At the foothills of Mont Blanc massif, Aosta Valley Region broods over the ancient Valle d’Aosta and is home to unmatched national treasures within its small territory. Mountain sports, in specific Skiing and climbing, are the prevalent gravitations of the region, encompassing high-grade ski runs, posh snow resorts, and significant climbing routes and boulders in the Alpine countries, such as Cervinia, Courmayeur, and Pila pistes.
Together with its wealth of nature, Aosta is tied with profound cultural integrity, since the prosperous era during the roman empire, and until medieval times. Astonishing roman heritage sites, countless gothic and Lombard castles, stone-facade villages perking on rugged slopes and miles and miles of old vineyards or the spring of Aosta valley’s famous wine; all put together a sentiment, unlike any other place. When it comes to gastronomy, fine dining and savoring quality wine are not missed in Aosta.
Famed for delectable cuisine and tenderness of flavors, the valley offers variations of authentic cheese, Prosciutto Cotto, Salame, handmade pasta, and polenta- each particular in character with a unique recipe in every village and town. Contrasting the renowned city of Aosta, much of the region’s attractions are tucked away in Alpine highlands; to discover more, here is our take on the top 15 destinations to visit in Valle d’Aosta region.
Resilient against time, Aosta with its well-stratified heritage sites and relics, displays the prestige of the former roman colony. Once a Celtic-Ligurian settlement and later an Augustan veteran camp, the city stands as the capital and only metropolitan municipality throughout the region. Multiple sites of roman structures and colossal edifices have inspired the nickname, “Rome of the Alps“, followed by a high profile in Archaeotourism.
The early Romanos settlement in the fertile basins of the Alps and glacier aquatic deposits, date back to 25 BC, leaving behind numerous hallmarks sprinkled along the roman road; historic thumbprints of the expansive ancient establishment are sought in every corner of the town and its urban boundaries. The ancient gate of Porta Praetoria perches next to the metropolis’s defensive wall, the triumphal arch of Augustus, a Roman theatre, remains of Castra or a military camp, and the 600-meter long roman bridge of Pont de Pierre, lying across Bhutier river.
while preserving its roman and early christian characteristics, Aosta is speckled with richly decorated churches, exceptional castles and edifices- an ultimate destination for cultural enthusiast.
Beneath Piazza Papa Giovanni XXIII, at the historic core of Aosta, rests the fragments of the ancient town of Criptoportico. A series of U-shaped galleries served as a political-religious complex, connecting the two holy temples to the forensic piazza. As an exemplary architecture, Criptoportico’s galleries have withstood the time for centuries in entirety. This ancient framework also incorporates an ingenious natural ventilation system in order to maintain the galley’s temperature all year round.
Although much of the stories of this place remain untold, historic evidence testifies the convention of this connective route until the medieval era, documented as Marché des Romains. Descending into the roman staircase, under the skin of modern Aosta, fills every visitor with wonders of a population so great that conquered the world with art and intellect.
Regarded as one of the touristic pillars of Aosta Valley, the photogenic Comune of Fenis is highlighted for its breathtaking scenery, beaming with the medieval Castel of Chalants, or the 20th-century Valdostan dynasty. Besides the emblematic castle, Fenis implies the cultural infusion between the swiss and Italian ethnicity and codes of common ancestry- echoed in the medieval urban structure, dialect, cuisine, and craftmanship; Museo dell’Artigianato Valdostano di Tradizione, or Fenris’s museum of craftsmanship, exhibits medieval to present-day compilations of handcrafted wood and textile fabrics, practical wooden utensils and decorative masterpieces.
From Fenis, the path rolls towards the impressive hiking trail of Coteau – Eremo Saint-Julien route, overlooking Doria valley, Aosta town, and the grand Clavalité; where walks of admirers of the dazzling nature and pilgrims of the holy sanctuary of Saint Julian mingle. The high-altitude path ultimately points to the hermitage of Saint-Julien, secluded at the heart of one of Italy’s sacred mountains, Mont Saint-Julien.
