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Loire: historic cities and castles

This article is also available in: Italian

The Pays de la Loire region is a region created arbitrarily for administrative purposes and does not correspond to any pre-existing historical region of France, it extends over the territories that were part of the ancient provinces of Anjou, Brittany, Maine, Perche and Poitou.

The region, which has the city of Nantes as its capital, is made up from an administrative point of view of 5 departments: Loire-Atlantique (44), Mayenne (53), Maine and Loire (Maine-et-Loire, 49), Sarthe (72), Vendée (85).

The Loire overlooks the Atlantic Ocean with the two departments of Loire-Atlantique and Vendée, while to the north-west it borders Brittany, to the north-east with Lower Normandy, to the east with Centre, and to the south with Poitou-Charentes.

The region takes its name from the Loire river, which crosses two departments before flowing into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, crossed by numerous waterways, many of which are tributaries of the Loire, such as the Loir, the Sarthe and the Mayenne (which flowing together form the Maine), the Erdre, the Thouet and the Sèvre Nantaise.

The coasts, along which there are some islands such as the île de Noirmoutier and the île d’Yeu, extend for over 350 km, and are both sandy and rocky, to the north is the so-called Wild Coast (Côte Sauvage), while between the mouth of the Loire and the île de Noirmoutier is the Jade Coast (Côte de Jade), to the south is the Coast of Light (Côte de Lumière).

Exclusively hilly and flat, the region sees the low hills of the Vendée to the south, while to the north are the Perche hills, the Coëvrons, the Alpes Mancelles, all part of the Armorican Massif, the region reaches its highest point with the Mont des Avaloirs (417 meters) in the Armorican Massif.

The Loire is the first region in France for horticultural production and for the production of white wine, while it is in second place in the country with regards to all agricultural production in general. The mechanical and naval industries are very developed.


As regards tourism, the region has a very varied artistic heritage, the best known tourist destination in the region is the Loire Valley, with its famous castles, which, however, are largely located in the Center region. Some castles in the Loire Valley are part of Anjou (Maine-et-Loire) in the Pays de la Loire region, including the castles of Montsoreau, Château de Montreuil-Bellay, Saumur, Boumois, Brissac, Montgeoffroy, Le Plessis-Bourré , Château de la Verrerie, Château du Lude, and Angers. The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

The ancient historic cities of the region are very beautiful, including Le Mans (Le Vieux Mans, Cité Plantagenêt), Angers, Laval, Saumur, Fontenay-le-Comte and Nantes; but you can also find small medieval jewels such as Guérande, religious complexes such as the medieval abbey of Fontevraud (Abbaye de Fontevraud), or megalithic monuments such as those in the Guérande region.

As for culture, the region features high-level galleries and museums, such as in Angers where there is the gallery dedicated to the famous nineteenth-century sculptor David d’Angers (Galerie David d’Angers). Also in Angers, in the Castle, inside the museum dedicated to it (Musée de la Tapisserie de l’Apocalypse), there is the famous Tapestry of the Apocalypse (Tenture de l’Apocalypse), 103 meters long and 4.5 meters high meters, which is a representation of the Apocalypse of John performed in the late 14th century.

Angers is also home to a marvel of modern tapestry, the Chant du Monde tapestry executed by Jean Lurçat between 1957 and 1966, which remained incomplete. The tapestry measures 80 meters long and 4.5 meters high, and is exhibited in Musée Jean Lurçat et de la tapisserie contemporaine.

In Le Mans you will find the Museum de Tessé (Musée de Tessé), dedicated mainly to Egyptian antiquities, and the new Archaeological Museum (Musée d’archéologie et d’histoire du Maine). The city of Nantes has an interesting museum dedicated to Jules Verne (Musée Jules-Verne), while that of Laval hosts a historic Science Museum (Musée des Sciences de Laval).

As regards natural heritage, the region can count on humid and marshy areas such as those of the Marais Poitevin, the Lac de Grand-Lieu, the Marais de Brière, and the Marais Breton. Among the protected areas are those of the natural regional parks of Loire-Anjou-Touraine (Parc naturel régional Loire-Anjou-Touraine), Normandie-Maine (Parc naturel régional Normandie-Maine) and Brière (Parc naturel régional de Brière).

The climate of the Loire.

  • Surface area: 33,082 km²
  • Population: 3,426,000 (2011)
  • Capital: Nantes

This article is also available in: Italian

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