Valle d'Aosta (The Aosta Valley in English) is a province of Italy. It is one of the smallest regions in the country, but that does not detract from its value. The Alps define the region – a wealth of fabulous hiking trails, natural treasures and attractions. And if all that wasn't enough, we'll tell you that Mont Blanc and Matterhorn are also located here.
As an autonomous region, it has a certain degree of legislative and administrative independence.
Sign in to enjoy an ad-free experience and stay up-to-date with our latest features.
Where is Valle'd Aosta?
The province is located in the northern part of Italy. It borders France in the west, Switzerland in the north, and the Italian region of Piedmont in the south. We are walking between the peaks of the Alps, but the Dolomites do not reach this far. The region's capital and largest city is Aosta, with the same name.
- Turin distance: 120 km
- Milan distance: 200 km
- Chamonix distance: 60 km
- Zermatt distance: 180 km
The Aosta Valley is the smallest region in Italy in terms of both area and population. Its area is approximately 3,263 square kilometres. Despite its small size, it is the Mecca of hiking and excursions. Tourism is the most important economic sector in the region. Its natural beauty, ski resorts and historical landmarks also attract tourists. Popular destinations include Courmayeur, Cervinia and Gran Paradiso National Park.
The province is located in the western part of the Italian Alps. It is a narrow valley surrounded by majestic mountain ranges. An alpine landscape with towering peaks, lush valleys, and snow caps. Mountains determine its topography:
- Mont Blanc: Located on the border between Italy and France. It is the highest mountain in Western Europe, with an altitude of 4808 meters above sea level.
- Monte Rosa: Monte Rosa is another major peak in the Alps on the border between Italy and Switzerland. It is the second-highest mountain in Western Europe, with 4634 meters.
- Matterhorn (Cervino): The iconic pyramid-shaped Matterhorn (4478 m) is one of the most famous peaks in the Alps. It is located on the border of Italy and Switzerland.
- Gran Paradiso: The eponymous mountain of the Gran Paradiso National Park. The 4061-meter-high mountain is the highest peak in Italy.
The valley floor is home to many towns and villages. It is crossed by the Dora Baltea, which originates from glaciers and mountain streams and eventually joins the larger Po River in the Piedmont region.
Thanks to its alpine environment, it experiences cold winters with heavy snowfall, making it a popular destination for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. In contrast, summer is generally mild, perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities.
Aosta, the capital city
The region's capital, Aosta, is the largest city and administrative centre. It is located in the middle of the region. It is the hub of trade, culture and tourism within the region. It is also a perfect choice for accommodation, as it is easy to explore the countryside from here due to its central location.
In addition to the city of Aosta, you should also know about the following cities:
- Bard: The city's highlight is undoubtedly Forte di Bard, an opulent-looking fortress that dominates the city's skyline. Bard himself is amazing. Here you find a charming old town with narrow streets, historic buildings and small squares. The town is located along the ancient Roman road known as the Via Francigena, which connected Canterbury in England with Rome.
- Fontainemore: The charming village is located in the Lys Valley and is surrounded by beautiful alpine scenery. The towering peaks of the Pennine Alps and the Gran Paradiso National Park are nearby. Due to its idyllic view, it has become one of the most photographed spots in the province.
- Gressoney-Saint-Jean: You find the village at an altitude of 1385 meters in the Lys Valley.
- St Vincent: A settlement is known for its thermal baths and spas.
- Courmayeur: A famous mountain resort town at the foot of Mont Blanc.
- Châtillon: Located along the river Dora Baltea, the town is known for the Castello di Ussel.
- Saint-Pierre: Saint-Pierre is home to Château Sarriod de la Tour.
- Pre Saint Didier: The main attraction of Pré-Saint-Didier is the thermal baths rich in thermal waters and minerals. The village's location makes it an ideal starting point for exploring the nearby Mont Blanc mountains and the Gran Paradiso National Park.
- Verrès: Verrès is a historic town with a beautiful castle, the Castello di Verrès, which dates back to the 14th century.
- Frassiney: Frassiney is a small village in the municipality of Saint-Marcel. A picturesque alpine place among beautiful mountains.
- Pontboset: The settlement of Pontboset is located in the upper part of the Champorcher Valley. Due to its traditional Alpine architecture and spectacular bridge, it is one of the most photographed parts of the region. An excellent starting point for hiking, climbing and excursions.
- Avise: Avise is a historic village on a hillside overlooking the river Dora Baltea. It is known for its medieval charm, with narrow streets, stone houses and ancient buildings that showcase its rich history. The village is also famous for Avise Castle, a well-preserved medieval fortress.
