St-Saturnin-les-Apt

 

Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt has a dominant position on the Monts de Vaucluse facing south towards the Luberon. A wealth of architecture spanning roman times to 19th century makes this village worth a detour.

The first appearance of a defensive castrum was in 1009, and the rest of the village grew from there. Above modern-day St Saturnin is a spit of rock aimed at the heavens, with the ruins of the castle (very ruined), and the Romanesque chapel (c. 1050) right at the top, which looks close to toppling off the edge altogether. It is not the most inviting chapel, being part defensive in structure, with some of the castle still attached to it, and I have never found it open. But the walk up here is worth it for the great, broad view over the Luberon valley. For photography come early or late so the sun is not in front of you.

A surprise: to the side of this rocky spur is a little lake suspended above the village – most unexpected sight in the Luberon. On closer inspection you will see this is a dam to collect rainwater from the slopes, which used to be the village’s water supply.

When you walk the streets of Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt look out for a number of strikingly beautiful doors and ornately carved doorways, especially along rue de la Republique in the centre.

St Saturnin is noted for its delicious cherries, and for other appetites there is no shortage of restaurants in and around the village. The 16th century windmill on the heights above is a reminder of the important role played by food production in building this village: as well as cherries – wine, lavender, olives and truffles. The oak-covered hills around are obvious truffle country, and it was here that someone first tried to grow truffles - you may see his statue in the village, depicting a man holding a truffle. His name was Joseph Talon and he is the father of trufficulture.

A population of English ex-patriates have chosen St Saturnin as their village, no doubt because it satisfies the criteria any visitor would enjoy: it is a very attractive place but not visited by tour buses; there are good places to eat and gather, it is alive year-round; and the town of Apt, with its mega-market on Saturdays, is close by.