Nyons & Olives, Northern Provence
Nyons is located in the Drome Provencale in southern France and is a gateway town to les Baronnies, a rugged area of the Pre-Alpes situated to its East. You'll get to explore Nyons if you book on our guided walking holiday Secret Provence: Les Baronnies, when we visit the pretty town on our rest day. It is also the final destination of our self-guided walking tour which traverses through the rugged hills and perched villages of the Drome Provencale.
Nyons is the biggest town in the Baronnies, lying on its western fringes. With a population of 7000, Nyons was once the commercial capital for one on the ruling Barons of the region during the early medieval period. The family had split after a feud in the 12th century, following which two Barons fought to rule over the Baronnies for the next 200 years, the Mevouillon and Montauban. Hence the name of the region, Baronnies. The other Baron had his commercial centre at Buis les Baronnies.
As the former capital of the region, Nyons has retained a great deal of charm with its 14th century Place des Arcades, its 15th century Romanesque bridge over the river Eygues and the remains of its feudal chateau. A former chateau tower has been converted into a small chapel or shrine and from there you have great views over the rooftops of Nyons. Its charm also comes from a number of tiny alleyways which twist through the old town, many with soustrets or underpasses leading into tiny courtyards or into further alleys. Besides its history Nyons has two other great attributes. Firstly it benefits from a wonderful climate, and it is said to be even sunnier than the Côte d'Azur! The height of the summer can be hot, but late spring and early autumn are ideal times to enjoy a walking holiday in this relatively quiet part of Provence. The other feature of note is its olives.
The valleys around Nyons are sheltered from the Mistral wind and ideal for olive growing. The area is the northern-most olive-growing region in the world and olives have been cultivated here since aound the 4th century B.C. La perle noire or ‘the black pearl’, as Tanche olives are also called, have large pits and a thick, meaty flesh. They can be brined, dry-cured or crushed to make a delectable spread known as tapenade. Tanche olives produce some of the most refined olive oil and in fact, the oil from these olives was the first in France to be granted the A. O. C (appellation d’origine contrôlée ) certification in 1994. The oil from the Tanche olive has a slightly nutty flavor, and makes an excellent ingredient in dressings and for cooking traditional Provence dishes.
Nyons is also in a region of northern Provence which grows lavender and the town is often bathed in the wonderful scent of lavender. Our independent walking holiday traverses the Drome Provencale which is covered by a patchwork of forest, pasture and lavender. In addition, around Nyons you'll discover the vines of the Cote du Rhone Villages AOC with the wines of the Vinsrobes village a few kilometres to the south being some of the finest wines in the area. The Vinsobres is a fruity red wine made from a mix of grape varieties with Grenache and Syrah being the main two types used.