advertisement

47km (29 miles) SE of Avignon; 37km (23 miles) NW of Aix-en-Provence; 53km (33 miles) NW of Marseille

The hometown of Nostradamus is located between Aix-en-Provence and Avignon, and is often overlooked by tourists on their way to Salon-de-Provence's better-known neighbors. It's their loss, as it's an attractive town of tree-shaded boulevards and medieval squares, with an air of quiet affluence.

The town originated as a hilltop fortress centering on Château de l'Empéri. During the Middle Ages its economy relied on tanneries and fields of saffron. In the 15th century it began to prosper, thanks to its native black olives, which were used to make soap by the 19th century. As the soap factories multiplied, its owners turned their wealth into handsome mansions that now give the town an elegant appearance. At its height there were 14 factories; now there are only two, both of which are open to visitors. More recently, Salon-de-Provence became home to the French Air Force's officer training school.

Salon-de-Provence was the also birthplace of Adam de Craponne (1527-76), creator of the Canal de Craponne that diverted water from the Durance River in order to irrigate the otherwise arid region of Crau. The town is an excellent base for exploring the countryside around the canal and along the Durance valley, as well as routes around the region's enormous inland lagoon, the Etang de Berre.