- Arnad: Located along the river Dora Baltea, among the majestic Alps. It is famous for its culinary speciality, Lard d'Arnad, a marinated, spiced pork fat.
Despite its small size, the region is home to many fabulous castles. Here are some of the better-known ones:
Fort of Bard
Forte di Bard is a historic fortress overlooking the town of Bard. It was strategically located to control those coming to the valley and played a significant role in the region's defence. The pentagonal fortress is home to museums, art exhibitions and cultural events.
Savoy Castle is a medieval fortress built in the 14th century. The Savoy family commissioned its construction. The castle is an excellent example of medieval military architecture - it has defence towers, walls and bastions.
Castle of Verres
Verrés Castle is a medieval fortress with a square tower and defensive walls. Its past dates back to the 14th century, when there was a need for a fort to regulate trade passing through the valley. Although smaller than other castles in the region, it offers an authentic glimpse into medieval life and architecture. Visitors can explore the castle's premises, including the Great Hall and the Keep.s
Castello di Issogne
Issogne Castle is a 15th-century castle transformed into a luxurious residence during the Renaissance. The castle's interior is decorated with beautifully painted rooms and Flemish-style frescoes. Italian-style gardens with fountains and garden sculptures surround its walls.
Sarriod de La Tour
The 13th-century castle was originally built by the powerful Sarriod family, who played a prominent role in the region in the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, the castle has undergone various transformations and expansions, resulting in its present appearance. It contains various defensive features, including strong stone walls, towers and ramparts.
Castello di Ussel
The Ussel Castle stands on a hill with a great panorama of the surrounding area. Inside the 12th-century castle, visitors can discover exhibits related to the region's history, cultural heritage and medieval life. The castle is an excellent example of defensive architecture. It offers a unique glimpse into the region's turbulent past.
Castello di Fenis
Fenis Castle is one of the most famous medieval castles in the Aosta Valley. The castle, built in the 13th century, can be recognized from afar by its iconic defensive towers. The castle's interior is decorated with beautiful frescoes depicting medieval life and mythology scenes. Visitors can explore the halls, rooms and courtyard of the castle.
Castello di Aymavilles
The 13th-century castle was originally built as a defensive fortification by the lords of Aymavilles. It played a strategic role in controlling the trade route through the Aosta Valley. Aymavilles Castle is one of the representatives of medieval military architecture. It has strong stone walls and towers typical of fortifications built in that period. The castle was designed to withstand sieges and attacks, and its imposing appearance is a testament to its defensive purpose.
Castello Reale di Sarre
Sarre Royal Castle is a former royal residence surrounded by a large park. It offers a peaceful and picturesque setting perfect for a stroll. The castle has been renovated and houses a museum displaying artefacts related to the region's history and the royal family.
Castello di Cly
Cly Castle is a small medieval castle with a square tower and ancient wall remains. Although you cannot see it from the inside, you can admire it from the outside. The castle's architecture is typical of the medieval fortifications of the region.
Valle'd Aosta primarily has a humid continental climate with strong alpine influences. The region's weather is determined by its high altitude, mountainous topography and proximity to the Alps. As a result, the Aosta Valley has some unique climatic characteristics:
- Temperature: Winters are cold, with temperatures often below freezing, especially in mountainous areas. Summer is usually mild and pleasant. At the bottom of the valley, the temperature can be pleasantly warm, while in the higher areas, it can be cooler even in the summer months.
- Precipitation: The valley receives significant precipitation, especially snow, during the winter months. Snowfall is common in the mountains. Rainfall is more frequent in the spring and summer, contributing to lush and vibrant vegetation.
- Microclimate: Due to the diverse relief conditions, many unique microclimates exist. This is mainly due to the highlands' cooler and wetter and milder conditions.
- Weather Variability: Weather conditions can be quite variable. Rapid change, even within a single day, is not uncommon.
- Winter (December to February): Winter is cold, with temperatures often below freezing, especially in higher elevations. It often snows, and the valley and the surrounding mountains are covered in snow, making it ideal for winter sports lovers.
- Spring (March to May): Spring is a transitional season where the weather gradually softens and the snow begins to melt. March can still be quite cold, but as the season progresses, temperatures rise, and the landscape begins to blossom. April and May bring flowers and greenery. The beginning of the hiking season.
- Summer (June to August): Summer is generally mild and pleasant, although it can be hot in lower elevations. The peak season for hiking and cycling. In the higher mountainous areas, the climbing season starts from mid-summer.
- Autumn (September to November): The weather is still mild in September and early October but gradually cools down towards November.
