Gene, I sure do get that you have loved Italy and kind of have the basic infrastructure under control. BUT, before you went to Italy, it was sort of overwhelming and you didn't know that you would like it. Italy is an amazing country and so is France.
If you want history, France has centuries of it. In Provence in the south of France are many Roman sites, like Arles with its Roman theater, coliseum and the Baths of Constantine and Nimes where Augustus built the Pont du Gard, public baths temples, a forum and more. In the Loire, in addition to all the gorgeous and certainly historic Chateaus, you can also visit Chinon. In 1124 this fortress became the main residence of Henry II, the King of England, and his wife Aliénor (Eleanor) d'Aquitaine until 1189 when the king died. Eleanor (mother of Richard the LionHeart) spent the end of her life in nearby Fontevraud Abbey. Eleanor, her mother and several of her children were educated at Fontevraud and Henry II, his wife, Eleanor, and son, King Richard the Lionheart, were all buried here at the end of the 12th century. Also, Joan of Arc visited Chinon in 1429 to meet with the dauphin, get him to Rheims to be crowned and then on to battle at Orleans and subsequently her death by fire in May, 1431 in Rouen France.
The Loire Valley also allows you to explore the France of the absolute monarchs and their friends and the rather fabulous chateaus of them all.
Paris, has long been the glittering capital of France and its perhaps most glittering time was the age of the Sun King, Louis XIV, who reigned for 72 years starting in 1643 at age 5. The gardens of Fontainebleau, Vaux-le-Vicomte, the Tuileries, the Champs-Elysees and Versailles were designed by one man during this time. The buildings and spaces of Paris owe a great deal to this historic time.
In Normandy itself you can move from the Bayeux Tapestry, dating to the 11th century an embroidery in wool thread on linen cloth that tells the story Norman conquest of England in the Battle of Hastings to the beaches of Normandy and experience the amazing WWII effort to free Europe.
My point, rather belabored, is that history, dating back to the Romans and extending to WWII is throughout France and quite accessible. Trains and busses provide good access to everywhere. Some research, which we all have lots of time for in these Covid days, will open a whole new wonderful world of travel experiences. And I rather think that is why we travel.