Two mountain peaks tower steeply above Moustiers Sainte Marie, France; and from an iron chain stretched between the two peaks shines a golden star. The five-pointed star’s origin is typically obscure and is the subject of polite dispute. It is popularly attributed to the returning Crusader Baron Blacas, miraculously freed from Saracen captivity and eager to make a permanent, dramatic, 13th century gesture of thanks. The star is periodically refurbished, and has become a symbol of local legend and history.
Set high in a ravine above the stunning Gorges of Verdon, this old town offers other, equally vivid glimpses of Medieval Provence, as well as of the contemporary hilltown arts and crafts scene, beautifully expressed in the classical-style pottery ateliers for which Moustiers-Ste-Marie is so well known.
The Old Town is one of the most romantic of the entire area, with a rich variety of centuries-old doorways and ceramic fountains. One village hallmark is the three-story Romanesque belfry of Moustiers Ste Marie’s 14th century parish church; take the trail leading up to 10th century Chapel of Notre Dame de Belvoir for an incredible view out over the Verdon Gorges. Be sure to see the Pottery Museum, and the Riou waterfall, but if you visit in high season, expect very crowded village streets and limited parking. In Moustiers Ste Marie, both its spectacular natural setting in the Gorges and its famed local faience shops and studios are big draws for tourists.
Hikers and naturalists may enjoy the spectacular Gorges scenery from numerous special viewpoints along the carefully maintained and clearly marked trails; alternatively, rent a 4X4 for an unforgettable day-long drive along a circular route where Moustiers-Ste-Marie may be your starting point, or your mid-point stop for a great lunch.
Delicious local cuisine, lavender-scented alpine air, and heart-stopping scenic photo ops are yours when you visit this surprising gateway town, improbably straddling the rushing Riou River and sporting a golden star high above its picturesque streets.
Written exclusively for EuropeUpClose.com