©Loïc Lagarde
Itinerary by train

From Mediterranean to The Alps


Follow in Paul Cézanne’s footsteps in Gardanne and Aix-en-Provence, celebrate the memory of Jean Giono in Manosque, discover the citadel in Sisteron and hike in lush green landscapes between Provence and the Alps… All aboard for a train journey from the Mediterranean to the Alps.

ItineraryDuration1 day or more

Visited Places

Stop 1Gardanne

Just 35 minutes by train from Marseille, Gardanne is a land of energy which was a mining town in the late 19th century. Bauxite, the red rock characteristic of Provence was mined there. As you come out of the station, walk to the foot of the Colline des Frères. You can see reproductions on slabs of lava, of the pictures of Gardanne painted by Cézanne. The walk continues up to the top of the hill which is dominated by three 16th-century windmills. And now for a wander around the little streets of the old Provencal town, with their warm-coloured houses. And a dive into the atmosphere of the market (Wednesday, Friday and Sunday morning) which is one of the biggest in Provence.

Stop 2Aix-en-Provence

Just a short walk from the station, the beauty of Aix-en-Provence, a town of art and history and a gem of architecture, is within easy reach. Stroll towards the majestic fountain of La Rotonde which is the entrance to the old town. Then walk up the Cours Mirabeau, the heart of Aix-en-Provence which is dotted with fountains, private mansions and the terraces of many cafes. From there, you can explore the old centre with its meandering cobbled streets before reaching the Pavillon Vendôme and its classical gardens with their soothing atmosphere. And last but not least, you can visit the studio of the painter and native of the region, Cézanne.

Stop 3Meyrargues

Nestling on the hillside, the village de Meyrargues offers a wide panorama over the green Durance valley and the Luberon mountain. The village is dominated by an imposing 10th-century chateau built on a rock. Make the most of this break in the hinterland of Provence and have a restful walk to the remains of the Roman aqueduct which once supplied Aix-en-Provence with water. To get there, take the Route du Cimetière which starts in a valley just below the chateau. This is also the start of many hikes.

Stop 4Manosque & Gréoux-les-Bains

Now you’re heading for the gentle calm of Manosque. Here, the memory of Jean Giono, the famous Provencal writer who was born here, is still very much alive. In his books, he always paid homage to the charm of Manosque, a small town made up of narrow medieval streets, little squares with fountains and andrones (covered passageways between the houses). You enter into this pretty maze of the historic centre through Porte Saunerie, to the South, or Porte Soubeyran, to the North. After having explored the old town, walk onwards to the Centre Jean Giono, and its permanent exhibition on the life of the author. Your day continues with a visit to Le Paraïs, the house where Giono lived and wrote practically all his books, from 1930 and 1970. Another must-see: La Fondation Carzou, dedicated to the painter of the same name and where the colour green dominates.

Stop 5Sisteron

From the train on its way to Sisteron, which is the limit between Provence and the Alps, you can see another green: the green of the water of the River Durance. When the train arrives at Sisteron station, you immediately see the imposing citadel standing proudly high in the distance. After a short walk, you can actually touch it, or rather walk around it from stairways to terraces to reach the wall walk and then the dungeon. Down below, you can make out the maze of the old town’s little streets which are also well worth a visit. A hike to the Trou de l’Argent or – for the more athletic – around the Montagne de la Baume nicely rounds off the last stage of this train journey from the Mediterranean to the Alps.

Train Stations