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Where in France can you get away from the crowds this summer?

France is opening up to tourism for fully vaccinated travellers, but the French are also being urged to holiday in France this year - which means that some parts of the country may be even busier than a normal summer.

Where in France can you get away from the crowds this summer?
France has some stunningly beautiful areas that are frequently ignored by tourists. Photo: Thierry Zocolan/AFP

Les vacances, c’est en France (the holidays, they’re in France) declared president Emmanuel Macron, urging the French to support the country’s battered tourist industry by staycationing this year.

Reservations in popular tourist destinations are already up 30 percent on last year as French people book their holidays while fully vaccinated international travellers are also allowed back in from Wednesday.

EXPLAINED This is how France’s traffic light system for vaccinated travellers works

The upshot being – some places could be pretty busy this year.

So if you’re looking for a more peaceful break, or you would just feel more comfortable staying away from crowds, here are some suggestions of areas to head for and those to avoid.

According to BFM.TV, reservations in France are up by more than 30 percent compared to 2019, while holiday booking website PAP Vacances recently published a list of the most sought after places.

Those holidaying in August (the most popular time of the year for French people to travel) seem to be mostly heading south to the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region with the département of Var – which includes Saint Tropez  – the most popular area.

The beaches of the French Riviera could be even more crowded this summer. Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP

The list of most in-demand areas from PAP Vacanes is:

  1. Les Issambres, Var
  2. Sainte-Maxime, Var
  3. Capbreton, Landes
  4. Lège-Cap-Ferret, Gironde
  5. Lacanau, Gironde
  6. La Teste-de-Buch, Gironde
  7. Hyères, Var
  8. Saint-Raphaël, Var
  9. Porto-Vecchio, Corse-du-Sud
  10. Fréjus, Var 

Assuming that you want to avoid the crowds, here are a few things to think about when booking your holidays.

READ ALSO 10 of the best Covid-compliant activities in France this summer

Seaside v countryside

Whilst the list above includes a number of sought after beach resort destinations, summer house rentals have also seen an even bigger boom.

Some people are looking to book a large space for their family and friends, with many turning to the countryside – as opposed to the seaside – for better prices.

According to NotreTemps.com, houses located inland cost an average of €172 per person for the week, compared to €207 for a place by the sea. Inland areas such as Gordes and Sorgues, both located in the stunning Provencal countryside, are continuing to experience a boom in rental reservations this summer.

On the other hand, according to NotreTemps, accommodation in mountainous and urban areas has been neglected, so maybe consider a hiking trip to the Pyrenees or a trip to one of France’s stunning smaller towns such as Annecy or Avignon.

READ ALSO Morvan: Why you should visit one of France’s most beautiful and least-known areas

Remember France’s ‘forgotten’ areas

For obvious reasons, seaside resorts are popular for holidays, but France also contains some stunning countryside and in some of the sparsely populated central départements you really can get away from it all.

Creuse, Corrèze and Cantal all have beautiful scenery and wide open spaces and we are particularly fond of Auvergne, with its rugged mountainous areas and delicious cheesy mashed potatoes.

READ ALSO 10 reasons to visit France’s Auvergne area

Choose an adventure holiday

To really take advantage of all that fresh air and natural beauty, why not have a cycling holiday along some of France’s many cycle routes?

READ ALSO Vineyards to canals – 7 of the best cycle routes in France

There is also great hiking – particularly in the Alps and Pyrenees – and numerous holidays offering activities for the adrenaline junkie from whitewater rafting to abseiling.

Or think about staying in a hotel

According to Femina.fr, only 6 percent of French holidaymakers will choose to stay in a hotel. With the likes of AirB&B dominating the holiday accommodation market, and 72 percent of travellers deciding to stay in holiday villages or campsites, this could be the year to get a bargain if you do fancy a hotel stay.

Maybe take the train

With no need to share a space with strangers or wear a mask, it’s no surprise that the number one mode of transport this summer is expected to be the car

But this means that during the summer months, France’s roads and motorways will likely be full of traffic jams.

BMF.TV reported that although 8/10 French travellers want to travel by car, they do believe there’ll be more people on the roads this year.

Horrifying, 36 percent of French people also say they fear that with limited ability to travel over the past 18 months, they may have seen a decrease in their driving skills – and it’s not the French are famed for being good drivers at the best of times.

With only 8 percent expected to take the train and SNCF’s announcement this week of considerably cheaper train travel for all ages, taking the train might be a quieter and more affordable way of getting to your desired destination – as well as avoiding roads full of traffic-jams and crazed French motorists.

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MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

Here are the remote Italian villages worth seeking out in 2022, according to a list compiled by one of the country's leading tourism associations.

MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

A total of 270 villages across Italy have been recognised as being especially tourist-friendly this year by the Italian Touring Club (Touring Club Italiano), one of the country’s largest non-profit associations dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism throughout the territory.

‘Orange Flag’ status is awarded if a village is judged to have significant historic, cultural and environmental value, as well as for being welcoming to visitors and outsiders, according to the initiative’s website.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

Villages can apply for the status if they are located inland with no coastal stretches; have fewer than 15,000 inhabitants; have a well-preserved historic centre and a strong sense of cultural identity; demonstrate sensitivity to issues of sustainability; have a well-organised tourist reception system; and show an intention to continue to make improvements to the town.

The list is updated annually, and in 2022 three new villages gained orange flag status for the first time: Dozza in Emilia Romagna, Manciano in Tuscany, and Sasso di Castalda in Basilicata.

See below for the map and a list of the Orange Flag villages according to region:

Montepulciano in Tuscany has 'orange flag' status.

