Extending between the plains of Limagne and the Monts du Forez, Parc Naturel Régional Livradois-Forez is a showcase for the placid beauty of rural France. Formerly a centre of logging and agriculture, the Livradois-Forez is now 3200 sq km of protected land. Its conifer forests, meadows and moors are interrupted by elegantly ramshackle villages, some of them (like La Chaise-Dieu) guarding remarkable cultural riches.
But it's the artisans of Livradois-Forez who have truly made a name for their towns. Thiers remains proud of its centuries of knife-making, paper production rolls on near Ambert, and countless dairies employ traditional methods to churn out cheeses such as Fourme d'Ambert, one of France's oldest, and creamy fromage aux artisons.