|A ruggedly scenic region,
sitting at the foot of Europe’s highest mountains, Cervino
(Matterhorn), Gran Paradiso, Mont Blanc and Monte
Rosa and bordering France and Switzerland.
Valle d’Aosta is politically autonomous
and to some extent culturally distinct from the rest of Italy. French
is spoken as a first language by most of the inhabitants. The picturesque
ruins of countless castles, some of which are open to the public
including, Fenis and Issogne, testify to the region’s immense
strategic significance before the era of air travel, it was the
gateway to two of the most important routes through the Alps,
the Little and Great St Bernard Passes. However,
the Mont Blanc Tunnel has largely superseded the
St Bernard Passes as a major overland freight route.
The Gran Paradiso National Park is home to wildlife
including the chamois and ibex and
is a popular destination for hillwalkers and climbers.
There are several fine ski resorts in the area, most notably Breuil-Cervinia
and Courmayeur. One of Italy’s few casinos
is found at St Vincent.
The principal city of Valle d’Aosta has many
well-preserved Roman and Medieval buildings. The massive Roman city
walls remain mostly intact and, the old town retains the grid-iron
street plan characteristic of all such military townships. An impressive
gateway is the Porta Pretoria, formed the main
entrance into the old Roman town. During the Middle Ages a noble
family lived in the gatehouse tower, which now houses temporary
exhibitions. Further ancient Roman sites include the Teatro
Romano, where theatrical performances are still staged
during the summer, and the Arco di Augusto, erected
in 25 BC to honour Emperor Augustus, after whom the city is named
(Aosta being a corruption of Augustus).