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Villages/Towns - Comparing Tuscany to Provence

Villages/Towns - Comparing Tuscany to Provence

Old Nov 13th, 2011, 07:20 AM
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Villages/Towns - Comparing Tuscany to Provence

I'm trying to get a feel for the towns/villages of Provence.

How do San Gimignano, Cortona & Riomaggiore (I know this isn't in Tuscany) compare in size and flavor to Les Baux, Gordes Roussillon, Bonnieux?

Maybe this will help me select/prioritize.
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Old Nov 13th, 2011, 09:22 AM
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Well, I've been to San Gimignano, Cortona Riomaggiore and
Roussillon and Bonnieux. They are all wonderful in their own way. San Gimignano definitely has a more 'touristy' feel and is busier than most hill towns in Provence. Roussillon and Bonnieux feel a bit more isolated than some of the more popular Tuscan hill towns. Size wise, they are on the same scale as some of the smaller Tuscan towns like Cortona. The scenery is somewhat similar in both areas, although in general I feel that for beauty Tuscany has a slight edge. I also prefer the food in Tuscany. That being said, some of the areas in the Luberon hills of Provence are amazingly beautiful, and hill towns like Roussillon and Bonnieux are stunning and a joy to visit.
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Old Nov 13th, 2011, 10:32 AM
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Have been to all of the towns you mention and I'm not sure how to compare them. Riomaggiore is a seaside town so really doesn't compare to any of the others except that it, too, is charming. I fine Tuscany different in many ways than Provence but all are charming, pretty towns in a beautiful countryside, about the same size and all are worth visiting. Have you been to both Provence and Tuscany? Can you compare them? As Zootsi says, San Gimignano is pretty touristy. Otherwise, it's hard to compare.
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Old Nov 13th, 2011, 10:56 AM
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Have been to most of them also but started in Italy first and fell in love with it first-you know how first loves can be. When DH and I started to explore Provence, we found ourselves constantly comparing them. We found ourselves liking places that reminded us of Italy but I have to give a slight edge to Roussillon, Lourmarin, Gordes. But then there's Arles.

But wait, we're leaving out Gubbio, Spoleto, Orvieto and Assisi-are they Tuscany or Umbria? Spectacular places. If you add those names, I'd give the edge to Italy.

How long do you have to travel?

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Old Nov 13th, 2011, 11:54 AM
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In your 2d paragraph, all those towns are in Umbria.


Be aware that for many years Italians swore up and down they would never follow the French into turning their small antique towns into shopping marts for tourists just to pay the rent, but in the end, the "Year in Provence" model of quaint-town-bopping was so lucrative, they couldn't resist marketing "Under the Tuscan Sun" to tourists, and France took a big hit when it didn't support the Iraq war, and Italy became the American favorite. The real guessing game is which small Tuscan towns most tried to ape the Provence model of tourism?

I don't know how much you are interested in French history, but perhaps one way to prioritize would be to select towns on the basis of which would give you the greater understanding of France.
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Old Nov 13th, 2011, 12:36 PM
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I think we may be a little less interested in history and more interested in wandering through the streets of towns.

What's important is partly the views within the towns and partly the views from the towns.

Yes San Gimignano is touristy. But unlike many people I consider myself a tourist. So looking for an empty town so that I can say I went somewhere that isn't touristy isn't what we're looking for.

Then again, when a place is so crowded that you can't walk through the streets, that isn't pleasant.

To me, the most beautiful small city is Brugges and most beautiful large city is Paris.

But I can go to New York and wander through Central Park each morning taking photos then take a subway to Brooklyn and walk back across the Bridge.

Or, rent a bike in Vancouver and spend several hours riding around Stanley Park.

Or I can get up early in the morning and drive up and down Mount Norquay in Banff looking for and finding bears to photograph.

So to summarize, we are a little less interested in ancient history (though a little is ok) or spending the day in museums and more interested in wandering though towns and/or cities. They don't have to be large or small but a smattering of both would be great.

We very much prefer to not have a car though that could be possible. We've never rented one in Europe and have done just fine.

We could take one or two minivan tours to a few of the difficult to get to places but I'm a bit afraid that 4 places in 5 hours including driving might allow for 15 minutes in each place. The idea isn't to just check names off a list.

Thanks so far.
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Old Dec 29th, 2011, 12:41 PM
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We have been to all of towns and also started in Italy first and fell in love with it. We have rented apartments in Cortona and Lucca for a week each and did day trips from those towns. We took the train to Riomaggiore and hiked to 4 of the 5 villages in a day trip. It was spectacular scenery.

We also rented a gite in Roussillon for a week, loved it there and day tripped to the towns you listed. Our favorite Provence towns are Roussillon, Gordes, Lourmarin, Bonnieux, Les Baux.....

It's too difficult to say which is our favorite since it's usually the most recent place we've been (2010 was Provence, this year the Dordogne, which we liked more than Provence). In any event, I don't think you can go wrong but having a car is almost essential to get around some of the smaller towns which is part of the enjoyment and charm.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2012, 03:24 PM
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Thanks. I've included most of what you mentioned.

However, my wife definitely doesn't want us to rent a car.

I realize that puts me at odds with some but we worked around it quite well in Tuscany and I expect we'll do the same in Provence.

With some planning and flexibility I've been able to put together the places of interest to us. The only problem of course, is the Luberon perched villages. I may hire a driver for a day for Gordes, Roussillon, Bonnieux and possibly Lacoste.

We can visit Les Baux from either Arles or Saint-Remy. It just has to be on a Saturday or Sunday.
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