Both Italian and French traditions influence the local cuisine. Some typical dishes include Fontina cheese, polenta and the regional speciality "Valpelline Soup".
- Local cheeses: Famous for its delicious cheeses, of which Fontina is the most famous. The cheese is a semi-soft cow's milk cheese with a nutty and slightly fruity taste. It is often used in traditional dishes such as fondue and tartiflette.
- Polenta: Made from ground cornmeal, the dish is served in various forms, including soft polenta, which resembles porridge, or the chilled, hard version known here. It is often paired with stews or game meats.
- Valpelline soup: This hearty soup is a speciality of the region. It usually includes ingredients like cabbage, potatoes, Fontina cheese, and steamed bread to create a rich and flavorful dish.
- Meats: The cuisine of the valley includes a variety of meats, including beef, pork, venison, and wild boar. These meats are often used in stews, roasts and traditional sausages.
- Lardo d'Arnad: Lardo d'Arnad is marinated pork fat seasoned with garlic, rosemary and other herbs. A traditional and unique product of the region, often thinly sliced and served as an antipasti.
- Regional pastries: We can find many pastries and desserts in the countryside. Examples include the "Torta di Noci", a walnut cake made from local walnuts, or the "Fondant au Chocolat".
- Local wines: We can drink excellent wines, especially red wines from the Nebbiolo grape variety. The region is also known for its sweet wine, "Muscatály", which pairs well with desserts and cheeses.
- Honey: Honey production is essential to the region's culinary heritage. Local honey is often used in desserts and cakes or drizzled over cheese for a sweet and savoury combination.
There are several well-known hiking trails in the province. All of these led through the Alps. Hiking enthusiasts come from around the world to explore the region's trails.
- Tour du Mont Blanc: Although the entire Tour du Mont Blanc is a multi-day tour that circumnavigates the Mont Blanc mountain range, part of the trail passes through the Aosta Valley. The route takes hikers through stunning alpine landscapes, glaciers, mountain lakes and picturesque villages.
- Alta Via 1: The Alta Via 1 is a classic hiking route through the Aosta Valley and other regions of the Italian Alps. It is a challenge, but it is rewarding, as hikers have magnificent views.
- Gran Paradiso National Park: We can discover deserted super and well-marked trails that lead through lush valleys, alpine meadows, and high mountain passes. The park is a protected area, so it can be said to be an island of peace. While hiking, don't forget to say hello to the wild goats and chameleons.
- Monte Rosa Trek: This multi-day trek takes hikers around the Monte Rosa mountain range on the border between Italy and Switzerland. The trail offers stunning views of several 4,000m peaks as we pass through charming alpine villages.
- Matterhorn Glacier Trail: The Matterhorn Glacier Trail is only for more advanced hikers. With the help of the hiking trail, we can get close to the iconic peak, but we will not climb it. The trail passes through the impressive Theodul Glacier and offers an unforgettable experience for everyone.
- Mont Avic Natural Park: In the Mont Avic Natural Park, located in the western part of the province, we find a wide-ranging network of hiking trails. They lead through beautiful forests, alpine meadows and icy landscapes.
- Sentiero dei 4 Passi: The "Sentiero dei 4 Passi" or "Four Pass Route" is a challenging hike that takes you through the four mountain passes of the valley.
- Ancient times: The Aosta Valley was originally inhabited by the Salassi, a Celtic tribe. The region came under Roman control in 25 BC when Roman legions led by Augustus conquered the area. The Romans established Augusta Praetoria Salassorum (present-day Aosta) and built roads and bridges.
- Middle Ages: The region experienced many invasions and conflicts in the Middle Ages. In the 6th century, it was part of the Lombard Kingdom and became part of the Italian Kingdom. Due to the valley's strategic location, feudal lords and noble families competed to control the region.
- House of Savoy: In the 11th century, a noble dynasty from the Piedmont region, the House of Savoy, gained influence over the valley. The region became part of the Duchy of Savoy and remained under the authority of the House of Savoy for centuries. The House of Savoy played a significant role in shaping the region's history.
- French influence: French influence has always been quite significant. From time to time, the valley was annexed by France briefly, and the French language and culture were invisibly integrated into the public consciousness.
- Modern era: The region became part of the United Kingdom of Italy in 1861. After the Second World War, it received a special autonomous status within Italy. This autonomy has allowed the region to preserve and promote its distinct linguistic and cultural heritage, including recognising French as an official language alongside Italian.
- Tourism development: In the 20th century, its natural beauty and alpine landscapes developed tourism. Today, it is a significant economic driver of the region.
We hope you found this article helpful. If so, save this link for later or share it with your friends. Have a nice trip! Trekhunt team ❤️