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  Region of Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur
is made up of the Départements of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence [04], Hautes-Alpes [05], Alpes-Maritimes [06], Bouches-du-Rhone [13], Var [83] and Vaucluse [84]. 

Introduction to the Region of
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and the French Riviera


The Location of the Region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
The region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur was previously known as Provence-Côte d’Azur.  It is the direct descendent of the historical French province of Provence.  Its boarders are more or less the same as old provence.  Today, it is comprised of the départements of Alpes-Maritimes, Hautes-Alpes, Bouches-du-Rhône, Vaucluse,  Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, and Var.  

The Geography of the Region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur 
The region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is located in the south-eastern part of France.  It is bounded by the Départements of Savoie, to the north, Isère and Drôme, to the northwest, and Gard, to the west.  The western boarder of the region consists of the plains of Comtat, Crau, and Camargue.  They are drained by the Rhone river.  This river constitutes the official western bounds of the region.  Its départements of Bouches-du-Rhône, Var, and Alpes-Maritimes border the Mediterranean Sea to the south.  To the east of the départements of Alpes-Maritimes, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Hautes-Alpes is Italy.  These départements are dominated by the Alpes.  The region abounds with flower fields, vineyards, orchards and olive and mulberry groves.

The capital of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is Marseille.  The other principal cities are Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Cannes, Nice and Toulon.  The cities of Marsailles and Toulon are located along the western coast of the region.  To the east, the area from Cannes to the Italian boarder, is known as the French Riviera.  

The History of the Region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur 
Greek colonies had been established in the area by the beginning of the 6th century BC.  Massilia, now known as Marseilles, was numbered among them.  In 125 BC the Massiliots appealed to the Romans for help against a coalition of neighbouring Celts and Ligurians.  The Romans defeated the coalition but remained in occupation of the region.  Thus, by the end of the 2nd century BC, Provence formed part of Gallia Transalpina, the first provincia romana beyond the pes.  By the 4th century AD, Arles, an important merchant crossroads, became the seat of the prefecture of all Gaul.  Marsailles was established as the main center of Greek studies in the west.

In the late 5th century, during the disintegration of the Roman Empire, Provence was successively invaded by the Visigoths, Burgundians and Ostrogoths.  The region came under the rule of the Franks in about 536.  It was subsequently ruled by their Merovingien dynasty, though it was not integrated with the rest of France.

The great Carolingian rulers made Frankish rule effective in ProvenceBut, after the collapse of Carolingian rule, Provence formed part of a series of kingdoms set up between France and Germany.  The first of these, known as the first kingdom of Provence, lasted from 855 to 863.  From 879 to about 934 AD the area was incorporated into the second kingdom of Provence, which was sometimes called Cisjurane Burgundy.  In the 10th century it became the kingdom of Arles.  By the end of the 10th century, a local dynasty, which had led the region's defense against invasions by the Muslims, dominated the area.  The dynasty had acquired the countship of Provence.  With the end of this dynasty in 1113, the house of Barcelona gained the title.  Provence was then ruled by the Spanish, from Catalonia, for more than a century.

From about 1245 to 1482, after having been ruled by the house of Anjou, the region came into the possession of King Louis XI of France.  In 1486 it was annexed to the French Kingdom.  Provence thereafter remained a province of France until the French Revolution.  With the Revolution, the province completely lost its own political institutions and, in 1790, was divided into the départements of Bouches-du-Rhône, Var, and Basses-Alpes.  Basses-Alpes is now known as Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.  The Département of Vaucluse was added, after the annexation of Comtat Venaissin, in 1791.  The Département of Alpes-Maritimes was aggrandized, through the annexation of the countship of Nice, in 1860.

Today, the population of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is heavily concentrated along the coast and lower Rhône River.  The coastal départements of Alpes-Maritimes and Bouches-du-Rhône have grown at the expense of the inland départements of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Hautes-Alpes.  Since 1946, the overall population has grown.  Following the Algerian war, repatriated pies-noirs from North Africa accounted for much of the population increase.  Many retirees have also been attracted to the Riviera.  

The Language of the Region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur 
The modern inhabitants of Provence preserve a distinct regional character and their own language.  In addition to French, almost one-third of the inhabitants speak a Romance language, known as Occitan, which is spoken in the southern third of France.  At one time, it was spoken well north of this region.  The language encompasses numerous dialects including Limousin and Auvergnat from south-central France, Languedoc and Provençal which is used in the Mediterranean area, and Gascon which is spoken southwest France. 

Occitan’s standard literary form bridges to these many local dialects.  The literary language began to wane in the 14th century after France established dominion over the south.  Settled by the Romans, earlier than the rest of France, the Latin-derived speech was less influenced by Frankish and other Germanic languages than was northern French.  Although Occitan has been increasingly influenced by French, its structure is closer to that of Spanish and Catalan. 

The Gastronomy of the Region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur 

  • The Cheese

  • The Cuisine

  • The Wine

The Economic Activity of the Region of Provence

  • Agriculture
    Agricultural activities, most of which are restricted to the narrow coastal region, include the cultivation of lavender for the perfume industry, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit orchards.  Dry farming is popular in Var and Vaucluse.  Grapes, wheat, and olives are also produced there.  The canal of Provence, initiated in the 1960s, taps the Verdon River for irrigation.

  • Industry
    The petroleum refineries of Berre-l'Étang and La Mède, outside Marseille, support a major petrochemical complex.
      Airplanes are built in nearby Marignane.  The basin of Gardanne, in Bouches-du-Rhône, produces lignite.  Grasse, which is slightly inland, is famous for its perfumes. 

  • Tourism
    Tourism is also a major industry and centers on the
    Côte d'Azur and the Alpes.
    The French Riviera has developed into one of the world’s best-known tourist areas.
      Among its better known resorts are Nice, Cannes, Menton, Antibes, Monte-Carlo and Juan-les-Pins. 

The French RIVIERA

  • Location
    The area from northwestern Italy along the Mediterranean Sea to southern France is called the French Riviera or the Côte d’Azur.  The area is warm because the Alpes block the cold air from the North.  Towns of the French Riviera are Nice, Antibes, Cannes and St. Tropez.  Monte Carlo is in Monaco and San Remo, Genoa and Ventimiglia are in Italy.

  • Food and drink
    Fruits such as bananas, dates, and prickly pears are grown.  Olives, grapes and citrus fruit are abundant.

  • Arts
    Beautiful gardens are typical of the Riviera.  Flowers are grown for the perfume industry.

  • History
    A Roman highway ran through what is now the Riviera.

  • People

  • Government, Religion, Ethnic background, Language

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