Toscane d'Auvergne, Billom
©Toscane d'Auvergne, Billom|Benjamin Vallet

Billom, Lezoux, land of crops and ceramics

Billom and Lezoux, two towns to discover in the Livradois-Forez region, very close to Clermont-Ferrand. In addition to its rich medieval past, Billom is also the capital of pink garlic. As for Lezoux, it’s its expertise in ceramics dating back to Gallo-Roman times that allows you to step back in time and admire the finesse of the creations of that era at the Musée de la Céramique de Lezoux.

Billom, a medieval town in Auvergne and capital of pink garlic

Billom, histoire d’aulx
Billom, histoire d’aulx
Billom, histoire d’aulx

Even in the 19th century, Billom was known as “ the town of markets “, because here, everything could be bought and sold: butter, eggs and cheeses, livestock of all kinds, poultry of all feathers, as well as wood, clogs, bacholles, earthenware pots, hemp, woollen yarns and more. At the same time, the cultivation of hemp was gradually replaced by that of pink garlic.

Indeed, the Limagne plain is a perfect terroir for growing garlic. The region’s clay-limestone soils, combined with a favorable climate, give Billom garlic remarkable gustatory qualities. Recognized as a flagship town in this field, Billom is not only the center of garlic cultivation, but also of garlic preservation and packaging.

The short distance between fields and processing centers ensures superior freshness and quality of garlic, grown without artificial preservatives. It’s these special conditions that have made Billom the capital of pink garlic, a title the town proudly retains today.

Discover pink garlic of Billom

During the summer months, why not stock up on pink garlic direct from the producer? Sébastien Bourletias, a four-generation producer of pink garlic, offers direct sales on his Espirat farm. In August, he also organizes demonstrations of pink garlic braiding (visits by appointment).

Are you seduced by the gustatory qualities of Billom pink garlic? Then don’t miss the Foire à l’ail. Every August 2ᵉ weekend, the city of Billom hosts the Garlic Fair. An event that has become a must for both Auvergne garlic fans and its producers. 200 exhibitors and 60 retailers attract nearly 20,000 visitors every year.

Soup recipe with garlic

1

List of ingredients

  • 2 liters of soup for 2 heads of Billom pink garlic
  • ½ liter of milk
  • ½ liter water
  • 2 marrow bones
  • 3/4 potatoes
  • olive oil, bay leaves, salt and pepper
2

Preparing garlic soup

  • Step 1:
    Dull garlic heads. Bring whole garlic cloves to a boil in ½ milk and ½ water. Cook gently for 10 minutes. Then drain the water and remove the skin from the cloves by pinching with your fingertips.

  • Step 2:
    Brown the Billom pink garlic paste in olive oil, taking care not to burn it.

  • Step 3:
    Make 2 liters of stock with two marrow bones and two bay leaves. Cook 3/4 potatoes to be mashed.
    Moisten the resulting mixture with the bouillon gras. Add the mashed potatoes. Stir. Return to the heat and simmer for a few minutes. Serve with garlic croutons.

  • Step 4:
    Enjoy with a bottle of Côtes d'Auvergne.

Lezoux, a history of ceramics

Lezoux, céramique et sigillée
Lezoux, céramique et sigillée
Lezoux, céramique et sigillée

The history of Lezoux goes back much further. Its adventure with ceramics began inGallic times, around the 1st century BC, although only one potter’s kiln from this period is attested to date. The arrival of the Romans marked a decisive turning point, and Lezoux became a hotbed of activity for the manufacture of a wide range of ceramics, from tableware and culinary ware to terracotta building objects and religious votive offerings. Among these creations, sigillated ceramics stand out, recognizable by their orange-red hue and relief decoration.

These pieces, decorated with mythological or floral scenes, bore the names of their creators, testifying to the importance of the artistic signature at the time: more than 1,200 potters’ names have been listed. Lezoux sigillas, a prized and quite luxurious tableware, were exported throughout the Roman Empire, thanks to a well-established distribution network. However, with the end of Antiquity, ceramic production declined, without ever completely dying out. Traces of ceramic production survive from the VIIᵉ to the IXᵉ century, and then into the Middle Ages, although less well known and of more local distribution.

In the XIXᵉ century, Lezoux and the surrounding area abounded in small factories anditinerant craftsmen, perpetuating the pottery tradition. Recognizing Lezoux’s historic importance in the art of ceramics, in 2007 the Conseil Départemental du Puy-de-Dôme inaugurated a Musée Départemental de la Céramique, located in the former Bompard factory, an emblematic site of this tradition. The museum tells the story of the region’s pottery, reflecting centuries of know-how and innovation.

Push open the door to the ceramics museum in Lezoux

Step back in time, share ancient secrets and admire the finesse of period creations in a splendid, authentic setting! Housed in a former earthenware factory, the Musée de la Céramique (Ceramics Museum ) presents 1300 m² of fun-filled museum exhibits. Pottery can be touched. In fact, the museum has been designed to be both tactile and fun. There’s also an immersive work to see, touch and smell: “Le secret du monde”, created by Nathalie Talec.

You only have to look at the children running from one desk to another to judge the family-friendly nature of the visit. All the more so as the older children are happy to play along, trying to identify shards or carefully tracing sigillated decorations.

But what is a sigillated ceramic?

It’s a fine ceramic intended for table service, characterized by a grainy red glaze and relief decorations, molded, printed or applied. Some pieces are stamped, hence the modern name sigillée, evoking a seal. The best examples of sigillated ware are found here, as Lezoux was the main production center between the 1st and 4th centuries AD, exporting its ware on a massive scale throughout the Roman Empire.

Enjoy fun activities around Lezoux and Billom

A stroll through the streets of Lezov

As you stroll through the streets of Lezoux, you’ll pass by the belfry, Saint-Georges chapel and numerous pigeon houses. And if you’d like to take to the skies, Lezoux’s accrobranche course awaits you. Two unforgettable ziplines will take you soaring over a body of water.

Potters' market in Bort-l'Étang May 25 & 26, 2024

For those interested in handicrafts, every year in Bort-l’Étang, dozens of local craftsmen come together for a weekend. The event perpetuates the memory of a ceramics tradition that goes back two thousand years.

Ecopôle Val d'Allier

In the Puy-de-Dôme region, between Pérignat-ès-Allier and La Roche Noire, the Val d’Allier Ecopôle is a fine example of how to reconcile nature and human activities.

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