Over several centuries, Vaison la Romaine grew up on the banks of the Ouveze River.
High on a hill overlooking the river is the Vieux Ville or Ancient village crowned by the ruins of the ancient chateau of the Counts of Toulouse – with the old roads winding their way up to it. This is the Medieval Village which, despite its appearance, is actually not the oldest part of this town.
Across the old Roman Bridge, one finds the modern town as we know Vaison to be today. Looking a little closer and a little deeper, one finds that the modern town was built on the site of the old Roman Town.
The Roman City
Dating back to the 2nd half of the 1st Century AD, the city was developed and built under the direction of the central Roman government following Roman standards for a properly functioning city. The amenities included a theatre, public baths, gardens with porticoes for entertainment, a temple for religious services, a forum and basilica for political events. Paved roads covered sewers and lead pipe plumbing supplied water to homes of wealthy residents, baths and public fountains.
The Medieval City
Typical of perched fortified towns and settlements of the times, the upper town was built in approx 1195, with materials borrowed from the first Medieval town, on the opposite bank of the river. The Counts of Toulouse, to whom Vaison belonged, came into conflict with the bishop who had control over the commerce of the town and control of taxes since 1108, and thus attacked the town and sacked it. After a short time of peace, the Count began the fortifications on the hill overlooking the town. Under the ownership of the Count were also collection of bridge toll, and facilities of an oven and a mill. The protection afforded by the fortifications of the castle attracted people to come an live on the hill and thus began the Medieval City, as the lower town became deserted.
Today, Vaison has a wide range of shops, where you will be able to find everything from souveniers of Provence, to groceries at one of the supermarkets on the route de Nyons,
hardware stores, sports stores, a fabulous cheese shop, patisseries and boucheries. Vaison has a many, many restaurants where you will be able to find whatever food you are looking for (see the Restaurant page for some of our favorites). During the summer months, Vaison is lively with concerts (music & dance) as well as live theatre.
The Vaison la Romaine Market, held each Tuesday morning is well worth visiting. The whole town gets involved, as the market winds its way from the banks of the river, through the town and around the Place du Monfort, all the way to the Route de Nyons and the the Roman theatre.