Cotignac is a worthwhile day trip into the Provençal hills from the Côte d’Azur. Situated about 20 kilometers north of Brignoles off the A8 autoroute through rural terrain, Cotignac is in the Var department. With a population of around 2,000, Cotignac has numerous natural attractions as well as a scenic commercial area.
Even though it’s considered a perched village, Cotignac sits at the base of a majestic rock formation. This formation is composed of tufa (porous calcium rock). The cliffs are full of holes and caves that housed troglodyte dwellings in ancient times. At the top of the highest part of the cliff sits a pair of square medieval towers, Les tours Sarrasins, that served as lookout towers in the 12th century.
Entry into Cotignac is over a small bridge that leads to the long tree sheltered street ascending towards the old quarter. The lengthy and shady Cours Gambetta is lined with small boutiques, restaurants and cafés. Fountains are plentiful– I counted 17– as is outdoor seating under the leafy plane trees. What a scenic place for enjoying a refreshing pause during the day!
Further up the street past the commerce, is the historic quarter with its houses from the 16th and 17th centuries. The Place de la Mairie is also home to the town hall, a tall narrow clock/bell tower and the Romanesque Saint Peter’s church. Follow the narrow path under an archway to meander higher up the rocky slope to get a closer view of the ancient dwellings and a sense of how life was lived long ago.
Besides exploring the village and admiring the architecture, both man-made and natural, there are numerous hiking trails in the area. One trail leads out of town for about six kilometers to la Cascade de Sillans, a glorious 42 meter high waterfall. The surrounding terrain contains numerous vineyards open for a visit or a tasting.
Nestled again a dramatic backdrop, Cotignac is full of surprises, and definitely merits a visit.
Photo credits: All photos by Jo Anne Marquardt except top image “The Village Square in Cotignac” by Technob105/ Wikipedia
Jo Anne Marquardt is the author of My Trip Around the Hexagon: Meandering in France and Falling in Love with France, both available at Amazon.com. Her first published book, Falling in Love with France, offers responses to the various questions friends and family have asked her over the years about why she visits France so often. The second book includes illustrations and descriptive notes from her travel journals.
Visit Jo Anne’s website to check out her art: www.joannemarquardt.com.