Nyons has been a holiday town since the XIXth century. Nowadays it is the main entrance way to the Parc naturel régional des Baronnies Provençales.Being protected from strong wind by middle height mountains (Essaillon, Garde-Grosse,Saint-Jaume and Vaux), the spot located in the Drôme Provençale area is credited with an exceptional micro-climate, with the sun shining for 2700 hr per year. That is why it is called “Petit Nice” with its local “Promenade des Anglais” as well as in Nice.
Olive oil and other products of the soil
Ever since very ancient times black olive of the “tanche” variety has been cultivated here. It is a rustic sort that can bear up to -10° C. temperature. The average annual production amounts to 250 000 kg olive oil and 350 000 kg black olives. Since 1994, the area has been entitled to specifically mention two OP (“protected” origins) : AOP olive noire de Nyons and AOP huile d’olive de Nyons. It covers 53 different villages or farms and 260 000 olive trees. A thousand “oléiculteurs” (olive-tree owners and workers) with 7 olive mills and a co-operative center, plus 40 confectioners are preserving the old means of culture and specific preparation.
Vineyards and wine names are “Côtes du Rhône Villages”, “Côtes du Rhône » and « Vin de Pays des Côteaux- des- Baronnies » (Baronnies local wine).
Way of life
In Nyons way of life, the “pétanque” game is the first class entertainment. To support it, there is a Regional Center for “Boule Sportive” and Pétanque and the society named “Olivier International”.
Another specific element is some very dry, local breeze called “Le Pontias” , blowing from the South-East, whose origin you can find in legendary tales. It brings fresh air into town, winter and summer as well.
You cannot mention Nyons and omit its famous “Pont Roman”. It entered the list of the French Historical Monuments in 1925. Its one arch, 18 m. high and 43 m. long, spans the river Eygues.
It was Inaugurated in 1409 by the Vaison bishop. You can still visit the old mills dating from XVIIIth and XIXth centuries, as well as an old soap manufacture built on the bank of the river Eygues, at the bottom of the bridge.
In the North town quarter, the feudal chateau is to be seen, but not visited, as it is now private property. Not far from it, the Randonne Tower (or Bon Secours Chapel) stands out against the sky.
Built on an old castle keep there is a three storey pyramid of archways ornamented with statues, which is the 24 m. high base of a monumental, colossal statue of Ste Mary, the Virgin. The tower was called after its builder, Randonne de Montauban, in 1280.
Nyons, the town where Barjavel was born and educated.
Nyons is the town where the author René Barjavel, lived as a child between 1911 and 1923. The school he attended has become the present Nyons Archeology and History Museum.
In Nyons, you will also find the last manufacture of scourtins which are big flat filters used to press the olives down and pull the oil out. It was founded in 1882.
The weekly Nyons market belongs to the old local tradition too. It offers the whole variety of the local rural production and attracts thousands of visitors in Summer.
The « Pays de Nyons » is part of the Baronnies provençales, a middle height (about 1600 m.) mountainous territory. Though dotted with numerous passes, transfert from a valley to the next one has always been difficult. The land is in fact divided into a multiple partition of valleys, each of them often interrupted by synclinal basins and fertile stretches of land.
The low parts are cultivated with olive grooves, vineyards, lavender fields and orchards consisting of apricot, cherry, apple and pear trees. Hill and mountain versants are covered with oak-trees, Norway and black pine-trees, Juniper trees, Box-trees and Genista. The country-side is dotted with perched villages and remote farms. Lots of villages do not count more than 100 residents ; in 25% of them the population is hardly 50 inhabitants. But rural exodus seems to have come to a stop. Both Nyons and Buis-les-Baronnies do have an ascending population curve now.
The lime-blossom ( Buis-les-Baronnies market is famous for it), lavender plants, other perfumed flowers as well as medical and aromatic production are side by side with a few sheep and goat flocks, the milk of the latter being famous as the basic element to make picodoncheese.
The truffle (melanosporum) production is another specific activity of every Baronnies village between 500 and 1000 m. of altitude.
In Baronnies provençales, the landscape variety and beauty are the main factors that attract nature lover tourists. They can also enjoy a whole set of cultural and sports activities. Places where to stop and sleep (hotels, camping-sites, “gîtes and chambres d’hôtes” as well as unexpected and/or “naturist”spots) are many and well distributed.
The Baronnies provençales “Parc naturel regional” was created on December 8th, 2014, by the French Minister of Ecology, Durable Development and Energy. With its centre fixed in Vinsobres, it includes 86 small towns and villages. Its aim is to protect all sorts of vegetal and animal life, including Griffon Vulture, Deer, Wild Boar, Eagle Owl, green Lizard, Hare, Chamois, Lynx and Wolf.
A touch of History
Traces of man’s presence here date back to the most ancient times. At the keltic period, a federation of Gallic folks, the Voconces, invaded the Prealps area and settled there.
At Gallo-Roman times Nyons was attached to Vaison city. From the sarcophaguses and other remains found, we know that an agglomeration had formed there since very remote Antiquity.
St Césaire founded the Nyons free monastery that kept active until the XIVth century and was in the direct possession of the Archbishop of Arles.
From XIth to XIIIth century, the Barons of Mévouillon and Montauban, whose properties were situated a long way from the Emperor’s, became more and more influent and powerful. Hence the present name “les Baronnies” to designate the area as a natural and historical part of the Dauphiné region. A century later the “Delphinal” château was built.
Around 1550 and all along the religion war period, the region was not exempted by the amount of massacres and atrocious crimes committed then. The citadel overlooking the town was built and the Delphinal Château destroyed. Nyons turned to become an important Protestant high place from about 1570 to 1628 (the Nantes Edict, due to King Henry IV, allowing Protestants to practise their religion dates back to 1578).
But as a consequence to the numerous fights between the Protestants and Roman Catholics of the time, King Louis XIII (1610-1643) ordered that Protestants high places, when not built on the French borders, should be destroyed. Richelieu laid siege to La Rochelle, a capital Protestant High Place in 1628 and eventually won after a 13 month long fighting period. Nyons citadel was pulled down in 1663 (under King Louis XIV reign). This very troubled period came to an end when King Louis XIV signed the repeal of the Nantes Edict in 1685 which banned the Protestant religion and forbid the Protestants to freely practise it.
More recently (1940-1944), within last war period, the Resistance against the German occupation was as sharp and active as up North in well-known Vercors.