Pezenas is located in the Herault department in the Languedoc -Roussillon region, between the Bas-Languedoc coast and the Herault hinterland. This spectacularly pretty town, with its protected 17th century town centre and over 70 listed historical buildings, is a visual treat that retains its old charm.
To get to Pezenas by road take the Route nationale 9 Lyon/Barcelona, and get off at Agde-Bessan exit. If arriving by train there is a high speed connection – the TGV- which you can take from Paris Gare de Lyon to arrive at Agde or Beziers. For those who wish to fly, Beziers Cap d’Agde Airport is nearby and has plenty of connections to UK airports. In addition there are several other airports, Montpellier, Nimes, Perpignan and Carcassone, which all provide easy access to Pezenas.
The name of this old town is said to derive from the name Piscenae, which has its roots in the Latin word meaning fishpond. Legend has it that there was a huge lake behind the chateau that was full of fish and it is therefore fitting that the inhabitants of Pezenas are thus known as Piscenois. So, like many other French towns Pezenas too has its origins in ancient Roman settlements. Afterwards it was known as a trading town since it belonged to the Capetian royal estate and it grew in wealth up until the 15th century, holding 5 trade fairs a year. In the 17th century the town became the home of Armand of Bourbon and the place was a political capital as the seat of local Government for the Languedoc region. It was at this time that Pezenas’s most celebrated inhabitant, the illustrious playwright Moliere, graced the city, deciding to frequent the town with his l’Illustre Théâtre troupe. In the 19th century the region’s agriculture underwent a change and wine became the primary agricultural income. At the beginning of the 20th century there was a wine crisis, which threatened the area, but in 1965 Pezenas became the beneficiary of a national preservation programme. This is why today there are so many magnificent restored buildings and monuments to see.
The city, famed for its antique shops, is full of artisans and craftsmen, skilled in all sorts of specialties such as, leatherwork, glass blowing, sculpture, painting, metal work and making diamond jewellery. Just as Pezenas was a favourite haunt of Moliere, the old town is just as popular with troupes and street performers today, who are attracted by the artistic nature of this town. It is in summer that the town comes to life hosting the Mirondela de l’Arte. One of the most beautiful buildings that must be visited in Pezenas is the ‘Hotel d’Alfonce’ in Rue Conti, which is where Moliere regularly performed. Another historic monument that deserves a visit is the church of Saint-Jean-de-Bébian.
• Take a guided tour of the town and learn more about its fascinating history. In the summer months there is even a night time tour. Equally if you want to wander at your own pace there is the option of visiting with an audio guide and maps are always on sale in the tourist office.
• Throughout the summer enjoy various craft evenings on Wednesdays and Fridays or sip on fine wines at wine growers’ evenings on Fridays.
• Experience traditional French markets on a Saturday.
• Visit a variety of exhibitions and art galleries and see what you can acquire from the numerous antique dealers in the town.
The trademark food of this little town is ‘Le petit pate de Pezenas’ which is a small pie in the shape of a cotton wheel, made of crispy pastry that is sweet inside but can be eaten both as a savoury dish, as an hors d’oeuvre, and as a dessert. It is said that the recipe for this little pie originates from Lord Clive who returned from India in 1768 with this culinary delight and had pastry makers of the town replicate it. Today Le petit pate can be found in almost every patisserie in town. The town is also famous for its delicious boiled sugar sweets, Le berlingot de Pezenas. There are also many fantastic restaurants in Pezenas, such as ‘La Pomme d’Amour’ in rue Albert Paul Allies and ‘Le Bateleur’ in place Ledru Rollin.
Pezenas has a strong viticultural history dating back to the Roman times where large wine storehouses were discovered in Roman countryside estates throughout the region. Even through the architecture of the city, the influence of viticulture can be seen, with the wine grower’s house visible everywhere. The region produces a fantastic array of wines made predominantly from Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah grapes. These three grape varieties are being used more and more in the Languedoc region in order to diversify the Carignan based wines.
‘La Pomme d’Amour’ Rue Albert Paul Allies, (0493499519)
‘Le Nouveau Printemps’ on Rue Calquieres Basses (0467981271)
Pezenas is a wonderful area to enjoy, whether as a holiday or on a more permanent basis.. Discuss all these things with a good local bi-lingual estate agent such as one linked to Sextant properties. We will not only be able to answer your questions and point you in the right direction, but we will also accompany you on viewings. So, once that delicious meal has been digested why not contact them soon.