Aosta Valley

The Vald’Aosta is a semi-self governing region in the mountains just south of the Col Saint Bernard. The population speak French as well as Italian and a local dialect called Valdotain. As the highest part of Italy, it is also the coldest, with snow above 1600m for up to 8-9 months of the year. Even in summer, the lower valleys may fill with mist, especially in the morning. As most alpine areas, agriculture is confined to grazing cattle, used for cheese and meat production. Food is based on cheeses, salt-beef, black bread and soups; ibex are hunted and eaten.

As a major route over the Alps, the road to the col St Bernhardt was defended by a line of castles – the first defences were built by the Romans, and the name Aosta means ‘Valley of Augustus’. The area was ruled by the Count of Aosta, who lived in Bard castle, then a Duke, both members of the Savoy aristocracy. Aosta only joined Italy in 1870.

Modern construction includes the tunnel of Saint Bernhardt, which runs under the pass and down the Aosta valley to Saint Rhemy en Bosses; there is a railroad down the valley from Aosta onwards; hydroelectric power has resulted in metalworking. The area is known for skiing, with ski lifts at Saint Rhemy and Aosta, but the main resort, Courmayeur, is on the route to Mont-Blanc.

Interesting Places in Aosta Valley

Saint Rhemy en Bosses

A small resort at the foot of the St Bernard tunnel, with a 15th C castle and strong-hose, and an annual food festival featuring local ham.


Etroubles

Etroubles has a 12th C church tower and a dairy building, the oldest in the valley.


Arch of Augustus

The Arch of Augustus at Aosta commemorates a Roman victor over the Salassi in 25BC, and was built over the main road and close to the city walls.


Roman Theatre

The Roman Theatre at Aosta was built after the arch, and has now been restored and is in use for occasional performances. Nearby was a marketplace and amphitheatre and an ancient bridge.


Quart

Quart is a small rambling castle built in 1185, above the village of Quart.


Astronomical Observatory

The Astronomical Observatory at Nus has a telescope, which can be visited at night, and a small planetarium. Oavda.it


Saint Vincent

Saint Vincent is a luxurious summer resort featuring a cinema festival and spa with mineral springs; it also has a casino and ski facilities nearby.


Issogne Castle

Issogne Castle was built in 1151 but extensively repaired by the Challant family in the 15th C – the interior is a superbly decorated Gothic palace on three floors, around a courtyard and fountain.


Bard Castle

Bard Castle is a grim 19th C castle on three levels guards the entrance to the Aosta valley. Here 400 Austrians held the pass for 2 weeks against 40,000 of Napoleon’s troops. It is now the museum of the Alps.


Pont St Martin

Pont St Martin Roman bridge crosses the Lys river and dates to the 1st C BC. Two castles nearby – Suzey and Pont St Martin (in ruins) also defended the crossing.


Stages

The local tourist website gives details of the five stages or 93km of the route in Aosta, plus accommodation open for pilgrims at special rates. The route through the province is signed as route 103 and all stages rated as E – excursionist.

                        


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