Simiane-la-Rotonde was added to our initial list of potential locations and it didn’t disappoint. Positioned on a promontory of the Albion plateau above a sunken plain planted with lavender fields in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, we arrived following an afternoon rain. Carole, the manager of the hotel where we stayed, treated us as her special guests and we practically had the village to ourselves.
Narrow alleyways wind upward to an 11th Century castle and the recently restored Rotonde. Built by the noble Agoult-Simiane family, it contains artefacts from recent excavations conducted within the castrum, including a series of cornices and sculpted heads. The Rotonde may be one of the most interesting architectural wonders we visited in France, with a ribbed dome ceiling that spirals upward into a skylight. There is an odd mix of whimsy and religion throughout Simiane-la-Rotonde and it wasn’t unusual to see a pair of sculpted metal spiders climbing the side of a wall next to a house displaying a painting of the Virgin Mary. The 16th Century Church Sainte-Victoire sits at the base of the village and the Spanish influence is evident. Considered a Cité de Caractère, Simiane-la-Rotonde is a magnificent example of a Provençal hilltop village.
The question is whether or not it fits the story of our film and the answer is a qualified yes. A two-hour drive from Marseilles and the Mediterranean coast makes it an easy place to get to and there are several hotels that could accommodate the film’s cast and crew in the surrounding area. The cooperative attitude of the townspeople is certainly a plus and I believe they would welcome a film production to their beautiful village.