Any fan of Downton Abbey knows the long-running show is inextricably linked to sweeping pastoral views of the sprawling English countryside. But with the debut of the beloved series’ second movie—Downton Abbey: A New Era, which premieres in the U.S. on May 18—the Crawley family is branching out and traveling to a villa in the south of France.
If a summer lounging in the sun and boating along the French Riviera sounds appealing, read on. We spoke with Donal Woods, the production designer for the new film, about the real-life locations from the movie that are accessible to travelers. “There’s something about the light, the sea, the air [on the French Riviera],” Woods says. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s just got something else, it really has.” Here’s how to recreate the Crawley's French getaway.
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The villa in France that the Crawley's visit is called Villa Roccabella in real life, and it can be rented out by travelers. What drew you to this villa in particular?
One of my only notes was: It’s got to look different from all those houses we’ve seen over the years on Downton Abbey. It’s got to feel like the Mediterranean—open, colorful. It’s got to have a Mediterranean feel. We saw about six or seven houses or more in the summer of 2020. We couldn’t get back at all until we filmed because of the lockdowns around the world.
[Villa Roccabella] was such an iconic house. It also had to be the right era for Violet to have been there when she was young. So it had to be from the 1860s. There was a sort of historic context about it in terms of that. And it had to be beautiful. Wherever you live in the world, you had to go: Wow, that is something fantastic.