Not to be confused with the Roussillon that is within the Pyrénées Orientales, this ochre-coloured village in the Vaucluse (Provence) puts on an appealing hill-top display, especially set against the backdrop of a snow-clad Mont Ventoux. It lies between the Luberon Hills and the gorgeous Monts de Vaucluse.
Roussillon is renowned for the varied ochre colours of its rocks, which feature in many of its houses and other buildings. Ochre from the Vaucluse is of such a quality that it has made France one of the major producers of the pigment in the world. For good measure, Roussillon is designated one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France.
The village is an agreeable place, its main street rising to a cluster of restaurants and bars, while artwork and the production of pottery, both of which have a vibrancy of colour that is even more intense than that normally associated with Provence, has a strong place here. Ochre has been used since prehistoric times, and was mined by the Romans. However, ochre only became a widespread, industrial product in the late 18th century when Roussillon-born Jean-Etienne Astier advanced the idea of washing the ochre-laden sands to extract the pure pigment.
Wandering the narrow streets, stairs and squares in Roussillon opens your eyes to the array of natural pigments used throughout the village, and the age-old understanding of how to use this generous natural gift. In Roussillon, so the tourist office tell you, man has long worked in harmony with nature. The streets of Roussillon are home to many art galleries, displaying works by talented artists which draw the eye of art lovers, collectors and passers-by.
Visitors can discover the story of the ochre sands by following the Ochre Trail – the Sentier des Ocres – a path through the ochre lands that has been laid out and marked. The trail takes you through the earth pillars and hills carved out by water, wind and the hand of man.
In Roussillon you can also learn about the industrial history of ochre in the area by visiting the Ochre and Colour Conservatory “Conservatoire des ocres et de la couleur” in the former Mathieu factory on the D104 road, on the way to Apt. This former ochre plant offers tours, classes and information on the use of ochre.
Office de Tourisme
de Roussillon en Provence
Place de la poste, 84220 ROUSSILLON
Tel: 04 90 05 60 25