It Takes a Village

The vineyards, lavender fields and rocky hills of the Luberon are hot, and not just because of the Provençal sunlight. Adored by epicures, fans of Peter Mayle's bestseller "A Year in Provence" and celebrities who keep homes there, Provence is ever-lustrous, but its more famous hamlets are busy enough that now may be the time for Lacoste, a medieval hilltop village that has escaped some of the hubbub.

These days Lacoste's old-world ambience is enhanced by a happy association with the Savannah (Ga.) College of Art and Design, which arrived in Provence about three years ago to take over the Lacoste School of the Arts. The school, founded in 1970 by American artist Bernard Pfriem, is now a beehive of activity thanks to students of painting, sculpture, photography, print making, art history and other artistic disciplines. Around the village, their work can be found tucked into courtyards, along winding staircases, on rooftops and in wine cellars. The school also mounts exhibitions of established artists.

But the master project is the village itself, whose 500- to 600-year-old structures are being restored by students and faculty. The college, which has helped restore Savannah's vintage architecture, has installed student housing, a dining hall, studios, a computer lab and classrooms throughout the village. A recent coup is a warren-like library in an old boulangerie, where the sleek new décor goes surprisingly well with the onetime bakery's medieval nooks and crannies.

With a population of less than 500, a handful of restaurants and a couple of excellent bed-and-breakfast inns nearby, Lacoste is less touristy than such Provençal meccas as St. Remy and Fontaine de Vaucluse. There is also the château where the infamous Marquis de Sade took refuge after scandalizing Paris in the late 18th century. It's now owned by designer Pierre Cardin, who produces a summer music festival staged in the quarry that gave Lacoste its creamy stone. In this village, art appreciation is pretty much unavoidable.

Savannah College of Art and Design-Lacoste, Rue du

Four, 84480 Lacoste, France; 011-33-4-90-75-80-34, .