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how to find beautiful old villages in the countryside?

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I am a huge sucker for small, picturesque old villages in the countryside. One time I tagged along with a fellow traveler in southern France and was smitten with the towns we came across by just driving around.

Next month I'm taking a trip across a lot of Western Europe (Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, and the Low Countries) and want to discover more villages like this. My question is: how do I find these magical countrysides? I'm worried that if I just venture off randomly that I might end up in an uninspiring place without the charm I'm looking for, wasting precious travel time!

Travel books don't seem to have recommendations about this (they mostly cover cities and tourist attractions). Any tips for finding the most charming country towns? Any recommendations for places to drive around Rome, Venice, Munich, Prague, Belgium, or The Netherlands?


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