Linking Turin to Avignon, the Via Alta is a legendary route laden with history. Bordered by timeless medieval cities and masterpieces of sacred art, the Via Alta is an intense cultural experience.
Travel Back to Roman Times…
Trace back through more than 20 centuries of history on the Via Alta. This cultural, historical and tourist itinerary which connects Turin to Avignon and Arles, partly follows the route of the Via Domitia. Built by the Romans in 2nd century BC, the Via Alta at the time was a means of establishing the military domination of the Empire over the provinces of Gaul. At the same time, it turned out to be a powerful means of disseminating Roman culture, as evidenced by their ruins in Arles. The Via Alta is today valued by hikers, enthusiasts of religious architecture, and lovers of good food.
..and to Medieval Towns
Along the Via Alta, you will discover sites laden with history, such as the old town of Briançon. Its fortifications, the work of Vauban, have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2008. A little further south, Tallard, with its 14th-century castle, its 17th-century church, and its maze of little streets, is another example of a medieval town whose charm remains intact. At the gates of Provence, Sisteron and its eternal citadel that dominates the Durance, invites you for a timeless break. At the end of the trip, there is, of course, the imposing Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) in Avignon. And Arles : between the famous arenas, the ancient theatre and the Alyscamps, “The Little Rome” never disappoints.
Deeply marked by Christianity, the Via Alta is studded with architectural jewels. Its path passes many basilicas and five cathedrals. Take a break at the Abbaye de Boscodon, near the Lac de Serre-Ponçon, remarkable for its extremely austere style. Drop by the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-du-Réal in Embrun too, the largest religious building in the French Alps. Further south, the Basilique Saint-Anne in Apt, baroque in style, houses Christian treasures, including Saint Anne’s veil.
Fancy a museum visit? In the town centre, the Musée Départmental de Gap houses an archaeology room – where objects and tools showing human activity in the region since pre-historic years is on display – and a collection of ceramics and paintings. In L’Argentière-la-Bessée, the Musée des Mines retraces the history of the nearby mine, in operation since the tenth century. Lovers of religious art, you will find what you are looking for behind the doors of the Musée d’Art Sacré in Monêtier-les-Bains. On the Provence side, make your way to the Musée du Verre et du Vitrail (the Glass and Stained Glass Museum) in Gordes, which boasts a beautiful collection of coloured glass panels on display.
A Burst of Flavours
Making your way along the Via Alta also means enjoying the flavours of the Alpine and Provençal terroirs. In Briançon, Névache and Saint-Véran, take a break in one of the many bistrots de pays or gourmet establishments of the Alps. Further south at the stalls of the Provençal markets, the sunny scents of herbes de Provence and seasonal vegetables waft, a delight for your senses. Let yourself be tempted by a Michelin-starred restaurant or by a cooking class, which will reveal all the secrets of local gastronomy to you.