Valle d’Aosta is an autonomous region of Italy and its smallest province. It is located in the northwestern part of the country and borders with Switzerland in the north and France in the west. Due to the fact that the region is surrounded by the highest peaks of Europe - Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn, there are many excellent ski resorts, often international competitions in alpine skiing are held.
The province has two official languages - Italian and French. In some parts of it, residents use one of the German dialects - the Mountain Alemannic. In total, just over 125 thousand people live in Valle d’Aosta, of which a third are in the provincial capital, the city of Aosta.
In addition to tourism, energy is well developed in the region - there are many rivers in the mountains - and ferrous metallurgy. The area is also famous for its cheeses and wines.
Climate and weather
The Aosta Valley has a peculiar climate. The boundaries of the seasons seem to be shifted: summer comes earlier than usual, already in May, winter also usually comes back in November. Spring and autumn fly by instantly, summers are usually long, dry and warm, but there isn’t much heat here: the average July temperature is + 21º С. Short-lived but heavy rains with thunderstorms are typical for local summers. In winter, a lot of snow falls, frosts are not uncommon, but even in the coldest month, January, the average temperature is still positive, 1-2º C.
How to get there
In the region there are many mountain passes, despite this, the transport network is very well developed, in the province there are many roads and railways. Buses run between settlements, they go on numerous routes with an interval of half an hour, so getting from one town to another is easy. The nearest major city is Turin. It can be reached by train in 2 hours.
It is at the Turin airport that those who are going to rest in the Valle d’Aostu usually fly. The distance between cities is 100 km. You can fly to Milan (read about the airports of Milan), but it is twice as far, 190 km. If you have a Schengen visa, you can consider another option - Geneva, which is 150 km from Aosta. Aosta itself also has an airport, you can fly here with local flights from Rome Fiumicino Airport, but the planes that operate them are very small, so such a trip needs to be planned in advance. It’s easier to take a train or bus. The bus schedule is available here: www.savda.it. The site is in Italian, but easy to use. Train tickets: www.trenitalia.com
The main city of the autonomous region is Aosta. It was founded before our era, several architectural monuments have survived from those times: the triumphal arch, fortified walls with gates, an amphitheater. The arch (Arco di Augusto) has been in the city since 25 BC. It has a somewhat strange appearance for such structures - a typical attic superstructure is missing, instead of it a roof crowns the arch, built at the beginning of the 18th century.
Not far from the arch are the gates of Pretoria (Porta Praetoria), through which the city could be accessed from the east. The gates are double, each row consists of a central arch 7 m high - for carts, and two side arches smaller, for people to pass. The whole design looks very impressive.
The fortress walls are also well preserved. They form a rectangle with sides 727 m long and 574 m long.
Another monument from the time of the ancient Romans is the villa (Villa Romana), or rather, its ruins, by which you can get an idea of the size of the rich houses of that period, the location of rooms and utility rooms.
The ancient Collegiate Church of Saints Peter and Ursus (Collegiata dei Santi Pietro e Orso) is a structure that cannot be passed by. It was built at the turn of the X-XI centuries, the architectural style is Romanesque. As a foundation, builders used the remains of more ancient buildings. The inner courtyard of the church, as well as the fortress walls surrounding the city, is made of stone blocks of dark gray color and gives the impression of a very ancient one, although it was built at the beginning of the XII century.
In the vicinity of Aosta there are many medieval castles and fortresses - about seven dozen. Not all of them are in perfect condition, some of them have left only ruins, but there are also well-preserved ones. One of them - Fenis Castle (Castello di Fenis), built at the beginning of the XIII century.
Issonne Castle (Castello di Issogne) is located 40 km from Aosta. There are suggestions that it was built long before the middle of the XII century, when it was first mentioned in official documents: perhaps the castle was rebuilt from an ancient Roman villa.
Finally, Verre castle (Castello di Verrès) - another monumental building that came to us from the Middle Ages. Its appearance is purely utilitarian - a huge stone cube with rare small windows, and a complete lack of decor.
The unique location of Valle d’Aosta attracts tourists and skiers from all over the world. Arriving here, they can ride on the slopes of three countries at once in a few days: Italy, France and Switzerland.
One of the oldest ski resorts in Italy is Cervinia. Cervinia's ski slopes run along the slopes of Mount Matterhorn, its height is 4478 m. Especially desperate skiers can climb to the highest point and make a dizzying descent from three and a half thousand meters. There are no resorts located higher than Cervinia in Italy.
