Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is a charming village lying on the bank of the Sorgue River. The locality was built around its source in a dead-end valley at the feet of the Vaucluse plateau. Named after the famous and abundant water source nearby, it is surrounded by chalky hills 230 to 240 metres high. The village is located near the hilltop villages of the Luberon, which makes it a prime tourist destination.
Watch this short video on the Luberon!
We visited Fontaine-de-Vaucluse on a beautiful sunny day in May. Our visit lasted half a day. However, we could have spent a whole day there if we had had time to go up to the castle and spend more time visiting the museums and paper-making workshops.
I strongly recommend that you avoid the peak season if possible (July-August). It is better to visit the village on a nice weekday in spring or autumn. There will be far fewer people and you can enjoy the site peacefully (and park your car easily!)
Plan your trip
- 🛏 Find the best accommodations in the Luberon on Booking.com
- 🚙 Rent a car in Avignon or Marseille-Provence Airport
- 🙋♀️ Get the PASS CÔTE D'AZUR and take your pick from more than 100 amazing experiences!
- 🤩 Visit the beautiful Provençal region of Luberon
- 🚐 Join a 6-hour tour of Lourmarin, Bonnieux, Roussillon, and Gordes by air-conditioned minibus
- 🥗 Experience a black truffle hunting tour in a Luberon plantation
- 📚 Read the DK Eyewitness Provence and the Côte d’Azur Travel Guide
- 🗺 Download the touristic map of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
- 🚻 Public toilets are located near the town hall (mairie) and by the car park on avenue Robert Garcin.
- 🚗 The car parks are located in the village and are subject to a charge. More info...
The name of a French département
The village used to be called Vaucluse, from the Latin “Vallis Clausa”, aka the remote valley. It gave its name to the département of Vaucluse. Until 1946, it was known as Vaucluse-la-Fontaine but changed its name to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse in reference to the water source nearby.
The legend of the fountain's secret
This legend written by Frédéric Mistral tells the story of a minstrel, Basile, who was asleep on the way to the fountain when he saw a nymph appear.
The old minstrel Basile, who had gone off to make the girls of Isle sur Sorgue dance, fell asleep in the shade one hot day on the Vaucluse pathway. A nymph appeared, who, as beautiful as the clear wave, took the sleeper's hand and led him to the edge of the basin where the Sorgue flowed.
Before them the water opened up and let them descend between two walls of crystal liquid to the bottom of the abyss.
After a long subterranean race, the nymph, in the middle of a smiling meadow sown with supernatural flowers, stopped the minstrel in front of seven large diamonds. Lifting one of them, she made a powerful jet of water gush out.
Here, she said, is the secret of the spring of which I am the guardian, to swell it, I remove the diamonds, at the seventh the water reaches 'the fig tree which only drinks once a year' and she disappeared, waking Basil...
What to see in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
The Romanesque church
The Church of Saint-Véran-Sainte-Marie occupies the site of a pagan temple dedicated to a water divinity.
According to legend, Saint-Véran delivered the region from a fearsome monster, the Couloubre.
Born in Vaucluse, Véran was bishop of Cavaillon and died in 590 during the Council of Arles. The crypt houses the sarcophagus of the Saint.
The church is in the Provençal Romanesque style of the 11th century, and is one of the oldest in the diocese of Cavaillon.
It is a small Romanesque building, with a single nave covered by a semicircular vault with a cul-de-four apse.
The sanctuary is remarkable for its simplicity and hides many treasures, including a copy of a painting by Nicolas Mignard (1661) and an altar table carved from marble dating from Roman times.
In Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, one can find remains of the bishops of Cavaillon’s castle and a column from 1804, erected for Petrarch’s 600th birthday. From 1339, the Italian poet and humanist had made Fontaine-de-Vaucluse his favourite retreat.
Francesco Petrarca, known as Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca, known as Petrach (Pétrarque in French) was born on 20 July in Arezzo. He was the son of Ser Petracco, a notary in Florence.
Petrarch lived the first seven years of his life in Tuscany but then followed his family to Avignon where his father had to leave.
Following his father's wishes, he studied law for four years in Montpellier and two years in Bologna.
In 1324, the death of his father freed him from this tedious obligation. Having befriended two members of the Roman Colonna family, he was introduced to the papal court in Avignon, where he met with great success due to his lively mind and his charm and beauty.
He settled in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse from 1337 to 1353, where he wrote his most beautiful sonnets.
The romance with Laura
History records that he met Laura of Noves for the first time on 6 April 1327 in the church of Sainte Claire in Avignon while attending the Good Friday service. Love at first sight was immediate but one-sided. Indeed, Laura was married to the Avignon gentleman Hugues de Sade and remained virtuous.
From then on and until his last breath, he would sing about her. His delicate verses of great elegance and modern intonation, love always being a universal and timeless theme, make him the ancestor of the Romantics as well as the heir of the Provençal singers of courtly love, the troubadours. Alas, in 1348, Laure died of the plague in Avignon.