4. Grand Paradise National Park
Representing Italy’s first national park, “Grand Paradise” is nothing but a deserved title for the earthly heaven of Parco Nazionale dell Gran Paradiso. From the tall figure of snow-capped mountains to turquoise glacier lagoons, and silver linings of steeping rivers, this photogenic landscape is home to biodiverse wildlife, sprinkled with artistic hamlets and occasional heritage sites.
The Gran Paradiso is unparalleled in its luring beauty; rising from valleys and marshland vegetation to wooded forests, aquatic biome and the upper valley lakes and rivers, to the high- altitude alpine pasture and lastly, reaching to the bare chest of mountain tops and frosted summits.
This park is best visited during the spring and summer while pinpointing a popular destination for photographers, mountain sports fans, and nature fanatics.
Noted as one of the most beautiful Italian villages, the scenic hamlet of Bard enchants every viewer on the first sight; beaming with a charming fortress, whirled around by narrow alleys and medieval apartments. Savoy Fort of Bard seats on the rocky prominence, looking out on the valley and the roman commercial route that symbolizes the locale’s first settlement. In accordance with cultural costumes, Bard was built on the steep rocks as a defensive mechanism, secured with a fortress and a pre-existing fortified wall.
Though the settlement was constructed over the ancient roman canal, Furiana- testifying Bard’s antiquity, this stone-built hamlet follows the stream of posh tourism, culinary, and trade in the present day. Bard is best visited during the summer months for the mountain trekking, food festival, and sightseeing; the village features a series of winter activities; skiing pistes at the neighborhood, a dreamy Christmas market fair, splendid Spas and hotels complemented with crisp mountain air and Bard authentic flavors.
Acclaimed as an elegant ski destination, the town of Courmayeur lies on the slopes of the mighty Mont Blanc. Embraced by the mountains and faith, the initial inhabitant appeared next to the church of Saint Pantaleon and Valentin. At the historic quarters, well-curated medieval apartments sprawl along the stone-veneer paths; with chic shopping streets, international-grade restaurants, and accommodations, buzzing with tourists in winter and summer.
Courmayeur is considered a base camp for mountaineers, and athletes of Alpine skiing. Duca degli Abruzzi Museum at House of the Guides parades a rich collection of documents, relicts, and historic evidence belonging to significant climbers.
Ferret and Veny valleys are formed as a result of exceptionally high altitude karst, presenting the accessible points to glacier lakes for fishing, para-gliding slopes, and cross border ski-runs. A fine snow resort experience complemented with scrumptious culinary, the backdrop view of Alpine slopes in Skyway cable car, plying over from Aosta to Switzerland’s, and familiarizing with mountaineering capital of the world, here in Courmayeur.
7. Saussurea Alpine Botanical garden
At the foothills of Pavillon du Mont Fréty, Saussurea Alpine Botanical Garden encloses an area of 7000 square meters of Alpine plateaus. Renowned for the outstanding scenery, the park comprises various land compositions and hence countless plant groups. From bush vegetations of rocky screes to marshlands Cattails and Papyrus, the green refuge shelters over 800 plant species and countless animals, birds, and aquatic faunae.
The trail to pavilion starts from la Palud village, surrounded by several lagoons and lakes at the magnificent Veny Valley. on the foot, the trail cuts across breathtaking flower meadows and slopes, leading to Saussurea. Alternatively, Mont Blanc Skyway cable cars offer a ride to station at Pavilion.
Visitors can take candid photos while dining at the heights of Pavilion fine restaurants, or after a long day gazing at the wondrous landscape and rare plant varieties, return to nearby villages and taste the Alp’s original cuisine, sided with sparkling local wine.
Here at the bewildering hamlet of Gressoney-Saint-Jean, Aosta Valley’s characteristic elements are captured within the boundaries of this small yet affluent inhabitation; castles, museums, medieval streets, vibrantly frescoed churches only to name a few.
