Departmental capital: Rodez
Main cities/towns: Millau, Villefranche-de-Rouergue.
The inventors of the diving suit, Auguste Denayrouze and Benoît Rouquayrol, were born in landlocked Aveyron in the 19th century.
As random French historical facts go, it is not actually that bizarre – it is certainly not, for example, on the scale of the fact that the department is also home to the world’s largest collection of bagpipes.
The Aveyron was a mining department, and the pair developed the suit in 1864 as an offshoot of their work to find means to save miners trapped by underground floods.
It impressed Jules Verne so much that he namechecked its inventors in his book 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.
These days, the department’s unspoilt nature, diverse landscapes, historic buildings and local traditions are sure to enchant anyone who visits enough to want to stay for longer than a holiday. Its wide-open spaces – limestone plateaux, deep gorges and valleys, mountains and lakes – are perfect for outdoor lovers.
And the price of properties in an area where nearly 18% of properties are second homes will also be an attraction. In and around the departmental capital of Rodez, the average price for a typical house is €1,797 per m², the live online measuring tool offered by Notaires de France shows.
In Millau, famous these days for its bridge, the price is around €1,679 per m². Across the Aveyron as a whole, you can find houses for €1,193 per m², and for €1,154 per m² in Villefranche-de-Rouergue – so named after the province of Rouergue, which pretty much followed the boundaries of the modern department.