The only Province in Valle d'Aosta stands amidst the highest peaks in the Alpine Mountains.
Aosta and its environs should be explored for their pristine landscapes, charming villages, castles and villages - some of Italy's most beautiful!
Those visiting here will find themselves surrounded by history, particularly by ancient Rome.
An impressive, castle-lined road leads to Aosta, itself a concentration of Roman and Medieval history marked by age-old traditions.
A Roman city in its essence, it is full of traces from that epoch, with its important monuments: the Augustan Arch, Porta Pretoria, and its city walls, above which - in large part - one can stroll.
Be sure to check out the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, along with its archaeological excavations below; the characteristic Piazza Chanoux; and the monumental complex of the Collegiata di Sant’Orso, dating to the 9th Century.
Sant’Orso is also the name of the fair held in Aosta every late January. Thousands of tourists and locals take to the city streets to show off (or observe) traditional costumes and local artisan goods: think wooden sculptures, cast-iron works, soapstone carvings, leather, wicker, wool textiles, lace and crochet, games and masks.
The old name of Aosta, “Augusta Pretoria”, reveals that it was founded by Romans (in 25 B.C.) and the Arch of Augustus, the Porta Praetoria, the theatre, and the town walls are the main monuments of that Roman city that have survived .
There are also remarkable Medieval ruins, such as the Collegiate Church of Saint Orso, a monumental structure that characterizes the city with its decorated Romanesque cloister.
Another remarkable monument is the city’s Cathedral, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta: it embraces sixteen centuries of history and art that you can visit thanks to the archaeological site below the floor.
Another charming tract is the Pierre Taillée stretch, beyond Runaz, in the direction of the Little St. Bernard Pass. Here the stone has been cut in order to create a passage in the narrow gully, and there are many rather reckless structures spanning the gorge. In Italian this is often referred to as the “Northwest Passage”, and indicates that the province of Aosta has been one of the most important transit points in Europe for centuries.
The Via Francigena path branched off from the trail on the Great St. Bernard Pass, and was even used by Napoleon’s army in May 1800. It was also the route for pilgrims to reach Rome.
The path to the pass starting from the small village of Saint-Rhemy, on foot, by mountain bike, or on horseback -following the Napoleonic road- is charming and is an enchanting excursion, a real trip back in time.
Also on the pass and open to the public are the Chanousia botanical gardens.
On the way to Aosta, it is well worth visiting the various manieri valdostani (country houses), which make the landscape even more evocative.
Gressonay has impressive ski resorts whence, outfitted with skis, visitors can cross the three valleys of Monte Rosa: the St. Vincent, Courmayeur and Cogne resorts.
Not only, but it is possible to book skiing excursions in any of the Province's parks and enjoy the magnificence of the glacial zones. The Gran Paradiso National Park - inhabited by ibex, chamois and golden eagles - is the perfect place for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. For the more adventurous, hiking routes line the mountain paths of the Aosta Valley, while less expert enthusiasts can wander in woods and flatter areas with snowshoes.
Aosta is considered a haven for winter sports, with 28 ski resorts to satisfy any and every demand. For those who want to fly above the mountaintops, the are a is also known for its annual international balloon rallies.
Finally, the Fiera di Sant’Orso in Aosta is a must see international event dedicated to the creativity, refined talent and ingenuity of mountain inhabitants. And no matter when you're in town, check your calendar for local events, music festivals, open-air markets and food and wine tastings.
The cheese fontina is the delicacy of this province, as are chops alla valdostana and polenta “concia” and peulà. By virtue of being a mountainous area the local game also offers authentic flavors: chamois in salmì -or ‘civet’-, ‘“mocetta” -dried chamois meat- and ”carbonade”.
As for wines, they all have the Valle d’Aosta/Vallée d’Aoste label. Each winegrowing area produces a special wine: the Valdigne with its Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle, the central valley has its Chambave Moscato (white wine) and Chambave Moscato passito (straw wine); the low valley has its Arnad-Montjovet superiore, and Donnas (red wines). The main regional liqueurs are Genepì and Herbelet.