Var (83690) Population: 472 Altitude: 650 m
Tourtour is a picturesque little village in the central Var, northwest of Dragignan and southeast of the Lac de Ste Croix. It's a compact village of Medieval houses, with a long, shady central square, two old chateaux and other ancient sights, and welcoming cafés, restaurants and shops.
Tourtour is one of the Most Beautiful Villages (Plus Beaux Villages) of France.
Along the south side of the Place des Ormeaux, café-restaurant tables surround a pair of tall olive trees. These oliviers replaced a pair of enormous elms planted in 1638 when Anne d'Autriche stopped here on her pilgramage to Cotignac. The square is named after those now-gone elm trees (ormeaux).
On the opposite side of the same square, more terrace café-restaurant tables are shaded by a row of tall plane trees.
A storybook 16th-century chateau with four round towers sits at the southeast end of the village. This pretty, Medieval castle houses the Tourtour town hall (Mairie) and the post office. Up until 1970 it was also the village school.
This ancient chateau, once called the Chateau du Raphélis, was purchased by the commune in 1952, and is now called the Chateau Municipal. The chateau facade was "restored" in 2001, covering the exposed-stone walls with a colored cement "crepi". It's now prettier, but not universally appreciated. [We have photos of both versions; let us know what you think.]
There's another Medieval chateau, at the north end of Tourtour, called the Chateau Vieux. This "Old Chateau" has a pair of round towers and is clearly visible along the northwest side of the village. The Old Chateau houses an art gallery, but is otherwise closed to the public.
Out at the southeast end of the village, where the Romanesque Eglise Saint-Denis sits a bit higher than the village, there's a panorama panel and a magnificant view out across the surrounding countryside.
The hillsides are all forested, and you can identify distant, lower villages with the help of the "table d'orientation", and if it's clear you can the Maures, the Luberon, Ste. Baume and the Ste. Victoire near Aix-en-Provence. Tourtour is nicknamed the "village dans le ciel", or village in the sky; viewed from afar it seems to sit on top of the horizon dominating the rest of the landscape.
There's a 17th-century olive-oil mill (Moulin à huile) on Rue des Moulins, at the far western edge of the old village. When olive oil production diminished in the region, this one mill was kept as the communal mill. It was renovated in 1934 and again in 1949.
The Tourtour olive-oil mill is today open in the summer as a living-mill museum and an art museum. During the winter olive season, mid-December to January or February, it's still used as a functioning communal olive-oil mill for local growers. The mill is open to visitors during this period.
On the rue de le Lavoir along the north edge of the village is a very nice lavoir, fed by a small stream that flows along the edge of the road. The source of the water is a spring by the Chapel Saint-Rosaire about a km northeast of the village. The water is so fresh, its temperature varies no more than three degrees between summer and winter.
History of Tourtour
First record, 4th century: Pontus Tortorii; 12th century: Tortor.
Prehistoric: There are traces of prehistoric man at Arquinaud.
Gallo-Roman: this region has been inhabited since antiquity. There are Gallo-Roman ruins at Colombier, Evoué, St. Pierre and Treilles. In the small Vlorièye valley alone there were five oppidums and a Roman guard post. The Aurelian Way (Voie Aurélienne) passed by, and can still be seen about a km east of the village.
Medieval: In 739, Charles Martel met the Saracens. In the 12th century, the Cistercian abbey was established at Esprains and then Florièye; this was later moved to Thoronet, where you can see it today. In the 13th century, the Seigneurie des Blacas ruled, followed by Puget and Esparron. In the 17th century, five Seigneurs (Lords) shared the rule.
Aug (1st Sun) - Fête folklorique
• GPS: 43.589303, 6.302249
IGN (1/25,000) #3443 OT "Aups Salernes"
There are several hiking trails in the hills and valleys surrounding Tourtour, with many loop possibilities. Some of the trails pass through the line of villages: Sillans, Salernes, Villecroze, Tourtour and Ampus. The forested hills to the northwest and southeast are also have several marked trails.
Tourtour has a good selection of restaurants, café-restaurants, and tea-shop types of places to eat, most with shaded outdoor terraces. If you prefer to "do-it-yourself", there are picnic tables beneath the trees in front of the church, on the low hill with the observation table.
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.)