Along this Roman road that once linked the Alps to Spain, you will discover a route that is rich in history. From the joys of the mountains to the spiky Alpilles, you will experience the beautiful diversity of Provençal landscapes on this Via Domitia itinerary.
Depart: Italian border, Montgenèvre
The Col de Montgenèvre is the departure point for your Via Domitia itinerary. Named after its creator, the Consul Cneus Domitius Ahenobarbus, this Roman road was used from 120 BC to facilitate the conquest of the south of Gaul. Since then, a lot of water has run through the Durance – and only a few vestiges of the Via Domitia remain. Use your imagination and the historical markers that mark its route to plunge into Gallo-Roman history
Briançon and Mont-Dauphin
Descend the hairpin bends of the N94 to Briançon. From the road, you will spot its Vauban fortress through the gaps in the conifer forest. Continue to another Vauban fortress in Mont-Dauphin. Along the way, make a bucolic stop at the drinking water fountain in the charming village of Les Vigneaux, the starting point for exceptional hikes in the preserved Massif des Écrins. Finally, explore the town of Embrun and the discreet Romanesque Abbaye de Boscodon, the last stops before you arrive at the Lac de Serre-Ponçon.
Lac de Serre-Ponçon to Sisteron
Cross the Lac de Serre-Ponçon - an artificial expanse of water which did not exist in Roman times! – via the Pont de Savines-le-Lac. A bit further along the N94, the town of Chorges, formerly named Caturigomagus, is a former border post. As far as Gap (Vapincum), the route of the Via Domitia can be seen on the map, as it corresponds to the roads linking current towns. Take a short break in Tallard to visit the old village. Then head to Sisteron, whose Citadel seals off the territories of the Alps and Provence from each other.
On the way, you will follow a section of La Route Napoléon (Napoleon’s Road.) After the rocky barrier of Sisteron, the mountainous echo recedes in favour of Mediterranean vegetation. At Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban, take a right and follow the signs marking the way to the Prieuré of Ganagobie. Until you hit Lurs, you are on the tiny D30, which offers an incomparable panorama over the Durance Valley. The Via Domitia Itinerary crosses the Buès on an arched bridge, 10 metres high, which has been restored several times. Southwest of the peaceful village of Lurs, you’ll find the Chapel of Notre-Dame-des-Anges, founded on the old Gallo-Roman settlement, Alaunium.
Dive into the Luberon by the D462, head for Forcalquier and cross the villages of Mane and Céreste, formerly Catuiacia. Don’t forget to follow the sign for the Tavernoure milestone, on the left after Mane. This place is the site of an ancient roadhouse. Today, the one-metre-high milestone casts its shadow on fields of cereal.
The Pont de la Baou
Just before Catuiacia (sorry, Céreste) the Prieuré de Carluc is worth a detour, even if the road to it is rather precarious. In passing, stop in front of the Pont Romain de la Baou bridge, a Roman-style bridge built in the 18th century and classified as a historical monument. After Céreste, head to Viens, a medieval village perched on a hillside. Take the D33 to Gignac, then the D179 as far as St-Saturnin-lès-Apt. These smooth, less-traveled roads are a delight!
Continue as far as Gordes, enjoying the landscapes of lavender fields and olive trees peppered with typical stone Provençal farmhouses. After this route through the winding roads of the Luberon, return to civilisation in Cavaillon, formerly Cabellio. The city that is famous for its melons is located at an ancient crossroads. Many ruins can be found here, including a triumphal arch and an aqueduct. The Via Domitia Itinerary crosses the Durance to the southeast of Cabellio.
Saint-Remy and Tarascon
You will arrive in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and cross a wide, windy plain. As you leave the town from the south, stop at the Glanum archaeological site. Then, push on to Maussane-les-Alpilles. The magnificent scenery of the Alpilles will lead you to the base of the mountain range. End your journey in the historic town of Tarascon. Here, the Via Domitia crosses the Rhône before continuing its route as far as Spain.