The peak of the season in Cervinia falls in December, in January there is a relative calm, and in February and March, the slopes in the vicinity of the resort are again full of bright ski suits.
However, the higher the mountains, the longer the season - in the highlands, snow lies all year round. There are very difficult routes, and less extreme routes of great length, which allow you to enjoy not from the adrenaline rush, but from admiring the surrounding nature. Nevertheless, most routes, such as the Bontadidni piste, are designed for trained skiers. For beginners it is better to pay attention to the “blue” Plan-Maison tracks.
A great advantage of the resort over others is the carefully thought out location of the tracks and their diversity. So, for example, “blue” tracks for beginners are on almost all slopes. This means that even those who have just started skiing have the opportunity to inspect everything around, and not ride in the same place for two weeks.
Buses from Turin and Milan go to Cervinia, you can search for a hotel with a transfer. As for accommodation, here are options for every taste, from expensive hotels (Saint Hubertus Resort) to small economical chalets (L’Ancien Paquier Chambre D’Hotes). The main thing is to book rooms in advance.
One of the most expensive Italian ski resorts is Courmayeur.. The peculiarity of the resort is that it is surrounded on all sides by almost one and a half dozen mountain peaks more than 4000 meters high. Moreover, the tracks here are mostly of medium complexity, with the exception of some really extreme ones. The total length of the tracks is more than 100 km.
Everything is done here so that tourists can get full satisfaction from their stay at the resort: there are a lot of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues around, and many routes allow you to ride around the clock.
The resort is very conveniently located - it is easily accessible from Aosta, buses from Milan and Turin go here (travel time is about 3.5-4 hours). Therefore, on weekends it can become especially crowded - Italians love to come to Courmayeur for one to two days. For the same reason, when planning a vacation in Courmayeur, it is better to take care not only about the hotel in advance, but also about where you will have dinner every day. Otherwise, you risk spending a lot of time finding a free table, and you can’t get to some restaurants without an appointment.
Black tracks are concentrated in the Val Veny zone. For beginners, Chetif or Prato are more suitable. Well, the main area for skiing is Shekrui (Checrouit). In Courmayeur there are also routes that run outside the equipped tracks - they are primarily intended for fans of freeriding, both skiing and on boards. Most of them are on Mount Cross d’Arp (Cresta D’Arp).
For your stay, you can recommend the four-star Auberge De La Maison or the more modest Hotel Crampon.
The small La Thuile is located at the foot of Mont Blanc. Recall - this is the highest mountain in Europe (except for the Caucasian peaks), its height is 4810 m. La Thuile is good because there are not as many vacationers as in other resorts in the province.so you don’t have to stand in line for the lift. There are no noisy amusements, life at the resort is more like a rustic, measured and leisurely. There is always a lot of snow in La Thuile, and the tracks are designed for well-trained athletes.
La Thuile is part of the unified ski area of San Bernardo. You can get here by bus from Courmayeur or from the city of Pre-Saint-Didier, and to Pre-Saint-Didier, in turn, by train from Turin or Milan.
- Recommended Hotels: the fashionable Niro Montana and the economical Hotel Du Glacier.
Ski resort for beginners - Pila. From here you can see all three of the highest peaks of the Alps at the same time: the aforementioned Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, as well as Monte Rosa. This resort is not as famous as the rest, which makes it even more attractive in terms of silence and less expensive services. First of all, you should pay attention to the slopes of Pyla for those who have just started to master mountain skiing - there are many gently sloping wide slopes, for example, in the Grimod region, and you can ride from early December to April.
There are not many hotels in Pyla itself, most of them are three-star hotels. But this resort is located near Aosta, so you can stay in the center of the province, and get to Pila by the lift - it will take no more than 20 minutes. If you still want to live close to the mountainsides, book a room at Bellevue Pila or Chaletbethere.
Unlike Cervinia, the Monte Rosa resort began to receive skiers relatively recently. There are about 130 km of slopes, and most of them are suitable for intermediate skiers or beginners.
It will not be boring in Monte Rosa, the resort is developing quite actively, and already boasts a large number of bars and restaurants, but still it is worth remembering that life here is not in full swing, as in the older resorts of the valley, and is more suitable for those who prefer relaxing holiday.
