Today the Loire Valley might seem like one of the most peaceful places in France with its storybook castles and old world villages and chateaux. But in fact the area is one with a rich history and the numerous castles and fortifications are a testament to the numerous conflicts that took place over the centuries.

The Loire Valley was home to the Gauls, the Celtic tribes that occupied what is today modern France. The Romans wrestled control of the region, and it remained a part of the empire for several centuries. The Romans fought several battles and it was in the Loire Valley where Attila the Hun was defeated by a combined army of Romans and Visogoths.

During this period of Roman rule, numerous settlements were established in the valley, including the city of Caesarodonum, or “Hill of Caesar.” Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, this city took the name Torones, which eventually became Tours. It was here that the one of the most important battles of the Middle Ages occurred in 732, when Charles Martel defeated an invading Islamic army from Spain.

This city later became a place of refuge for the Kings of France during the Hundred Years War with England. And in the nearby town of Orleans is where the young peasant girl Joan of Arc helped lift the siege, and turn the tide of the war.

The region became a popular retreat for the royalty of France, and the Emperor Napoleon’s wife had a residence here. Occupied by the Germans in World War II the valley suffered little over the centuries however and today is a place where you can practically feel transported to another time.