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  Villages /  Riez

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Riez la Romaine [the Roman town]

• Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04500)   • Population: 1,707  • Altitude: 520 m

Gallery of 13 photos for Riez

Riez is in the rich Colostre valley, where the Auvestre river joins the Colostre. The rivers might be small, but the valley is wide, and runs southwest to join the lower Verdon and Durance rivers. Riez is the "Capitale de la Lavande", and there are huge lavender fields throughout the surrounding countryside. • Market day Wed, Sat.

This ancient village, dating from the 1st century, sits in a tight oval shape, with the domed hill of "Mont St. Maxime" behind. On each side of the village, an ancient "porte" still gives access into the medieval interior: the Porte Aiguiere (Porto Aiguiero) on the east side and the Porte St-Sols on the west side. Beside the Porte Aiguiere (E) is a long, curved "lavoir" and the "column" fountain (photo-1). Beside the Porte St-Sols (W) is a smaller fountain and lavoir.

The village is very active, with its inhabitants and visitors benefiting from a variety of festivities and events.

Out across a large grassy field between village and river are the four Roman columns.

On the "Mont St. Maxime" hill, chapel, oak-truffles, lavender fields, honey beehives.

Mont St. Maxime

This "mountain" is only a 120 m higher than the village, but has a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. While the lower village only goes back a couple of thousand years, this was the ancient hillfort capital of the Reii, a Celto-Ligurian tribe. Today the hilltop has a park under huge trees, with a great view, and the 17th-century Chapelle St. Maxime with its 20th-century nuns in residence. A small river flows past the front of the village, with a small, ancient double-arched bridge.

History of Riez


First record, 1st century Alebaece Reiorum; then Reii Appolinares (from the temple of Apollo); Regium (to the 8th-c); Regina (to the 11th-c).

Celto-Ligurian: The Celto-Ligurian tribe of Reii had their hillfort capital on top of the Mon St. Maxime hill overlooking the current village.

Gallo-Roman: When the Romans conquered the place, they established the town of Colonia Julia Augusta Apollinaris Reiorum on the valley floor below the hill. Excavations have revealing richly decorated buildings indicate a prosperous town during the early Empire. The southern part of the town, where the four columns of the Temple of Apollo stand, was covered by thick deposits of alluvium, and only a fraction has been excavated. The soil could be covering the remains of an amphitheater, among other things.

The four slender Corithian columns are 6-m tall polished granit pillars, with fine marble capitals and architrave. The pillars belonged to the Temple of Apollo, a large complex with healing baths, probably linked to the baptistery. Inscriptions at the nearby spring are a dedication to Aesculapius, the son of Apollo and the greatest of the classical healing gods.

The baptistery, about 100 m southeast of the temple columns, was built in the 5th century, and is one of the earliest known baptisteries in France. A large baptismal pool was in the middle, and Riez had the status of a healing town, even into the 19th century.

An old cathedral, located in the axis of the baptistery, was destroyed at the end of the 15th century. Excavations revealed a 5th-century structure in the field across the road east of the baptistery. The cathedral had been constructed on top of a much larger public building from the 1st-2nd century.

Medieval: In the early Middle Ages, the town moved gradually from the junction adjacent to the rivers to slightly higher ground because of a rising river. During the Barbarian and Saracen raids of the 6th century, the Bishop and the townspeople moved up to the top of Mont St. Maxime. During the 14th century, bands of Spanish "Routiers" devastated the region. Riez was sacked several times during the Wars of Religion, alternately by the Huguenots and the Catholics.


Market day: Wed, Sat.

Puces and artisanat - Flea Market: 1st Sun
Jan-Feb - Truffle Market, Wed (Nov-Feb)
May - Foire de Printemps - Spring Fair
June (End) - Fete de la Transhumance
July-Aug (Each Thur) - Marché Nocturne - Night Market: every Thursday night, July-Aug
Aug - Fete de la Colonne (every 15 Aug)
Sep - Grande Foire d'Automne
Nov-Dec - Truffle Market, Wed (Nov-Feb)


• GPS: 43.818695, 6.090767


IGN (1/25,000) #3342 ET "Plateau de Valensole"

Didier Richard (1/50,000) #19 "Haute Provence Verdon"

The GR 4 (Grande Randonnée) passes through Riez.
• To the east, the GR 4 goes around the northern edge of the Lac de Ste. Croix, beside Moustiers-Ste-Marie, and then along the northern side of the Grand Canyon du Verdon.
• To the east and southeast, the GR 4 follows the forested hills past Allemagne-en-Provence to St-Martin-de-Brômes and Gréoux-les-Bains.
• Several other trails to the north of Riez will take you through woods and fields to Puimoisson or northwest to Valensole.
• A trail following country roads south goes to Montagnac and then to the shore of Lac de Ste. Croix, eventually joining the GR 99 that passes along the southern shore to the Gorges du Verdon.


Baptistery, Lapidary Museum - Musée Laidaire

Stone working - Gallo-Roman examples. This small archeological museum and lapidaire museum are located in the baptistery.

Open: Apr-Oct; Nov-Mar by rendezvous

Tel: 0492 778 280; Fax: 0492 77 79 67

(phone number is for the Office de Tourisme)

Bee-Keeping Museum - Musée de l'Abeille

About bee-keeping and honey.

Open: All year

Tel: 0492 778 415; Fax: 0492 77 82 73

Nature en Provence Museum - Musée Nature en Provence

Open: Oct-Dec

Tel: 0492 778 280; Fax: 0492 77 79 67

(phone number is for the Office de Tourisme)

Transportation Riez

Public transport would be by train to Manosque (Marseille-Gap-Briançon line), then bus to Riez.

Department 04, Alpes-de-Haute Provence Buses

Manosque - Riez Bus

  • The Riez - Manosque bus line has several buses a day; 50 minutes trip. Schedule available via the Riez town website (see Beyond's Riez page). Stops: Riez, Allemagne-en-Provence, St Martin-de-Brômes, Esparron-de-Verdon (intersection), Gréoux-les-Bains, Manosque (Gare SNCF, Gare routière).

Marseille - Gréoux - Riez - Castellane Bus FH-27

  • LER line 27 (part A): 3 buses/day, between Marseille and Riez, trip time 2 hrs. Stops: Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Venelles, Meyrargues, Peyrolles, Pont Mirabeau, St Paul-lez-Durance, Vinon, Gréoux-les-Bains, St Martin-de-Bromes, Allemagne-en-Provence, Riez.
    LER line 27 (part B): 1 bus a day between Riez and Castellane (via the Gorges-de-Verdon), trip time 1h30. Stops: Riez, Roumoules, Moustiers-Ste-Marie, Lapalud, Rougon, Pont de Soleil, Castellane.
    • On the LER website ( , select Ligne 27: Marseille / Greoux / Castellane to display the bus schedule PDF.

Riez - Moustiers-Ste-Marie Bus

  • The Riez - Moustiers-Sainte-Marie bus line has several buses a day; trip time 35 minutes. Schedule available via the Riez town website (see Beyond's Riez page). Stops: Riez, Roumoules, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.

Riez - Quinson Bus

  • The Riez - Quinson bus line has 1 bus a day (each way); trip time is 30 minutes. Schedule available via the Riez town website (see Beyond's Riez page). Stops: Riez, Montagnac, St Laurent-du-Verdon, Quinson.

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