Here you can rent a room in a hotel located right at the foot of a mountain slope, for example, in Albergo Del Ponte, or a little further away, with a view of the mountains (Residence Lo Peyo).
Things to do
The ski resorts of Valle d’Aosta have all the conditions for a comfortable stay. Even if you have never gone skiing or snowboarding, experienced instructors will teach you the basics of skiing in a few days. Many of them have special skills for teaching people with disabilities, there are many children’s schools in the province where your child will learn the basics of skiing, under the constant supervision of experienced teachers. If you come with a family in which far from everyone is delighted with the prospect of skiing all day, do not hesitate - anyone will find something to their liking.
Resort towns come to life not only in the evenings when bars and restaurants fill crowds. During the day, you can visit the pools or spa complexes, do yoga or fitness, play bowling. In Cervinia there is an ice karting track with two tracks. In a quiet Monte Rosa, dog sledding is organized, and horse riding lessons can be taken. You can play tennis, golf, ice skating or rock climbing in the large sports complex located near the Courmayeur resort. Many go to the city of Pré-Saint-Didier in order to use the services of the thermal complex.
Those who prefer the thrill, but for one reason or another can not experience them with high-speed descents from the surrounding peaks, can discover paragliding or flying in a balloon. Well, the proximity to the three highest peaks of the Alps immediately opens up almost unlimited opportunities for climbers.
Valle d’Aosta - one of the largest centers of winemaking in Italy. The region is famous primarily for white wines, the material for which ripens in the highest mountain vineyards of the country - up to 1.2 km to sea level, although they account for only 10% of the wines produced.
Since 1971, the province's wine-growing zone has been called DOC Valle d’Aosta. About 2.5 million bottles of wine are produced here annually.
The total area of vineyards is small, but it affects the number of cultivated varieties: there are more than twenty. The most common varieties are pit rouge, it occupies 16% of the area of all vineyards, and nebbiolo (almost 10%). The most popular white variety is Prie Blanc: more than 6% of all plantings.
- Amazing fact:finding local wines in other provinces of Italy is quite difficult, the number of foreign tourists and Italians coming to the resorts of the region is so great that almost all the wine produced is drunk here, without leaving the province.
1. Climb the cable car to the Rosa Plateau to admire Mont Blanc
The Rose Plateau, whose height is 3480 m, is rightfully considered one of the most aristocratic viewing platforms of the Alps. An incredible view of the four-thousanders of Italy, France and Switzerland opens up from the top lift station: Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Gran Paradiso and Monte Rosa. In the background is also visible the silhouette of Mount Monviso, located in the neighboring region - Piedmont. The same panorama opens from the observation tower of the highest mountain museum in Europe, “Una Montagna di Lavoro”, dedicated to cable cars. It has bronze signs with names and distances to all 38 peaks, the height of which exceeds 4 km.
2. Relax in the baths of Pre-Saint-Didier
Thermes of Saint-Didier / capodanno-offerte.com
The Pre-Saint-Didier Terme is a real treasure in the heart of Valle d'Aosta, a stone's throw from the ski resorts of Courmayeur and La Thuile. And if in the XVII century they were accessible only to the Savoyard nobility, nowadays anyone can relax in a warm outdoor pool, admiring landscapes of extraordinary beauty, including in winter.
The new building preserved the architecture of the 19th century. On more than 500 m 2 of the complex there are thermal baths decorated with wood and natural stone, hydromassage, sauna, Turkish hammam. And, of course, an outdoor pool that allows you to admire Mont Blanc at any time of the year.
3. Explore the starry sky from the Saint Barthelemy Observatory
The Regional Astronomical Observatory was opened in Saint-Barthélemy, Nous County, in 2003. It was originally conceived as accessible for school trips and astronomy enthusiasts who wish to conduct observations on their own. In addition to the main 810 mm telescope, astronomy enthusiasts also have other powerful tools for observing celestial bodies. Guides are available for less advanced visitors. A heliophysical laboratory, a computer room, two permanent exhibitions and a "planet parade" are open for schoolchildren - a model depicting the solar system on a reduced scale. Since 2009, a modern planetarium has been operating, located near the mountain shelter near the laboratory.
