Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (France’s Most Beautiful Villages) is an official designation which promotes small and outstandingly pretty villages. To become a member a community must have less than 2000 inhabitants and at least two protected areas of picturesque, scientific, artistic or historic relevance. In all France there are 150 odd villages that qualify; in the particularly lovely region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur there are several, a couple of which we know. In this series we start with Gassin.
Gassin: in the Var, just close to St Tropez, is a very lovely village with its own character and less hectic pace of life. Perched on a rock close to the coast and right in the middle of the St Tropez Peninsula, it is within a few minutes drive of various beaches and of St Tropez, but also has fantastic uninterrupted panoramic views to the coast and right up to the snowy alps.
Written records go back to the 13th Century, and the picturesque cobbled streets are narrow and winding. The Gallerie dei Barri is one of the Cote d’Azur’s oldest galleries and is now famous for its contemporary art. The Place dei Barri is one of the villages focal spots, with nice cafes and restaurants.
The population is usually about 2000 but swells considerably in the summer as people come from all over to enjoy the St Tropez lifestyle with a more practical approach to cost and a more laid back approach than you get among the bussle on the coast. Accommodation in the village becomes a problem quite early, but a couple of minutes’ drive is L’Ancienne Gare: as its name suggests the building used to be the local station but it has been fully restored and refurbished and now has five good bedrooms, large heated pool and superb private tennis court set in the large beautifully kept gardens.