Known as “the village of the book”, Montolieu boasts no fewer than 15 bookshops that specialise in secondhand and antiquarian books. There are also galleries, studios and workshops in the village, home to sculptors, calligraphers, bookbinders, photographers, musicians and painters.
The story of Montolieu is all the more remarkable since it was started by one man in 1989. Michel Braibant, a bookbinder from Carcassonne, moved to the village and persuaded his friends to join him. Together they put the village on the map.
Now every year Montolieu (population: 800) welcomes over 52,000 visitors from all over the world. They visit the bookshops and galleries, the Arts and Crafts Museum of the Book and the newly restored paper mill. Book-themed festivals are being held throughout the year, similar to Hay-on-Wye in the UK.
Nearly 50 buildings in the village have been renovated since 1991. Bars, restaurants, coffee shops and 15 bed & breakfasts have sprung up to cater to tourists. Even the local primary school has reopened as a result of the community’s new-found popularity.
Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois to Montolieu is a one-hour drive (38 miles, 61 km). It can easily be combined with a visit to nearby Bram, Castelnaudery or Carcassonne.
Workshops and courses on calligraphy, bookbinding, illumination and printing take place throughout the year. For more information, events and directions, visit www.montolieu-livre.fr.