4. Take a train ride along the Mont Blanc glaciers
The French side of Mont Blanc is much more sheer and more covered with ice, as it faces north.From Chamonix (1035 m), a French town located at the entrance to the tunnel, a train via a cog railway runs to Montanver (1913 m) and the beginning of the Sea of Ice (Mer de glace), the largest glacier of the Mont Blanc massif. A wide river of ice descends from large glacial circuses fed by four-thousander ice. The view of the steep walls of the peaks of Drew and Grand Joras is amazing. There is also a permanent exhibition of crystals and a small museum of animals of the Alps (admission is free). Each year, a tunnel and rooms that are furnished with furniture are cut through the ice. This is a unique opportunity to watch the glacier from the inside.
5. Take a walk along the night Aosta
Night Aosta looks unusual and mysterious: it is worth caring out an hour for an evening walk through its historical center. Buildings and monuments are highlighted, the light pouring from the windows gives the city a special charm.
Numerous monuments of the Aosta Valley are also highlighted at night: to see six of them at once, as well as the city wall of the city from the outside, take a bus tour. However, you can do it yourself, if you have a car.
6. Look at the age-old trees of Valle d’Aosta
Local law protects rare, valuable, or extra old trees. For example, the linden at the church of the College di Sant Orso is 460 years old. In the park of the Passeren d’Entrev castle in Chatillon, majestic centuries-old beeches grow, and in the castle of Baron Gamba there is even a huge sequoia!
Gorgeous centuries-old larch trees growing along the path to the shelter Epe in Valgrisanche. When you walk in the shadow of these giants calmly watching how centuries succeed each other, you experience amazing feelings.
Some autochthonous vineyards, growing in one place for more than a century, are also protected. Although they do not reach large sizes, they look very picturesque.
7. Drink Valdostan coffee from the Friendship Cup
Friendship Cup is a special wooden coffee pot with two handles, several spouts and a carved lid. Only coffee “in Valdostan” is drunk from it, i.e. burning coffee with grappa, sugar and spices.
The Friendship Cup is passed around in a circle, and everyone drinks as much as he sees fit. Then the circle repeats. This creates a special atmosphere: everyone who drinks from the same cup becomes friends.
Valdostan coffee is usually drunk on cold winter evenings after skiing, sitting around the fireplace.
8. Visit the historic center of Courmayeur
Courmayeur is a magnificent ski resort on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, near the entrance to the tunnel.
The town has a cozy center where it’s nice to go shopping, of course, if you have a solid bank account, there are many excellent restaurants on the slopes and in the city itself. In the evenings in clubs nightlife boils. Courmayeur is one of the oldest alpine resorts located at the foot of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain. And although the number of tracks is not the largest in the region, this is more than offset by the beauty of the views. Due to its small distance from big cities and the unique atmosphere, Italians love to come here for the weekend.
9. Admire the grace of mountain goats in the Gran Paradiso National Park
Trekking, mountaineering, and for the most courageous and rock climbing - this is what the Valsavarans Valley offers its visitors in the summer.
In winter, cross-country skiing enthusiasts come here (tracks are laid between the villages of Dezhoz and Pont), freeriding and snowshoeing.
In addition, in Valsavaranches you can admire the many animals living in Gran Paradiso nearby: mountain goats, foxes, chamois, marmots, lamb eagles.
This is a different reality compared to the fashionable resorts of the region, which makes it possible to fully immerse yourself in nature, practicing various sports against the backdrop of magnificent and magnificent views.
10. Immerse yourself in the Middle Ages in the castles of Isson and Feni
The town of Isson is famous for its massive square castle, which has kept its construction unchanged since 1500. The castle’s buildings are located around a spacious courtyard, in the center of which is the famous pomegranate fountain (pomegranate was a symbol of the Shalan family) made of painted wrought iron with an octagonal stone bowl. The walls are decorated with frescoes depicting coats of arms of the clans of the Shalan family. Of considerable interest are the frescoes of the Renaissance, decorating the semicircles of the vault of the portico. With great artistic expressiveness, they depict scenes of the everyday life of the family, as well as its myriad wealth, allegorically depicted in the form of shops bursting with goods.
Fenis is a secluded village where the most famous medieval castle of Valle d’Aosta is located. The building is surrounded by a double contour of battlements, and high towers give it an extremely picturesque look. Entering through the massive square entrance tower, you find yourself in a courtyard surrounded by porticoes decorated with a beautiful semicircular staircase and a cycle of frescoes from about 1420, made by artists of the workshop of Giacomo Yakerio from Turin. On the eastern wall is the fresco "Annunciation and Saints" by Giacomino da Ivrea (c. 1440).