Provence is renowned for its unique and very special typical products, which reflect the character of this wonderful region. Indeed,Provençal handicrafts seem to draw on simple things, the earth, the colours and scents of nature, tradition and popular customs, which are jealously guarded here and preserved from modernity and the passing of time.
We strongly advise you to avoid the countless souvenir shops you will find on every corner in favour of the popular markets and small craft shops, a riot of colours, scents and unique flavours, whose charm you will not be able to resist.
Obviously, lavender has pride of place on the list of typical Provençal products. You will often find it, not only in the numerous artefacts that are made from its fragrant, tiny spikes, but also in the colours used in fabrics and furniture. The most common way to find lavender is in small bags filled with its dried flowers, which are wrapped in colourful fabrics and placed in cupboards and drawers. Lavender perfumes are also widespread and you will find them almost everywhere.
Provence is also the region that has been home to a very old perfumery tradition that sees its birthplace in Grasse. The perfumers of Provence in fact supplied the courts of France in the golden ages of the Empire, using the skilful art of blending the fragrant scents of the many flowers and plants that enliven the Provençal landscape. One fragrance among all is orange blossom water, to be combined with lime and mallow bath foam.
Another typical product is Marseille soaps, in all fragrances, shapes and colours, including olive oil soap, which is excellent in quality.
Provence draws the beauty of its products from its territory and poor materials.
Ceramics, for example, range from faience and earthenware vessels to classic Moustiers porcelain, from stoneware objects to Provençal cribs made from clay and cloth. The Santons in fact are the wonderful characters that animate the cribs, with attention to every detail.
Provençal ceramics are famous for their bright colours that always draw on local nature themes even for their subjects, such as the cigale, or cicada, olives, lavender and ochres. You will find plenty of ideas for decorating your home among plates, salt and oil cruets that will brighten up your table.
Olive wood, a plant that covers the soil of Provence, becomes the raw material for many everyday objects such as kitchen utensils and plates.
Another product you will see everywhere are fabrics: Provençal cottons have conquered the world with their iridescent colours, whose designs belong to ancient folk traditions. They are sold by the metre or made into large multicoloured skirts, shawls, shirts, tablecloths and’boutis‘ (hand-quilted bedspreads), from Orange to Tarascona.
Provence is a triumph of Mediterranean gastronomy, rich in traditional flavours, ancient ties with the land and unusual combinations.
In addition to extra virgin olive oil and olives, you can take home many tasty products, from orange, almond, lavender honey and hazelnut jams to tapinade, or pâtés of all kinds, from aromatic mountain cheeses to spicy sauces for fish soups, from brandade de morue, or cream of cod, to almond desserts and wines and liqueurs.
For an in-depth look at Provençal food and wine, we refer you to the page What to eat in Provence.