“Benvengudo au Plan de la Tourre”
From the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, a narrow road winds up through the cork oaks before swooping down to a plain and vineyards where the village has taken root. Acutely aware of the riches of its terroir, this typical and very lively Provencal municipality looks to the future and is determined to maintain its exceptional lifestyle in the heart of the Massif des Maures, a stone’s throw from the sea. At first glance, this small town does not seem very big until you walk round the alleys discovering the church’s campanile, fountains, the presbytery and wells of yesteryear. Beneath the plane trees in Place Foch, a Provencal market adds a lively splash of colour on Thursdays, and shops are open every day including Sundays. You can absorb the ambiance at Quatre Chemins where locals sit in the sun swapping tall stories! And yet you are far from having made the “tour” of this unusual municipality.
No less than 25 hamlets !
Plan de la Tour is not a mere visit; it’s a journey of discovery. Extending across quite a large area, the district boasts a unique feature for this region - 25 tiny hamlets scattered across the deceptively steep-sided hills. Each has its own character and way of life and it is always a joy to venture out in any season to seek out the pearls in this treasure trove of place names: Les Brugassières (where the heather grows), Préconil, Vallaury, Vernet (where the alder tree grows), Prat Bourdin or Revest where the horses run free. It is not uncommon on the many forest trails to come face to face with a buzzard or the elusive fox, or to be accompanied by a donkey on your walk. Dotted about are numerous traces of the past dating back to prehistoric times.
Wild nature: land of discovery
Would you like a preview? The Gorgues path is an easy walk accessible to all and gives you a taste of all that the commune has to offer: for example its vineyard, hamlets and two menhirs standing proud at a bend in the stream. Everywhere there are footpaths criss-crossing the landscape, beckoning you to follow them. You can climb from the plain to the top of one of the many hills. You get a better idea of this world apart from San Peïre, at an altitude of 416m: a paradise for hiking, mountain biking, horse riding or meditation… each to his own form of transport !
Traditions celebrated all year round
Traditional festivals mark the eternal rhythm of the seasons; in March Corso floats covered in white heather, at the end of April plants and olive oil, in May Saint-Pons blesses animals and all things agricultural, and in the summer months evening markets, dances and the Festival dans les Vignes performances. In September, when the grapes have already ripened on the vine, it’s the turn of the Vigne à l’Époque Romaine to be celebrated. The mulled wine festival heralds Christmas as the hamlets put up their lights and prepare for the lantern parade and famous Grande Veillée when all the locals gather around the cacho fue.
A little history
The village of Plan de la Tour was created in 1792 as a break-away settlement of the eastern side of La Garde Freinet. The biggest hamlet at the time was Saint-Martin. In 1835, it grew to cover more than a thousand hectares of the western part of Sainte-Maxime. Man has been leaving tracks since the Neolithic era in the menhirs (see the Gorgues circuit) and dolmens. In the Middle Ages, the various seigniories that made up the region belonged in turn to viscounts from Marseille, the Saint-Victor abbey, monks from the Lérins islands and in the 13th century to the Cistercians from Thoronet Abbey. The 25 hamlets in the municipality today represent the final phase of the re-conquest of the territory in the 16th century by the Thoronet monks.
Saint-Martin church and its remarkable campanile, including the old presbytery, now partly divided into artists’ studios and for exhibitions. The restored old districts with cobbled streets; Saint-Pierre chapel and its large fig tree growing out of the stones; the 25 hamlets that make up the municipality; the Prat Bourdin menhir
The little hamlet of Forge offers a delightful view of the village, vineyard and circle of hills that surround it. And the road as it swings round from one hillside to another offers some very characteristic images of the wild, often sparsely inhabited Maures hills
A stroll in the village
From the Tourist Office walk down to Place Foch as far as Place de l’Oranger then take Rue Saint-Martin as far as the site of the old wells. Pick up Rue Pasteur and stroll round the back streets leading up to Place Clemenceau where the Mediterranean hackberry trees provide much needed shade to the church. Visit the open exhibition in the former presbytery before going through the porch to Rue de l’Horloge for a great view of the church’s campanile. Return via Avenue du Général Leclerc as far as Foyer des Campagnes. For a longer stroll, explore the cobbled streets of the Emponse district several hundred metres on the right.