Medieval town, spectacular site
www.sisteron-tourisme.fr. Sisteron clings to the left bank of the River Durance. Its setting is spectacular, the medieval town crowded beneath a forbidding citadel, faces the Rocher de la Baume, a monstrous rock formation on the opposite bank. At mid-point on the Route de Napoléon, the Emperor approached this fortified gateway town with trepidation, but was greeted by cries of “Vive I’Empereur!”, and gained several recruits to the cause.
Partially-destroyed by Allied bombing in 1944, the oldest part of the Citadelle dates from the late-12thC. It was built on the site of an even earlier stronghold, and the massive fortifications were added in the 16thC. A marked trail scrambles around the various levels, pointing out historic landmarks such as the tower where the future king of Poland, Jean-Casimir, was imprisoned in 1639. A 15thC Gothic chapel has been rebuilt and graced with fine modern stained glass windows. From the viewing table you can take a bearing on the distant Alps, and the Guérite du Diable (Devil’s Lookout) perches on a sheer cliff with views across town to the Rocher de la Baume. During the summer Nuits de la Citadelle festival, music, dance and drama productions are staged in the citadel’s open air theatre.
By-passed by a tunnel bored under the citadel, the town centre is worth exploring. Facing allée de Verdun, three towers belonging to the 14thC town walls still stand; the Proven√ç¬µcal Romanesque former cathedral, Eglise de Notre-Dame, dates from the 12thC.
If you plan to stay in town for a couple of days, and fancy a diversion, the Centre Equestre Cante I’Abri at Vil-hosc (10 km E via D4/D217/D17, tel. 92 61 38 15) organizes pony trekking; or take to the air with gliding instruction from the Union Aérienne Sisteron Durance.