The summer residence of Queen Margherita, known as the Savoy Castle, exhibits striking chambers decorated with prominent Masterpieces from foreign and Italian painters and a small botanical garden nearby. Reflecting hamlet’s faith, the Parish church of Saint John offers a serene ambient, with a lavishly embroidered altar and vibrant frescoes.
Nestled in the valley of Lys at the arduous heart of Monte Rosa, this elevated municipality houses a cross-country ski run that hosts championship competitions and a smaller ski trail knowns as Alpine Piste. During the Spring blooms, valleys of Lys, Ayas, and Valsesia are brooded with wildflowers and velvety pastures, veined with seasonal rivers and waterfalls; a spectacle appreciated by trekkers, rock climbers, paragliders and all those who sit on the wooden balcony of a mountain cabin, sipping tea and gazing at the blooming life of the Alps.
9. Etroubles and Great Saint Bernard Pass
Draped with velvety green meadows and beaming Alp’s summits, Etroubles is a small town and prominent for its Parish church. An open-sky museum parade works of sculpture and conceptual art from international artists. Besides the cultural aspects, Etroubles’s foodie delicacies and authentic accommodations in the city’s ancient apartments.
On the outskirt slopes of Etroubles, lies the path to the Great Saint Bernard Pass. It is the same path that the ancient civilizations marched from Italy to Switzerland, often for trade, warcraft, or religious clergy. The bewitching beauty of landscape and viewpoint lure many travelers to the antique trail through the summer months. The pass’s legends rest at the Great Saint Bernard Hospice and its museum, which convey the legends of the kind monks and pilgrims of the sierras.
The magnificent St. Bernard sniffer dogs are bred at neighboring villages, and stand as an alpine hero with legendary stories of rescued lost travelers, even beneath meters of ice and snow. A food festival in July known as Jambon de Bosses is celebrated in this valley, presenting a flavorful night with music, wine, and varieties of Ham, in the essence of the festival, the Bosses’ Ham!
From casinos to independent film festivals and exceptional natural settings, Saint Vincent is entertaining, antiquated and chic. Though the village foregoes to the prehistoric era, it was rather unknown to the world until the discovery of local thermal baths in the 18th century. Fashionable spas, large therapeutic pools and luxurious hotel suits with private thermal baths offer wellness service to Saint-Vincent’s guests.
Besides dipping into the healing pools, tourists visit Saint-Vincent for the opulent casino houses, journalism awards and Grolla d’Oro Film Festival, and a wealth of cultural and natural treasures; the famous Col de Joux ski resort, and various hiking and climbing trails, all integrated with the vista of unconstrained Alpine horizons.
On the banks of Dora Baltea River, soars the beautiful burgh of Arnad, pronounced with the baroque castle of Vallaise. Village’s culinary legacy is the ancient recipes for the best dry-rendered Lard, or Lardo di Arnad DOP and Arnad-Montjovet wine. However, braised ham is not the only thing their legacy is built upon.
Predating to the ancient alpine tribes, the settlement’s ancient tradition and techniques are safeguarded in the heart of every resident; bringing forth outstanding handicrafts such as handmade charcuteries.
From the frescoed chapels of Saint Anthony to figurative Tor dé l’Ohtà, renaissance castle Issogne, and ancient bridge of Ponte di Echallod, culture and history is entwined in every direction. Wall of Alp, a renowned climbing wall, and Cervinia Valtournenche ski piste, to mention a few of the natural captivating elements that feed the city’s fundamental source of income, tourism.
12. Agliano Term
Despite the bold figure of the mountains, they flare with kindness and health-giving thermal baths in numerous locations in the Alpine region. Agliano Terme, comprising Fonte San Rocco and Fons Salutis, is best recognized for its remedial properties and sizeable amounts of magnesium active salts.
