East of Avignon and north of Aix-en-Provence, the Luberon is one of the most celebrated areas of Provence. Vertiginous hilltop towns and villages stand proud above olive groves and neat lines of vines, and the rhythm of daily life is much as it has been for generations. This is old-style France but with a truly international appeal.
“The Luberon is an exceptionally natural area,” says Christine Conrad of Savills associate Valancogne & Partners. “You can drive between villages without seeing any built-up areas. It’s very rural but hosts summer festivals and concerts and is less sophisticated and less Parisian than the neighbouring Alpilles — it attracts wealthy people looking for a less showy life.”
HILLTOP VILLAGE HOMES
The Luberon is much larger than the Alpilles, generally quieter and more seasonal, with property prices around 25 per cent lower. Connections are good, with Marseille airport within one hour and the high-speed train station at Avignon within 45 minutes, offering direct services to St Pancras in six hours and 40 minutes.
Gorgeous Gordes is the region’s epicentre but Ménerbes, Roussillon, Bonnieux, Oppède and Lourmarin to the south are all notable. Typical village homes have honey-coloured stone and smooth vaulted ceilings and lie up against each other. They were built to be cool in the heat of summer so some can be dark and some have little outside space or no parking. Yet these remain sought-after homes.
“All hilltop villages are expensive now,” agrees Conrad. “A small and simple unrenovated house of 1,000 to 1,600sq ft in Bonnieux would start from £256,000 but as soon as it is modernised it would reach £682,000.”
Four miles from Gordes, Cabrières d’Avignon is outside the “Golden Triangle” of hilltop villages but still very much sought after with international buyers, says Conrad. It has a bakery, a grocer’s shop, butcher and restaurant, and a population of 1,400.
A restored village house in Cabrières d’Avignon with an old olive tree in the front garden is £746,000. It has three bedrooms, a swimming pool, good mountain views, and is on the market with Savills.
In the centre of Ménerbes, a restored and character-packed three-bedroom house over three floors with an unusually large amount of outside space is £929,000, also with Savills. Avignon is 40 minutes away and the shops of Coustellet are 10 minutes by car.
A three-bedroom house with separate two-bedroom guesthouse in the medieval village of Lauris, 30 minutes from Aix, is £553,000 with Second Home.
LIVING AMONG THE VINES
Better value can be found on the edge of the Luberon in the flatter agricultural land around Cavaillon and L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Large farmhouses and smaller cottages here might lack the romance of hilltop properties, but the upside is a comfortable and spacious home in a peaceful setting.
A beautiful old stone farmhouse with blue shutters in the foothills of the Luberon between Cavaillon and Cheval Blanc, with thick, cooling walls and 3,552sq ft of living space, is £1,022,000 with Savills. It has a large heated outdoor pool and gardens with outbuildings and barns.
A handsome, 18th-century, five-bedroom farmhouse in the south close to Lourmarin, 20 miles from Aix, is £554,000 through Leggett.
WE LOVE THE PACE OF LIFE, THE WEATHER, THE PEOPLE
John and Annie Lupton from the New Forest had a holiday home in Nice for five years before they decided to make the move from Hampshire to the Luberon.
Eleven years ago they bought a ramshackle 15th-century property in Cabrières d’Avignon and over 15 months transformed it into a fabulous family home with two self-contained gîtes across the pretty cobbled courtyard.
“We like the pace of life, the local markets, the people and the weather,” says Annie. “It’s just a lovely area and a thriving busy village surrounded by gorgeous countryside. You can walk and cycle through the vines and olive groves or canoe on the Sorgue. The local produce is exceptional and we all focus on eating seasonal food.”
Annie’s comfortable gîtes at La Vieille Maison, featuring monogrammed French linen sheets and thick antique cotton curtains, are available to rent from April to September. Prices start from £760 a week.