If you want somewhere more discreet than the glitzy fishbowl of Saint-Tropez, head across the promontory to the quieter side of the Var, the département that straddles the headland where the Mediterranean opens into the Gulf of Lion.
The central and western parts of the Var conveniently sit between Saint- Tropez on one side and Marseille and Aix-en-Provence on the other. This makes them easy to reach-Marseille has an international airport and Aix a seasonal high-speed train link to St Pancras-and ensures that vibrant city life is always on tap, especially now that Marseille is the 2013 European Capital of Culture. At the same time, however, the area remains beautifully tranquil and unspoilt.
Inland, the most sought-after spot is the countryside north-west of Saint- Tropez, around medieval Lorgues, which is home to a large, weekly farmer’s market and to the Michelin-starred Chez Bruno, the place to eat truffles. The area counts some of the world’s great and good among its residents, ‘but you don’t get helicopters landing here,’ according to Bill Evans, of Savills’ affiliate Sheeran Serre. ‘The Var is still very natural and undeveloped and the interior is wild and peaceful. It’s a place that’s been kept dans son jus, as the French say-in its original state.’
Financier Roger Beach has lived near Lorgues for some time, in a typically Provençal country house with 10 acres and vineyard. ‘It’s quiet, naturally French-an area of small country estates that are hidden away.’ Although he’s now selling his Lorgues property to move permanently to South Africa, he still extols the area’s many virtues. ‘We’re very much in the countryside, with uninterrupted views for miles, but we’re close to Lorgues for our daily needs and Cannes and Nice for other things- plus we’re near the coast when we fancy heading out on our boat.’
This seven bedroom country house outside Lorgues has large
fireplaces,rustic beams and unspoilt views of its gardens and
vineyard.€4.95 million;KnightFrank (020-78611727; www.knightfrank.com)
The coastline, whose striking light attracted many post-Impressionist painters, has beautiful sandy beaches and craggy coves. The scents of eucalyptus and pine fill the air on the hill-topped Île de Porquerolles, which, with its pure-white beaches and turquoise sea, wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean.
A short hop from it, Le Pradet, Le Lavandou and Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer are among the coast’s most desirable locations. ‘Many of the houses are set on hillsides that slope down to the sea, recalling the Amalfi coast,’ says Mr Evans. ‘For €1.5 million, you can buy Belle Epoque mansions that would cost €6 million on the Côte d’Azur. Large villas right on the sea can be yours for €5 million.’
Very occasionally, you may even strike upon an old cabanon de pêcheur, a fishing hut, set on the rocks in fishing villages such as Anse Méjean or Les Oursinières. This kind of simple but romantic pied dans l’eau property can cost just £300,000