A lover of Provence
Petrarch divided his time between worldly life and his pleasures at the Court of Avignon and Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, where he had retired to find peace and quiet. He was aware to the charm of nature and the Sorgue, whose banks inspired a famous song.
In his letters, he also wrote about the life and nature of Provence, he spoke of the shepherds and fishermen of the Sorgue and recounted his ascent of Mount Ventoux with his brother Ghérardo in 1335.
Petrach left Fontaine-de-Vaucluse for good around 1353 for Italy and settled in Aquà Petrarca, near Padua (today twinned with Fontaine-de-Vaucluse).
He was found dead, with his head bent over a manuscript of Homer on 19 July 1374.
He was the first of the great humanists of the Renaissance, scholar, historian, tireless researcher of ancient manuscripts and of course poet ("Canzoniere" and "Triunfi").
The François-Pétrarque Museum-Library occupies a house which might have been built on the site of the house where the poet lived. The museum exhibits drawings and prints on the theme of Petrarch and Laura of Sade as well as old editions of the poet's works and those of his successors.
Place de la Colonne
The granite column that stands in the centre of the Place de la Colonne was built opposite the fountain's chasm in 1804 for the 5th centenary of Petrarch's birth.
In 1827, it was transferred to the centre of the village, to the Plantade area, which has since become the Place de la Colonne.
Also, the town-hall borders the square.
Climb the outside stairs to the first floor to enjoy a beautiful view of the shady square.
Next to the town hall is a drinking water fountain which was dedicated to a healing god.
The bridge and the paddle wheel
The shady square of Place de la Colonne is adjacent to the bridge over the Sorgue river. It offers one of the most beautiful views of Provence.
The paddle wheels (roues à aubes) and chimneys of the old factories are witnesses to the industrial era of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.
The paper mill
The paper mill (moulin à papier) still makes paper in the form of rag as it did in the 15th century. The Vallis Clausa gallery, which also contains numerous craft shops, is worth a visit.
The Right Bank of the Sorgue
On the other side of the bridge is a cluster of old houses with colourful facades. This area gives access to the Petrarch Museum and to the path that leads up to the castle.
The castle of the bishops of Cavaillon
The ruined castle overlooking Fontaine-de-Vaucluse belonged to the bishops of Cavaillon and dates from the beginning of the 13th century.
The fortress is perched on the immense rocky outcrop that surrounds the Sorgue resurgence.
The castle dates back to the 1030s, but the present ruins date from the early 13th century. It was in this castle that Francesco Petrarca (aka Petrarch) visited his friend, Philippe de Cabassole, bishop of Cavaillon. This is why the castle is sometimes called Petrarch's castle.
Today, the ruins contribute to a most romantic picture in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.
The water spring of Fontaine de Vaucluse
A walk to the spring
A visit to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse cannot be done without a visit to the source of the Sorgue.
From the village, the round trip is about 2 km (1.2 miles) long.
This is a walk we did in May, when there were few people on the site.
You pass by the tourist shops and you can imagine that this place is very touristy in high season.
The path follows the course of the Sorgue upstream.
The walk took us to a haven of peace where everything was calm and peaceful.
The forest by the water is made up of centuries-old trees: alder, ash, weeping willow and plane trees.
As for the water of the Sorgue, it was shallow, of a beautiful turquoise colour and of an incredible transparency.
We enjoyed a snack break by the turquoise waters of the Sorgue.
Over the last 300 m, the slope becomes a little steeper and the pebbled path can make it difficult to pass with a pushchair.
Arriving at the Karst spring
The spring is reached at the top of the slope.
At the time of our visit (May), the spring was at a very low level.
In winter and early spring it can look like this:
So, the time of year to admire it is winter, spring and autumn, of course after heavy rains!
The 'Fontaine de Vaucluse'
The resurgence was named "Fontaine de Vaucluse", like the village downstream (except without the dashes).
At the foot of an abrupt 230 metres cliff, the Fontaine de Vaucluse is the largest spring in France and the fifth largest in the world, with a flow of between 630 and 700 million cubic metres.
The site was a place of ritual offerings in ancient times. Over 1,600 coins from the first century B.C. to the fifth century A.D. were found on the site.
The well goes 305 metres underground and receives the water from Mount Ventoux, the Vaucluse plateau, the Albion plateau and the Lure Mountain. Interestingly, it excludes waters from the Byre Mountain north, the Luberon and the Synclinal of Apt in the south.
Find out more about Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
Holiday accommodation in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and surroundings have a high capacity for holiday accommodation. The commune has hotels, bed and breakfasts (covering all price ranges), estate agencies offering seasonal rentals and gîtes.
Click here to book your accommodation in the Luberon or browse the map below:
On the blog and other websites
Here are some pages from our blog and other websites to find out more about this Provencal destination.
What to do in the Luberon
Be inspired by a list of things to do in the Luberon:
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More photos of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
Here are some photos of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse taken during our last visit in May.
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