Côte d'Azur - The Via Julia
Over seven days, we explore the Roman sites and cities along the great road called the Via Julia Augusta. The road began in Arles, one of the foremost Roman provincial cities in the region, then ran south across France and into Italy. Our journey includes mighty works of Roman engineering, and the sites of earlier Iron Age tribes and Greek settlers. One of our highest-rated tours in 2014, it offers a panoramic exploration of Roman and Gallic life in the South of France. John Shepherd explores the Roman origins of the sparkling Côte d’Azur. Much more than a playground for the rich, the area is profuse with archaeology. April is an excellent time to explore the South of France, with very pleasant temperatures and spring in the air, but well before the peak tourist season.
- Follow the route forged by the Romans from their newly acquired territory in southern Gaul, along the French coast towards Italy
- Mighty Roman monuments, extraordinarily well-preserved, as well as the history of the Gauls who preceded and lived alongside them
- Glorious scenery of the Côte d’Azur - sun, sea and the Romans
- Historic Churches
- Ancient Greek
- Special Access
- All Inclusive
We arrive in Marseille and transfer to our hotel in Arles. En-route we stop at the Museum of Antiquity. The museum is home to monumental Roman sculptures and an ancient Roman boat.
We spend today in golden Arles, a city on the Rhône and one of the major power centres of Roman France. It became the capital of all Gaul in the 4th and 5th centuries AD and was the western terminus of the Via Julia Augusta. We visit well-preserved Roman monuments including the amphitheatre, theatre, the Church of St Trophime and an underground portico that once supported the forum.
We begin our day at Barbegal a water-powered Roman mill with sixteen waterwheels fed by an aqueduct. We continue to the St Chamas Bridge which carried the Via Julia Augusta over the River Touloubre. After lunch, we step back into the Iron Age at the town of Entremont. This important pre-Roman settlement once held a shrine to the grisly Celtic cult of the severed head.
This morning we take a stroll towards La Bourse Gardens. En-route we pass the ancient harbour and witness the local fishermen selling their fresh catch. We also explore the Marseille History Museum.
We continue to the Roman Docks Museum, a former shipping warehouse which houses many ancient artefacts. We enjoy lunch as a group and then have the rest of the afternoon at leisure, perhaps a perfect time for shopping or to relax by the harbour.
This morning we enjoy a lovely drive east along the coast to the pretty town of Fréjus. Formerly Forum Julii, this small town was one of Caesar’s colonies. Agricola, the Roman general responsible for much of the conquest of northern England, was born here. Before lunch, we visit the aqueduct, amphitheatre and the Gate of Gauls.
This afternoon we have a talk by local specialists who take us to see many excellent remains here, including the Roman fishponds and Cathedral. After, we travel to the elegant city of Nice where we will check into our next hotel and enjoy dinner as a group.
We drive to Ventimiglia where we discover the rock shelters of Balzi Rossi, a site with some very early evidence of man’s occupation in the region. Next, we have arranged access to the Roman site of Albintimilium, introduced by local archaeologists.
We enjoy lunch a leisurely in the centre of Ventimiglia, immersing ourselves in traditional French cuisine. This afternoon we visit Forte dell'Annunziata Archaeology Museum, which is dedicated to Girolamo Rossi. He was a great scholar who lived between the 19th and the 20th centuries, and was also a great protagonist of Western Ligurian archaeology.
On our final morning we head for Cimiez and discover its archaeological zone. The ruins here include an amphitheatre, theatre and Roman baths.
We continue to Beaulieu-sur-Mer and the recreated Greek Villa Kerylos beautifully set overlooking the sea. We ascend to the Trophée des Alpes, the highest point on the Via Julia Augusta, marked by Augustus’ monument celebrating the conquest of the mountain tribes, to view this extraordinary monument overlooking Monaco.
We fly home this evening.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
2 nights in an elegant, traditional hotel in historic downtown Arles, just a short walk from the amphitheatre
2 nights in a luxury 4* hotel in Marseille, just across the road from the historic Old Port
3 nights in a 4* hotel in Menton, overlooking the bay
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