L’Isle sur la Sorgue, France
An Island City in Provence
L’Isle sur la Sorgue is exactly what the name suggests: an island in the middle of the Sorgue River.
Venice of Provence
It is also known as the Venice of Provence.
There are many excellent reasons why this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Provence.
The historic section of the city is located on the island between branches of the Sorgue River. The city does extend to the mainland where most of the population of 20,000 resides.
Local crafts and industry
Since ancient times, the waters of the Sorgue, both abundant and dependable, have provided the driving force for local crafts and industry.
Flour mills, spinners, weavers
The watercourses have allowed the installation of flour mills since the twelfth century. Spinners and weavers in those times brought their fabric for final treatment to mills powered by water wheels, powered by the river.
Blankets and Paper
In the 13th century the mills produced sheets known as ‘blanquets’ which were used to cover beds. Today we know them as blankets.
A paper-making industry developed in the late 14th century.
Water wheels have existed since the 13th century. The city had up to 66 water wheels at one time. Today, seventeen water wheels remain. They are spread over the many branches of the Sorgue waterways.
Most Wheels are Decorative
These wheels are little more than decorative now. The oldest among those remaining dates back to the 1800s.
It is fascinating to see them in action.
One Factory, One Family
Only one factory—Brun de Vian-Tiran—remains on the island. Owned by the same family since 1808. This factory carries out the complete chain of production — spinning, weaving and finishing of blankets, throws, quilts, stoles and shawls.
High Quality fibers
All products from this factory are produced from high quality fibers sourced worldwide: Merino wool, Mohair, Alpaca, Llama, Camel, Cashmere, Silk, Yak… and especially Merinos d’Arles Antique. The latter is a local wool considered the finest in Europe. This wool is an exclusive product of Brun de Vian-Tiran.
This city has become a paradise for antique dealers and shoppers. Since 1978 its Sunday antique market has been famous in the region. There are more than 300 dealers and many permanent stores selling antiques.
Internationally Renowned for Antiques and Art
Today L’Isle sur la Sorgue is internationally renowned for the large number of antique dealers spread over the city (open especially on weekends) and its numerous art and painting galleries.
Twice a year, at Easter and August 15, more than 500 antique and second-hand dealers meet here to present their treasures to customers from all over the world. (check COVID update at end of article)
Sunday markets on the island are well-known. Fresh produce, deli items, wines, crafts, used clothing, objets d’arts, attract hordes of people and tourists. They browse through the narrow streets.
Willy Ronis (1910-2009) was one of the greatest and well-known figures of the so-called “humanist” photograph movement in France. He captured people’s daily lives in photographs.
One of Willy Ronis’ famous photos is of the Café de France on L’Isle sur la Sorgue. Ronis spent much of World War II living discreetly in the South of France to avoid the roundups of Jews in Occupied Paris. He returned to Paris after the city’s liberation in the summer of 1944. He died in 2009 at the age of 99.
Ronis’ famous Café de France photo Then
Unfortunately, there are many temporary closures on the island due to COVID. For the current status of the virus in L’Isle sur la Sorgue, check out this website.
Sights and Sounds of Provence
see another blog from France
More info on the area
Travelled: Fall, 2018