The Rhone Valley starts at the ancient French city of Lyon, which is the second-largest city in France, and ends at Orange in Provence in Southern France. The area has seen nearly every war that has hit France as it was a place to travel through for marching armies, it has seen both medieval artists and modern railways. Somehow, despite its own modernizations, the area has not lost any of its timeless beauty.
The valley is named for the Rhone River which runs through it. The river makes its way through endless vineyards and lush orchards throughout the countryside on into Italy. The area is well-known as a gastronomic paradise, with unparalleled world-class food and restaurants. If you go, it would be a crime to not eat as much as you possibly can, because you will never again find the quality and excellence of cuisine and wine that Lyon and the surrounding area holds.
Peek into the History
Lyon has been around for millennia. Literally. There were people in the area before the Romans ever came and Rome settled a colony in Lyon in 43 BCE. The area saw many battles pass through over the centuries and was actually not a French area until the 14th century. It was Roman for a long while, with Christians being martyred every few centuries. The Huns even passed through the area in 437. It was part of the Kingdom of Arles as well.
Throughout the Renaissance, Lyon was an epicenter in the production and trade of silk, which mostly happened because the area has strong ties with Italy. It was the money that came from the silk trading that made it the industrial power that it is today. Though the silk industry had its own uprisings in the 19th century, with workers striking for more pay and better working conditions.
During the French Revolution, Lyon went against the National Convention and supported the Girondins, resulting in the Revolutionary Army attacking the city until it was forced to surrender. There were about 2,000 people executed because of the whole thing. But just a decade later, Napoleon had the city’s destroyed buildings rebuilt.
What it all Means
It is important to take a look at the history of the Rhone Valley before you try to understand what you are looking at when you are in the area. There is a huge Italian influence in both architecture and culture, due to the history, relationship, as well as the geography in proximity to Italy. You also need to take into account the age of the city when you are looking at everything.
Keep in mind as well that the wine in the Rhone Valley has been produced for millennia. You cannot say the same thing about the Napa Valley. They wine has become so perfected that you are tasting wines from some of the oldest orchards in the entire world. That in itself is pretty amazing and should make you appreciate your wine just a little more.
The weather in Lyon is pretty temperate. We see all four season, getting hot in the summer and cold in the winter. We do not typically get much in the way of snow in the wintertime, but if you want to see snow, it is not a long trip to the Alps where you can have as much snow as you could ever possibly handle. The summers like to get to about 80 degrees Fahrenheit: not too hot and not too cold. Combined with the rolling hills and delicious food, there are very few places on Earth that are closer to paradise than the Rhone Valley.