Montepulciano in Tuscany has ‘orange flag’ status. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

Abruzzo – 7 villages

Civitella Alfadena, Fara San Martino, Lama dei Peligni, Opi, Palena, Roccascalegna, Scanno.

Basilicata – 6 villages

Aliano, Castelmezzano, Perticara Guard, San Severino Lucano, Sasso di Castalda, Valsinni.

Calabria – 6 villages

Bova, Civita, Gerace, Morano Calabro, Oriolo, Tavern.

Campania – 5 villages

Cerreto Sannita, Letino, Morigerati, Sant’Agata de’ Goti, Zungoli.

READ MORE: Six Italian walking holiday destinations that are perfect for spring

Emilia Romagna – 23 villages

Bagno di Romagna, Bobbio, Brisighella, Busseto, Castell’Arquato, Castelvetro di Modena, Castrocaro Terme and Terra del Sole, Dozza, Fanano, Fiumalbo, Fontanellato, Longiano, Montefiore Conca, Monteleone, Pennabilli, Pieve di Cento, Portico and San Benedetto, Premilcuore, San Leo, Sarsina, Sestola, Verucchio, Vigoleno.

Friuli Venezia Giulia – 7 villages

Andreis, Barcis, Cividale del Friuli, Frisanco, Maniago, San Vito al Tagliamento, Sappada.

Lazio – 20 villages

Arpino, Bassiano, Bolsena, Bomarzo, Calcata, Campodimele, Caprarola, Casperia, Collepardo, Fossanova, Labro, Leonessa, Nemi, San Donato Val di Comino, Sermoneta, Subiaco, Sutri, Trevignano Romano, Tuscania, Vitorchiano.

Liguria – 17 villages

Airole, Apricale, Balducco, Brugnato, Castelnuovo Magra, Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena, Dolceacqua, Perinaldo, Pigna, Pinion, Santo Stefano d’Aveto, Sassello, Seborga, Toirano, Triora, Vallebona, Varese Ligure.

Lombardy – 16 villages

Almenno San Bartolomeo, Bellano, Bienno, Castellaro Lagusello, Chiavenna, Clusone, Gardone Riviera, Gromo, Menaggio, Pizzighettone, Ponti sul Mincio, Sabbioneta, Sarnico, Solferino, Tignale, Torno.

Marche – 24 villages

Acquaviva Picena, Amandola, Camerino, Cantiano, Cingoli, Corinaldo, Frontino, Genga, Gradara, Mercatello sul Metauro, Mondavio, Montecassiano, Montelupone, Monterubbiano, Offagna, Ostra , Ripatransone, San Ginesio, Sarnano, Serra San Quirico, Staffolo, Urbisaglia, Valfornace, Visso.

Molise – 5 villages

Agnone, Ferrazzano, Frosolone, Roccamandolfi, Scapoli.

READ MORE: These are the 20 prettiest villages across Italy

San Gimignano has long been an orange flag destination.

San Gimignano has long been an orange flag destination. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Piedmont – 40 villages 

Agliè, Alagna Valsesia, Arona, Avigliana, Barolo, Bene Vagienna, Bergolo, Candelo, Canelli, Cannero Riviera, Cannobio, Castagnole delle Lanze, Cherasco, Chiusa di Pesio, Cocconato, Entracque, Fenestrelle, Fobello, Gavi, Grinzane Cavour, Guarene, La Morra, Limone Piemonte, Macugnaga, Malesco, Mergozzo, Moncalvo, Monforte d’Alba, Neive, Orta San Giulio, Ozzano Monferrato, Revello, Rosignano Monferrato, Santa Maria Maggiore, Susa, Trisobbio, Usseaux, Usseglio, Varallo, Vogogna.

Puglia – 13 villages

Alberona, Biccari, Bovino, Cisternino, Corigliano d’Otranto, Locorotondo, Oria, Orsara di Puglia, Pietramontecorvino, Rocchetta Sant’Antonio, Sant’Agata di Puglia, Specchia, Troia.

Sardinia – 7 villages

Aggius, Galtellì, Gavoi, Laconi, Oliena, Sardara, Tempio Pausania.

Sicily – 1 village

Petralia Sottana

Tuscany – 40 villages

Abetone Cutigliano, Anghiari, Barberino Tavarnelle, Barga, Casale Marittimo, Casciana Terme Lari, Casale d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Castelnuovo di Val di Cecina, Castiglion Fiorentino, Certaldo, Cetona, Chiusi, Collodi, Fosdinovo, Lucignano, Manciano, Massa Marittima, Montalcino, Montecarlo, Montefollonico, Montepulciano, Monteriggioni, Murlo, Peccioli, Pienza, Pitigliano, Pomarance, Radda in Chianti, Radicofani, San Casciano dei Bagni, San Gimignano, Santa Fiora, Sarteano, Sorano, Suvereto, Trequanda, Vicopisano, Vinci, Volterra. 

Trentino Alto Adige – 8 villages

Ala, Caderzone Terme, Campo Tures/Sand in Taufers, Ledro, Levico Terme, Molveno, Tenno, Vipiteno/Sterzing.

Umbria – 10 villages

Bevagna, Città della Pieve, Montefalco, Montone, Nocera Umbra, Norcia, Panicale, Spello, Trevi, Vallo di Nera.

Val d’Aosta – 3 villages

Etroubles, Gressoney-Saint-Jean, Introd.

Veneto – 12 villages

Arquà Petrarca, Asolo, Borgo Valbelluna, Cison di Valmarino, Follina, Malcesine, Marostica, Montagnana, Portobuffolè, Rocca Pietore, Soave, Valeggio sul Mincio.

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