Also taking place in April, the Great Roman Games
in Nîmes involve a weekend of gladiatorial combat and chariot races in a thrilling reenactment of ancient Rome, featuring participants from France, Germany and Italy in historically accurate dress. Events are held in the town’s spectacular Roman amphitheatre, which was built 2,000 years ago and holds some 24,000 spectators – close your eyes and listen to the roars of the crowd, and you can almost see Caesar holding a thumb up or down.
In May the Cannes Film Festival
, perhaps the most prestigious event in cinema, takes over the Riviera. Official events are of course restricted to industry bods, and if you do catch sight of a celeb on the red carpet it will most likely from a big distance – it may seem the height of glamour but if you’re not in the inner circle there’s little point being in the area. Macé Beach hosts the Cinéma de la Plage, screening Cannes Classics and Out of Competition films free of charge. Bring a picnic and turn up early for a deckchair.
Every June, thousands of sheep are moved to higher pastures, a migration nowadays organised by vehicle, but in the past on foot, a journey that lasted some 10 days. The Transhumance Festival
in Saint Rémy pays tribute to this tradition, and in the town center you can watch as a sea of sheep, donkeys and goats are paraded past by shepherds and their dogs. Kids will love it.
The Chorégies d’Orange
, a prestigious opera festival, is held in August in the town’s ancient Roman theatre, which seats 9,000.
Any number of lavender-themed events take place across Provence in summer, but the Valensole Lavender Festival
in July ranks among the best attended. Expect parades, live music and of course plenty of fragrant purses of dried lavender being liberally handed out.
Between June and September, the Soirees Estivales
sees an eclectic programme of free concerts strung along the villages around Nice. Almost every village will have something on over the summer, so if you’re vacationing and fancy something a little different, check with your host to see what’s coming up.