Aups is the truffle capital of the Var. The highly prized fungus is harvested locally by trained truffle hounds and eagerly sought by all the chefs of the region. Throughout the winter season, between November to February, there is a truffle auction every Thursday morning in the main square, and a big truffle fair is held in January. There are other delicacies on offer – Aups is also known for its honey and goat's cheese, and olive oil can still be bought from the mill where it has been made since the 18th century. A regular market takes place every Wednesday and Saturday and local dishes to savour include game birds and lamb roasted with herbs.
The town is situated at the foot of the Espiguières hills and fragmentary ruins suggest it was once on the Roman road to the Alps, hence the name. It is a beguiling town of tinkling fountains and winding medieval streets with squares and esplanades planted with shady platanes. Parts of the original ramparts can still be seen and a gateway, Porte des Aires, which still bears evidence of its portcullis.
There is a fine clocktower, the tour d’Horloge, with a campanile and a sundial. The church, the Eglise St Pancrace, is 15th century Provencal Gothic - though much mutilated during the wars of Religion, it has some fine stained glass windows. It is most noted for its inscription on the Renaissance doorway: Republique Francaise, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, celebrating the local Republican resistance to the coup d’état of Louis Napoleon in 1851. For a week the Provencal peasants descended from the mountains to defend their Revolutionary rights but they were severely punished, deported or killed. A monument on the esplanade commemorates their action.
Aups has its own modern art museum, the Musée Simon Segal, located in a former Ursuline convent, with many works by the Russian artist and others from the Ecole de Paris. Just outside the town is the 12th century chapel of St-Victor surrounded by cypress trees where there are musical performances in summer, and troglodyte caves of Villcroze, now fashionable residences. Aups also makes a good starting point for exploring the Gorge de Verdon, which can get very crowded in the summer months but makes a wonderful adventure out of season.
•Every Wedesday, Saturday - Marché Provencale
•Truffle market (Thursday mornings, late November-February)
•End Jan - Fete de la Truffe
•Every March - Carnival
•2nd Sunday May - Fête (Sunday before 12 May)
•3rd Sunday Aug - Fête (Sunday before 15 Aug)
Copyright © 2011 Rosemary Bailey
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