Translating to “the Health Fountains”, Fons Salutis is detected in the vicinity of Saint-Vincent. Once appreciated by the ancient Romans, these Spas were abandoned and rediscovered in the late 18th century. Multiple renovations and expansion projects have taken place to retain the Imperial Baths’ former glory and furthermore, accommodate today’s tourist demand.
Source of thermal springs of Saint Rocco flows from the slopes of Rocco village, architected in neoclassical style. The village is considered the least populated hamlet through the region, with a population of 31 people including 8 men and 23 women; a serene getaway enhanced by the clean mountain air and thermal baths. The waters of this spring are mild on the minerals and tepid, flowing out at 13.5-celsius degree, recommended both for consumption and inhalation.
A few kilometers to the north of Saint Bernard Pass sits a quiet village at the borders of Swiss borders; the east-facing hamlet of Saint-Rhèmy-en-Bosses is prominent for an abundance of natural light through the year, differing from most of the highland inhabitations. While housing a small population, the locality still holds the commend of serving the best Prosciutto Crudo or raw ham, seasoned and dry-cured.
Parish churches of Saint Lawrence and San Leonardo, the 11th-century castle and the medieval center are of the city’s cultural attractions. Anticipating the magnificent geographical locale, Sain Rhemy offers a full immersion in nature; from taking the hiking path of Tour des Combins conjoined with the Swiss Alps, to cycling on the flower beds of exquisite mountain trails, or even sliding down a world-class ski run.
Established on the grounds of faith, Sant’Orso of Aosta developed around the church of Saint Ursus with lively frescoes and masterful mosaics; marking the town’s medieval complex. The village is uncontaminated, hospitable, and artistic; housing several patrician villas, San Orso’s romantic cloister, and Fiera di Sant’Orso extraordinary exhibitions. At the edges of the borough, a cemetery holds the resting abode of many artists, politicians, and other imposing men and women of Aosta since the 19th century.
Celebrated as a long-standing tradition, locals hold an artisan fair in last two days of January, offering leather, wood and metal artifacts- some for convenience and daily use, while others rank as exceptional decorative artworks; handicraft shops offer their artisan goods as continuing a tradition at Borgo di Aosta; the legend has it Borgo is a benedictine place where the holy saint fed and dressed the poor.
At the north of Sant’Orso valley rises the illustrious city of Cogne, with an ethnicity preceding to the Romans, and later the flourishing Arpitania inhabitations. Bearing one of the gates to the heart of Gran Paradiso National Park, tourism in Cogne encircles trekking facilities, mountain and ski resorts, and the city’s own vestiges at historic quarters. Ancient aqueducts constructed under Augustus Caesar’s ruling and Pont d’Aël bridge crossing over Cogne valley, represent the Roman relics of the town, from 1st century BC.
With a long heritage of herding and authentic artisan crafts, mining was the city’s first form of international trade; now, the venerable iron mines at vicinity remind the blossoming age of Cogne. Permanent wood sculpture gallery of Ouvrier, the outstanding Cogne artist and museum of Maison Gérard-Dayné, with a full range of ethnological artifacts and scriptures, embodies the cultural poles of this township.
The greatest profusion of the Aosta region lies in the Gran Paradiso; from the Lac de Combal glaciers, atop Cogne valley, where River Urtier steeps onto three layers of magnificent ice falls and waterfalls. Lillaz cascades pour down to the crystalline lagoon- an optimum spot for sunny summer day swimming- conjoined with lush vegetation, astonishing flora and fauna, and Loie lake, only paces away.
Monte Rosa, nicknamed after the pink-hued summits in the sunsets, hosts world-famous ski resorts of Ayas-Champoluc and Gressoney-le-Trinite, that covers from basics to international-level ski-runs, and accessibility to authentic fortified villages. As for the gastronomy symbols, the regions’ specialty is a simmering bowl of cheese fondue, prepared with alpine cheeses in particular Fontina Valdostana PDO. Other tasteful delicacies of the region are Suede Civet served with Polenta and regional hazelnut macaron confections for the dessert.