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My Provence: a Slow Tour in Arles

It is said that each trip is above all a trip in itself, an experience that opens new horizons, introduces new realities, new people and alternative ways of understanding and managing tourism. In Provence for example, between Arles, the Camargue and Marseille, the sustainable tourism sector is progressing at full speed and concerns hotels; Restaurants; natural parks and museums. There is great attention in this segment of Europe towards the environment and its protection. We are interested in the conservation of sensitive areas rich in biodiversity, the promotion of genuine local products, the development of “sustainable” tourism as defined by the World Tourism Organization (ed.).

Sustainable tourism : “Tourism that takes full account of current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, meeting the needs of visitors, professionals, the environment and host communities

Why visit Provence?

The villages of Provence are picturesque, rich in history and have an artistic soul, which inspired painters such as Van Gogh and Gaugain. You can breathe art in Provence on every street corner: in the glimpses of Arles, Gordes and Le Baux de Provence, between the walls of monuments and in these artisan shops, heirs to a long tradition in the treatment woven fabrics with exotic patterns and showy colors. Visiting Provence is an opportunity to appreciate the local gastronomy and wines, preferably organic and at zero kilometres. Do you know Toma di Arles, a creamy fresh sheep’s cheese with an intense taste, an excellent representative of slow food? And what about Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, world famous fine wines, which display the Provençal flag? Join Provence if you want a trip of pure relaxation. You will breathe the scents of a generous and precious nature. You will walk at a slow pace among the flowers of lavender and centifolia rosebush, jalousie and lemon balm. You will admire the landscapes of the Via Rhona. You will stop at the Van Gogh Bridge and step back in time, to the time when the famous artist, right here, put colors, shapes and emotions on canvas.

1st stop, The Historic Center of Arles

Beauty is a simple and “charming” concept

Describing Arles in a few words is a difficult task. You have to live it, breathe its atmosphere, be captivated by its charm. The beauty of Arles is “simple” because it is innate, but magnetic, the result of a past as the protagonist of glorious historical events. It was one of the capitals of the Roman Empire; seat of the praetorian prefecture of Gaul; Episcopal residence and new capital, in the Middle Ages, of the homonymous kingdom of Arles. You can visit the monuments of Arles in a deliciously green way. Just contact Taco and Co, a company specializing in ecological urban transport (and more) that will show you alleys, churches and points of interest aboard an electric cargo bike. The tour is commented between stops includes The Cafè Van Gogh, located Place du Forum, reproduced in the famous painting “Café terrace in the evening”. Pass by the Roman arenas, incredibly similar to the Colosseum, and again by the Place de la République, where the Cathedral of Saint-Trophime stands out. Choose Taco and Co if you love the environment. Your choice of sustainability will go beyond the simple guided tour and will extend to the city of Arles. Separate excursionsthe company undertakes notin waste collection in the historic center.

After the visit, continue on foot and reach the banks of the Rhône, which surrounds the west side of the village. Walk along the ramparts of Arles and access the “secrets” of the city, hidden by the oldest streets and by buildings of worship such as the Notre Dame de la Major church and the Sant’Anna church. An in-depth visit deserves the LUMA Arles, Parc des Ateliers, which hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions by major international artists. The LUMA, designed by Frank O. Gehry and created through the initiative of art collector Maja Hofmann, is itself a work of art. Walking through Arles, it is impossible not to notice the imposing Luma tower, finished with 11,000 stainless steel panels that refract the sunlight and take on shades of a thousand colors. Inside, the “Wall of Salt” project by Henna Burney and Kalijn Sibbel stands out, an installation of 4,000 square panels based on crystallized salt from the Camargue, which covers most of the walls of LUMA. But it is the LUMA terrace that arouses the most wonder.

The panorama that can be admired from above is sublime. and moving: embrace Arles at 360° and caress the contours of the gentle hills of Provence. Conclude the visit to the historic center with an overview of the city’s main museums: the Museo dell’Antica; the Camargue Museum; the Museon Arlaten; the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation and the Réattu Museum.

2nd stage, The Marais du Vigueirat

Camargue my love

The Marais du Vigueirat is a large nature reserve south of Arles, also accessible on foot or by bike via the Via R cycle and pedestrian path.hWheren/a. There Via Rhona is a cycle route that winds between Switzerland and the Mediterranean Sea, along the Rhône, and crosses vineyards, villages, lavender fields and endless plains.

