Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04530) Population: 71 Altitude: 1697 m xxxx
Larche is a small village in a wide part of the upper Ubayette valley. The Ubayette torrent and the Upper Ubaye river into which it flows curves in an arc to the northwest past Meyronnes and southwest to Jausiers. Upstream, southeast of the village, the Col de Larch (2948 m) is next to the current frontier with Italy.
The village isn't old looking, and has a very modern little church, but is a nice and pleasant place. The newness is due to centuries of savage fighting and repeated destructions in the valley, with the town being destroyed most recently in 1944.
The buildings may be new, but the life is in the inhabitants. We got much of our information from this couple (in our photo, left). The man had lived here in Larche for all of his 80 years, and his occupations as shepard, soldier and customs official gave him a great knowledge of the surrounding hills and mountains.
Larche is a cross-country skiing center, so most of the visitors here are in the winter. Summer visitors tend to be mostly hikers.
On 15 Aug 1515, king François I, 20 years old, crossed the Col de Larche, surprised the enemy (Piemontais?) and won a great victory at Marignan; and there've been wars constantly since then. The hills here are full of blockhouses and other military defensive positions. The chemin des canons, crossing the pass along the hillside above the valley, was apparently made by François I for his cross-Alpine invasion. The local story we got was that "the Austrians pulled their cannons along that mountain trail". In any case, the "chemin" is overgrown now, and more easily distinguished from a distance.
In the Middle Ages, the flocks of the Ubayette (the French side) crossed the pass here to winter in the Peimont. Later, in the 15th century, the grands transhumants were the movement of sheep from the Pays de Aix-en-Provence that crossed the Col du Larche for the Stura di Monte.
From the 15th century on, the flocks crossed the pass here, with up to 60,000 annually. In fairly recent times, the Fascists stopped the cross-border activity, although the "French" shepards were orginally Piemontias who had crossed over earlier. Even when the transhumance was legal, the flocks were often brought across at night, with the bells removed from the sheep, to avoid customs charges.
See also Transhumance.
Non Roman Bridge
We were looking for for a supposed Roman bridge listed in one of our old guidebooks. The couple we met here (above) assured us there was none. And who better to know than one of the "ancients". He also explained how map makers put down incorrect names and misunderstood labels, forever changing the "real" names of places.
The nearest Roman bridge we know of is the lovely one at Le Lauzet-Ubaye.
• GPS: 44.450833, 6.84636
IGN (1/25,000) #3538 ET "Aiguille de Chambeyron, Cols de Larche et de Vars"
The GR5-56 passes through Larche. To the southeast, the trail goes up the Ubayette valley to the Col de Larche (1948 m), then south through the mountains just this side of the Italian frontier.
To the north, the GR5-56 goes over the Col de Mallemort (2558 m) and continues northwest in the the Queyras mountains.
We didn't eat here, but noted the hotel-restaurants we saw.
- Hotel Bar Restaurant de la Paix
- Rooms from 125 F /person/night (about 20 euros)
- Plat du jour 45 F (about 7 euros)
- Tel: 04 92 84 41 90
- Plat du jour 45 F (about 7 euros)
- Relais d'Italie Hotel Bar Restaurant
- Auberge du Lauzanier (and Gite)
- Tel: 04 92 84 35 93
Department 04, Alpes-de-Haute Provence Buses
- See Beyond's Alpes-de-Haute Provence (04) Bus Schedules for downloading Alpes-de-Haute Provence bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).