Var (83170) Population: 3,460 Altitude: 296 m
Tourves is a small town in the Var with some great fountains and a few hilltop chapels and other sites worth visiting. Located between St Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume and Brignoles, Tourves is on the Caramy river, beside a vast area of forested hills to the south.
One long street passes through the center of Tourves, and the town is stretched out in line with this. There are parking areas are off to the sides, but not they're clearly marked. We found one parking area with one slot free, but then got lost trying to find the way to walk back the center of town.
The main town square, in front of the Hotel de Ville (town hall) is the center of shops and activity. There are several bakeries, butchers, and all the other necessary shops, and a few cafés.
There is a Laundromat in the center of town, useful for visitors.
Tuesday is market day. The market, on the Cours de la République (north side of the center) is a typical Provencal village market, with vendors of vegetables, olives, clothes, hardware and roasted chicken.
The town too spread out for easy exploring, and it doesn't have a center of small streets that are found in many Provencal villages. We enjoyed exploring the town, but it does take a lot of walking. There are some nice little fountains to discover, and a couple of great fountains, especially the "5-heads" fountain at the corner of the main Annonciade church in Tourves.
Other Tourves sites to visit take just a bit of walking:
• Saint Maurice chapel is very close to the center.
• Chateau Valbelle is a 20-minute walk, up and back.
• Notre Dame de la Salette chapel is about a 30-minute walk (round trip) plus some visiting time.
• The Roman bridge requires a short drive, or an hour's out and back walk.
• Saint Probace Chapel requires a serious hike.
Saint Maurice Chapel
Chapelle Saint-Maurice was built in the 10th century. It's a simple little chapel just south of the center, in a small wood beside the Rue du Val Garnier and by the Parking St Maurice. The chapel is closed and a bit run down, but it's a lovely, shady place to visit. Headstones of the 19th-century cemetery sit all around the chapel, leaning against the walls and the edges of the lawns.
The ruins of the 18th-century Chateau de Valbelle sit on a hilltop just south of the center, at the site of the original village of Saint-Sauveur. The ruins, with the adjacent obelisque, make a unique landmark for Tourves.
The tall stone walls of the ancient chateau have numerous window openings and round towers. From inside the ruins, it all looks like a typical Middle-Ages castle. But outer side of the eastern wall has a rather incongruous colonnade of 10 columns, built in 1772.
In the 18th century Omer de Valbelle sponsored artists and brought actors and writers to the chateau. The famous actrice La Clairon performed in fron to the chateau columns. The chateau was confiscated during the French Revolution. It served as a garrison and then a hospital in 1793, and burned down in 1799.
A large lawn area stretches out to the east of the castle ruins, with a tall obelisque at the end [Photo-11]. What we call an "obelisque" is listed as a pyramid, built in 1772 as an imitation of the Sextius pyramid at Rome.
More castle ruins are located a short walk out to the west from the main ruins.
There's a path up to the chateau from the eastern end, in Tourves old town at the little Place du Charbon. We took this route, while exploring that part of town. A lovely young white cat joined us down in the old town. It stayed with us while we had our lunch picnic break, then followed us up to the chateau and explored the site with us. The cat followed us back down into the old town, then went its own way again.
Another path up to the chateau begins at the Can Fountain on the west side of town (north of the chateau) at the junction of the Chemin du Laou and the Chemin de la Vacherie.
Notre Dame de la Salette
The Notre Dame de la Salette chapel [Photo-13] is located a bit south of town. You get there by walking out the road to the "stade", passing under the main highway. Turn right, go around to the west side of the sports field, and follow the path up the hillside.
The chapel with its tall pointed steeple was rebuilt in the 19th century. We found it to be more picturesque from a distance than close-up. But it's a nice walk up to the site, and the views are great.
Saint Probace Chapel
The chapel, rebuilt in the 17th century, is a fairly simple building, most interesting for for its location. The views from the top are magnificent.
The chapel is not occupied by the Petits Frères de l'Eucharistie. They have mass Saturdays and Sundays at 11h, and Mon-Fri at 9h. On weekends the chapel is open 30 minutes preceding mass for visits and confession.
The route to the Saint Probace Chapel begins by the "stade" sports field. Go around to the right (west) side of the stade and take the path up the hillside that leads to Notre Dame chapel. At the top, follow the road south, then the trail south through the woods.
The "Roman" bridge is located about 2 km southeast of Tourves. It's a lovely multi-arched stone bridge across the Caramy, on a very lovely part of the river. The bridge was built in the 14th-15th centuries and restored in the 19th century, but apparently on pillars of an earlier Roman bridge.
The river Caramy is lovely here, flowing fairly wide beneath the trees. There's a low dam just downstream from the bridge, and a trail follows down the right bank of the river.
You can walk out to the bridge from Tourves. From the "stade" at the south edge of town, go to the left and follow the road that goes southeast. It's about a 30 minute walk along the country road. The first part of the walk is rural, past small villas. The second part is through woods and countryside, with canyon cliffs visible past the trees.
You can also drive out, along the same road, to the parking area at the end.
History of Tourves
First record, 4th century ad Turrem; in 984 Torrives.
Gallo-Roman: Torves was a station on the Roman Roman Aurelian Way (Voie Aurélienne). The Saint Estève chapel was built on a Gallo-Roman cella, and numerous artifacts were found in the walls of the chapel.
Three early Medieval villages were located here: Gueillet, Seysson and Saint-Sauveur. Two disappeared and only Saint-Sauveur moved down from a hilltop to the current location. The village was given to the Abbey of Saint-Victor in 984. In 1285 Philippe-le-Bel established Tourves as a commune.
Tourves later became a domain of the Viscounts of Marseille, the lords of Baux, and the Counts of Soletto in the 14th century.
More Recently: From the 16th to 19th centuries the rulers were d'Arcussia, Vintimille and Valbeuf.
• GPS: 43.407908, 5.923991
IGN (1/25,000) #3345 OT "Signes, Tourves, Massif Sainte-Baume"
IGN (1/25,000) #3344 OT "St-Maximim - Barjols"
A pair of PR (Petite Randonée) hiking trails go south from Tourves. One goes due south, to the St Probace Chapel (see above) and then continues southwest as the Excursionnistes Toulonnais trail ET34; this trail goes through the hills to the south of Rougiers village.
The other trail south from Tourves follows the road to the Roman Bridge (see above). Crossing the bridge, the trail continues south to join with the GR99 (Grande Randonnée) trail, and connects with the local ET33 trail.
Tourves is served by the VAR bus:
- 4402: Toulon, La Valette-du-Var, La Garde, La Farlédé, Solliès-Pont, Belgentier, Méounes-lès-Montrieux, La Roquebrussanne, Néoules, Garéoult, Tourves, Saint Maximin.
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.)
Marseille - Brignoles Bus
- VarLib line 4001 has several buses a day, between Marseille and Brignoles, trip time about 1h45. Stops: Marseille, Auriol, Saint Azcharie, Nans-les-Pins, Rougiers, Saint Maximin, Tourves, Brignoles.
Link to list of schedules, select line 4001 and click the PDF icon.