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Arles is a town in the Provence region in the south of France and also lies in the Bouches-du-Rhone department. The Rhone river forks into two branches just upstream of Arles, forming the Camargue delta. A large part of the Camargue is located in Arles making it the largest commune in Metropolitan France – its area of 293.02 sq miles is more than seven times that of Paris.
The Romans took over the town in 123 BC and expanded it into an important city, reaching a peak of influence in the fifth century. It was badly affected by the invasion of Provence by Muslim Saracens and Franks in the eighth century however it regained political and economic prominence in the 12th century becoming a free city governed by an elected podestat. The arrival of the railway in the 19th century killed off the town’s traditional river trade, leading to the town becoming a hideaway. This made it an attractive destination for Vincent van Gogh who went on to create some of his finest work while there. This fascinating history coupled with the tranquil surroundings attracts so many tourists today.