The land between the Rhone River and Lac Leman was at one time inhabited by a Celtic tribe known as the Allobroges. Defeated by the Romans in A.D. 120, the tribe was incorporated into Gaul. The name Savoie comes from a Latin term meaning "country of fir trees." Once part of the Roman Empire, Savoie was absorbed into the Kingdom of the Franks in the 400s [source: Encyclopaedia Britannica].
When the Frankish Kingdom of Burgundy collapsed in 1003, the House of Savoie was born. It became the longest surviving royal house in Europe.
The House of Savoie ruled the county of Savoie until 1416, when Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor, made it into an independent duchy. The area included Turin and northwest Italy. Following the War of Spanish Succession, Savoie was linked with the Kingdom of Sicily, which in turn was later traded to the Kingdom of Sardinia [source: Absolute Astronomy].
For a time during the French Revolution, French forces occupied the area. But after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Savoie was restored to Sardinia. It wasn't until the Treaty of Turin, in 1860, that Savoie was annexed by France as part of the agreement with Napoleon III that brought about the unification of Italy.
Scattered medieval ruins and Italian architecture serve as visible reminders of the area's tumultuous past. Savoie food, on the other hand, reflects its time-honored traditions and respect for its mountain heritage.
Hearty fare like pork stew, or sausages and polenta, is a local favorite. Farcemeat is a thick sauce (or even a pudding) that's made from potatoes, bacon and dried fruit served with pork. White asparagus is a local delicacy. Its location in the Alps makes cheese as important as skiing. Fondue Savoyarde is a cheese fondue that's made with kirsh and white Savoie wine. Local cheeses include Reblochon, Tomme de Savoie and Beaufort [source: Lorch].
Move ahead to the next page to learn about how the region's hot summers and cold winters impact the cultivation of grapes and other crops in Savoie.