Take via RhWheren by bike (*you can rent electric bikes in the historic center of Arles, from 1 Veloc) it’s one emotion after another. You will admire the Langlois Bridge, known as the bridge Van Gogh, you will breathe in the scents of unspoiled nature but, above all, you will dream of spending a night in the curious boats on stilts located along the river. From there, you will soon arrive at the marshes of Vigueirat, a protected natural site of 1200 hectares, straddling two important ecosystems represented by the Rhône delta and the steppe plain of La Crau. You will be in the heart of the Camargue, a wetland where salt marshes, sea and cultivated fields come together to give life to the habitat of many species of migratory birds.

The Vigueirat Nature Reserve, managed by the Association Les Amis des Marais du Viguerat, will amaze you with the incredible variety of animal and plant species present, from the elegant white storks, which nest there, to the pink flamingos, to the osprey fisherman. The Reserve has more than 2,000 species and offers routes suitable for adults and educational routes for children, horse-drawn carriage rides and many other experiences that allow you to fully experience the beauties of the Camargue.

After visiting the Reserve, take a tour of Domaine Attillon, a wine estate of excellence active in the production of organic wine, surrounded by its own vines in the Camargue. The context in which it is inserted is historic, as is the central structure that stands at the entrance to the estate, made of local stone. The exploitation of the vine on this old property dates back to the 17th century.

The legend even says that Saint Louis, leaving for the crusades, rested under the great oaks of Attilon. Passionate winegrowers, Renaud and Odile de Roux run the Domaine and for many years they have been producing and aging organic wine, respecting the great balances of Nature. With 90 years of certified organic farming, Domaine Attillon cultivates several grape varieties, including Merlot; pinot noir; Cabernet Sauvignon; Chardonnay and Moscato.

In Arles, for responsible tourism

The concerted commitment of individuals and institutions

Arles is a concrete example of how individuals, within the framework of their activities, can act for the development of responsible tourism. Responsible because sustainability and environmental protection are, in fact, everyone’s responsibility, especially in the tourism market and in Provence, the destination of thousands of visitors each year. From restaurateurs to hotels, from tour operators to managers of waste collection and disposal platforms, Arles is full of realities with a 100% green soul. Thanks also to Provence Turisme, which has long been committed to promoting sustainable tourism in Provence and identifying a network of operators meeting the standards set by the Green Key labels, for accommodation structures; Ecotable, for restaurants and Villages Fleuris, for municipalities. Among the concrete actions of Provence Turisme is the creation of a Manifesto for Responsible Tourism, containing a series of specific commitments, planned for the 2021-2023 triennium.

Where to sleep in Arles

L’HMuseum Hotellocated near the Arenes d’Arles next to the Réattu Museum is quite simply enchanting. Housed in a historic building, of which it has preserved the original walls and floors, it is the ideal place to spend a stay and breathe in the magical atmosphere of ancient Arles. The highlight is the interior garden, embellished with bougainvillea plants and many colorful flowers.

Provencal flavors & organic

The O at the Mouthcontemporary style restaurant offering traditional cuisine based on typical local products – Future Cafejust 2 kilometers from the Marais du Vigueirat nature reserve – Camargue social clubin the historic center of Arles, to taste modern cuisine made with typical, fresh and zero-kilometer products – The Refectoryin the Parc des Ateliers: the ideal lunch break during a visit to LUMA Arles.

Friends of sustainability

Take a trip to POP-Arles, a platform open to the public where each activity is marked by the evolution of sustainable development in Provence. At POP-Arles you will take part in workshops for transforming plastic into new objects ready to be reused, in concerts, art exhibitions and you will look at Provence through the eyes of those who work every day for the well-being of the planet.

* This article was produced as part of the Press Tour organized by the Italian Chamber of Commerce of Marseille (www.ccif-marseille.com), with the collaboration of Provence Tourisme (www.myprovence.fr) and the support of the Departmental Council of Bouches-Du-Rhône (www.departement13.fr). Thanks to the interpreter Alessandra Rasetti and Annick Bordeyne from Provence Tourisme.

The article My Provence: a Slow Tour in Arles seems to be the first of the Daily Slow.

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