Verrès Castle: home of a noble leader
An imposing monolith in a dominant position on a rock overlooking the ancient village and valley. This is Verrès Castle, a majestic monobloc manor built in the late 14th century by the Challant family, one of the most prestigious in the entire Aosta Valley.
All around, the picturesque landscape and unspoilt nature of the lower Aosta Valley bathed by the Dora Baltea.
The mule track leading to the manor house
As soon as you arrive, you’ll feel projected into a dimension of yesteryear. This is because you must follow a steep mule track to reach Verrès Castle, perched on a rocky spur overlooking the Évançon stream: a ten-minute walk to forget civilisation and immerse yourself in another world.
Even from the village of Verrès it’s a 20-minute walk, a recommendable alternative to driving, for intense contact with the landscape. Another famous Aosta Valley castle stands on the other side of the Dora Baltea River, that of Issogne with a very different structure, in an interesting architectural contrast.
A revolutionary castle
The nobleman Ibleto di Challant started from a pre-existing complex and gave the manor its current appearance, choosing an innovative path compared to the region’s other castles, characterised by several buildings enclosed in a defensive wall. Instead here it is a single compact block, which emphasises the military function and attracts for its power.
The refined style of the interiors
The interiors are less austere: admire the grand staircase in the courtyard that connects the three floors, the ornamental work on the windows, doors and fireplaces, and the ornate white and green stone details created by the skilled craftsmen of the time. Don’t miss the Hall of Arms and the Dining Room, where you can see the detail of the serving hatch to the master kitchen.
The Middle Ages return here in May
Verrès Castle hosts the Historical Carnival, a re-enactment of the epic deeds of Countess Catherine of Challant, in a combination of historical events and fascinating legends. Between May and June each year, you can enjoy medieval costume parades, knights' tournaments and dances; a sumptuous banquet is also organised at the castle.
Strolling through the centre
From the castle, return to the village of Verrès, a small stone jewel whose origins date back to Roman times. Wander through the narrow streets and stairways, reach the small Place René de Challand, then walk along the cobbled street to the Collegiate Church and the Parish Church of Saint-Gilles. Climbing enthusiasts can stop at the climbing gym near the village in Chopine, with diversified walls suitable for everyone, including children.
Plunge into nature
The Arboretum trail starts from Verrès and goes up towards the entrance of Ayas Valley. The easy nature hike also offers a view of Verrès Castle from afar, so you can fully grasp its strategic and panoramic position on the plain. The route is also called Borna di Laou in patois, meaning Den of the Wolf, because legend has it that the animals built their den here in the 19th century.
You won’t encounter any ferocious beasts here today, only beautiful and varied vegetation that the educational signs will help you decipher. The native species include dogwood and hawthorn, followed by ash, chestnut and linden trees and a few rarities considering the area: medlar and laurel.
Cycling along the Dora Baltea
Verrès is one of the stops of the Via Francigena: a long bike route. Here you pedal between continuous ups and downs mainly on the left bank of the Dorea Baltea, even on short mule tracks, on a route that touches on some of the most beautiful castles in Aosta Valley, including the Fortress of Bard, as well as scenic spots with peaks outlining the mountain skyline.