Gard (30350) Population: 3,732 Altitude: 34 m
Sommières is an interesting medieval town centered around a large Roman bridge on the Vidourle river.
A large town, Sommières has an historical center of vaulted passages, fortified portals, ancient ramparts and houses dating from the 13th, 16h, 17th and 18th centuries. Market day Wed, Sat.
Sommières old town was built along the left bank of the Vidourle river. Arriving from the west, the road crosses on the large, 1st-century, Roman bridge to the main entrance portal. The Vidourle passes Sommières and continues south-southeast to the western side of the Camargue, at Aigues-Mortes.
Entering the old town through the fortified Porte de l'Horlage puts you on the cobblestoned and very medieval-looking Rue Marx Dormay with a number of shops [Photo-05]. The old town of Sommières is full of narrow streets for wandering and exploring.
In the near-left corner of the Rue Marx Dormay, a narrow passage and stone steps will take you down to the Place des Drs. Dax (aka Place du Marché). The ancient square is picturesque, with vaulted passages, arcades and terrace cafés. This square is the lowest point of Sommières and the first place to flood when the river rises too far. There's an active Saturday market on the Place du Marché, and there have been markets and fairs at this site since the 13th century.
The main road bridge into Sommières was built in the years 19 to 31 by the Roman emperor Tiberius for the passage of the Roman road from Nîmes towards Toulouse and Lodève. Built as a 17-arch bridge, 189 m long, there are today only 7 of the arches still existing and visible; the others have been swallowed up by houses constructed at the ends of the original bridge.
The newer part of Sommières is mostly on the right bank (west side) of the river. This area includes a "centre commercial" (a French mall) with hyper-market grocery store and other shops.
The Château de Sommières, built in the 10th and 11th centuries, is now mostly gone. The main part of the castle ruins is a tall watch tower [Photo-12], the remaining one of the two that were once there.
The castle was destroyed during the first seige of Sommières in 1573, during the Wars of Religion.
History of Sommières
Sommières obviously dates back to the 1st century, as the 189-m long, 17-arch Roman bridge is still the main road into town from the west. This was a strategic location in Roman and medieval times, being the only crossing point over the Vidourle between the Mediterranean and the Cévennes mountains.
Medieval: Sommières was ruled from the 12th century by the Maison d'Anduze, one of the most powerful families of Languedoc. In 1248, Sommières was annexed to the royal domain by Saint Louis (King Louis IX). In the 17th century there were two major battles here between the armies of Louis XIII and the protestants of the Duc de Rohan.
During the Wars of Religion, in 1573 and 1575, Sommières was alternately dominated by the Catholics and the Protestants.
Market day: Wed, Sat.
• GPS: 43.783549, 4.089447
IGN (1/25,000) #2842 O "Sommières"
"Vallée du Vidourle, Pays de Sommières", map+info (1:42'000)
The office de tourisme in Sommières had a map (3 €) of walks-hikes for the Vallée du Viodourle, Pays de Sommières. The yellow-marked hiking paths mostly follow roads, and pass through surrounding towns and villages as well as some more remote hill areas.
We took a loop-hike adjacent to the east side of Sommières, passing through the walled village of Villevieille. While we were stopped in a narrow lane beside a fairly large estate to study the map, the owner not only came out to help us find our way, but invited us in for tea, snacks and conversation.
We've been here summer and winter. Fewer restaurants open in the winter, of course, but we really liked La Bistoure at the north end of Rue Antonin Paris (nbr 6 on the town map).
Vidourle and Garrigues Itinerary
A 44-km circuit for bicycle, car or motorcycle, visiting Medieval villages and farming villages along the Vidourle river and the garrigue and vineyards to the north of Sommières. The circuit makes a loop beginning (and ending) at Solinelles, 5 km north of Sommières, passing in sequence through the villages of: Salinelles, Lecques, Fontanès, Montpezat, Combas, Crespian, Vic-le-Fesq, Sardan, Gailhan, Saint Clément, Aspères, Salinelles.
Vidourle and Quissac Itinerary
A 52-km circuit for bicycle, car or motorcycle, about 20 km north of Sommières, making a loop of picturesque little villages in the hills and vineyards on both sides of the Vidourle valley. Visits: Quissac, Liouc, Corconne, Brouzet-les-Quissac, Carnas, Sérignac, Cannes-et-Clairan, Montmirat, Saint Théodorit, Bragassargues, and back to Quissac.
Vidourle Valley Itinerary
A 52-km circuit suitable for bicycle, car or motorcycle, visiting Medieal villages and the beautiful countryside.
Visits: Sommières, Villevieille , Aujargues, Junas, Aubais, Congénes, Calvisson, St Etienne-d'Escattes, Souvignargues.
Department 30, Gard Buses
- See Beyond's Gard Department Bus Schedules for Gard bus-lines maps and bus-line schedules (Horaires).
Maps (Plans) for the Gard bus lines are on the www.edgard.fr website, with a flash webpage for each of five zones around Nîmes (www.edgard-transport.fr/plan/?rub_code=5).
Schedules for the Gard bus lines are available via the www.edgard.fr website horaires page (www.edgard-transport.fr/horaires/?rub_code=23).