Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, a new region
The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region is one of the 13 new regions created with the territorial reform that took effect on January 1, 2016.
Until then Rhône-Alpes and Auvergne were two separate regions.
Auvergne corresponds to the historical province of Auvergne, which was part of the Duchy of Aquitaine until 1271 when it reverted to the Crown estate.
Modern day Auvergne includes also part of the historical provinces of Bourbonnais, Velay, Gévaudan, Vivarais and Forez.
It regroups four departments:
Allier (03 – Moulins), Cantal (15 – Aurillac), Haute-Loire (43 – Le Puy-en-Velay) and Puy de Dôme (63 – Clermond-Ferrant).
Auvergne is located in the Massif Central, a vast region of extinct volcanoes that stretches in the centre and south of France and covers about 15% of the country.
These extinct volcanoes, grouped under the generic name of Chaîne des Puys, formed about 70,000 years ago, and the last eruption took place 6,000 years ago.
Eroded over the centuries, they have given place to a landscape of rounded peaks, lakes and plateaus, which has become the iconic image of the region.
Auvergne was named after the Gallic tribe Arveni, who fiercely defended their territory against the Romans under the leadership of their chief Vercingetorix.
It has 1,341,000 inhabitants and is one of the least populated regions in Europe.
It has a continental climate and is mainly agricultural but is steadily promoting winter tourism with several family-orientated ski resorts and mountain-biking during the summer.
It also boast 28 Petites Cités de Caractère (Small Towns of Character), a label that applies to picturesque medieval towns.
Auvergne might be one of the smallest regions of France, as it covers an area of 26,013 km², nearly 5% of Metropolitan France, but it boasts some of the most prestigious names in industry such Michelin and Dunlop, while Thiers is considered the capital of cutlery.
The region begins in the west with the foothills of the Massif Central and ends in the east with the Alps, on the border with Switzerland and Italy.
This mountainous region is home to the Lake Geneva and Lake Annecy.
The Gauls founded Lyon in the Rhône Valley long before the Roman invasion. A major trading centre between Northern and Southern Europe, Lyon became a major city in the Roman Empire.
The region, except the Duchy of Savoie, became part of the Crown estate in the late 10th century.
It has retained its importance and is a major trading that links the north of France and Europe to the Mediterranean sea, while the E15 motorway connects directly it to Spain.
Lyon is on the TGV line that links Paris to Nice, and will be eventually connected to Turin by a high-speed rail.
The Rhône Valley, but also the proximity to Switzerland and Saint-Etienne mining industry turn the region into the second most prosperous economic entity after the Paris-Ile de France region.
The economic triangle Lyon-Saint-Etienne-Grenoble largely contributes to the country GDP.
The Rhône-Alpes region is covers an area of 43,698 km2 and has nearly 6.3 million inhabitants.
It includes 8 departments:
Ain (01 – Bourg-en-Bresse), Ardèche (07 – Privas), Drôme (26 – Valence), Isère (38 – Grenoble), Loire (42 – st-Etienne), Rhône (69 – Lyon), Savoie (73 – Chambéry), Haute-Savoie (74 – Annecy) and the Metropolis of Lyon (69M) which is also the regional préfecture.
Lyon is renowned for its gastronomy and the Alpine regions for their wide choice of cheeses (reblochon, tomme de Savoie, bleu de Bresse) and their delicious cheese-based dishes (raclette, fondue, gratin Dauphinois).
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in figures:
Area: 69,711 km2
Population: 7,695.264 (01/01/2012)