Rue Rompe Cul to your starting point.
Notre-Dame de Spéluque
Notre-Dame de Spéluque is a 10th-century stone chapel, standing in an open field about 3 km northwest of Ampus. The chapel alter is quite unique, and the base of the cross is a Roman milestone.
History of Ampus
First record, 10th century Impurio: Possibly from Emporia (market - there was a large market here in Roman times), or in Puteum (at the well).
Prehistoric: Dolmens have been mentioned at Marenq (1 km northwest) and Collefrat (3 km south), but are not shown on our maps.
Celto-Ligurian: One of the Var's largest Celto-Ligurian stone walls is said to be near Ampus. We haven't yet tried to locate it.
Gallo-Roman: The Aurelian Way Roman road between Fréjus and Riez passed by Ampus, marked by Roman milestones (bornes milliares) at the source of the Nartuby (marked "Auguste") and at Ampus (marked "Tibere"). The Aurelian Way also passed by Tourtour, about 5 km southwest of Ampus. Remains of Gallo-Roman villa were discovered at Lentier, and a Roman bath was located at Billote.
Medieval: In the Middle Ages the high point of Ampus was the feudal castle sitting on top of the "rock". The castle was destroyed in 1590 on the orders of the Duc d'Epernon, Governor of Provence, following some bloody events between Ampus and Barjols during of the Wars of Religion.
• GPS: 43.606187, 6.382249
IGN (1/25,000) #3443 OT "Aups Salernes"
There are good hiking possibilities around Ampus, but no well-marked Grandes Randonées. Armed with the #3343-OT IGN map, follow the forestry roads and tracks.
There is one petit-randonée route marked somewhat with yellow marks. It goes north from Ampus past Couan and Turquet, then northwest to La Treille. Here you turn due south to the Nortre-Dame de Spéluque chapel, then continue south to Valségure and southeast back to Ampus. The distance is 8 km and the time is about 2-1/2 hours.
Information for these restaurants was provided by Beyond reader Sarah, Nov 2011.
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.)