The city of Aosta has very ancient origins, firstly as a settlement for the Celtic- Ligurian tribe “Salassi” and soon after , the object of an increasing interest for the Romans. Because of its strategic location due to the presence of the two mountain passes of the Great and Little St. Bernard, the Romans battled against the Salassi and won in 25 BC.
Surrounded by the most impressive mountains of Europe (four 4000 metre peaks are to be found in the region) and the second city in the world for artefacts and Roman monuments, Aosta today looks like a district of ancient Rome amongst the Alps. Walking in the city you will find evidence of traces of Roman town planning – the city walls are almost entirely preserved. There are numerous impressive monuments such as the Augustus Arch, the Porta Prætoria gate with its double wall, the majestic Roman Theatre, the Forum and the Criptoportico, once the fulcrum of religious, political and social life and the Roman Bridge over the Buthier, located at the eastern entrance of the city. The name of the city comes from the expression with which the Roman used to call it: Augusta Prætoria Salassorum.
In Aosta you will find many other very interesting monuments and places: the monumental complex of Saint Orso, which includes the Gothic-style church, with an important cycle of Ottonian frescoes, the crypt and the wonderful cloister; the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, built before the thirteenth century; the various towers surrounding the perimeter of the ancient city, the central square Émile Chanoux, called the “living room ” of the city, and the Museo Archeologico Regionale (MAR), where you’ll surely appreciate some remarkable exhibitions.
Aosta is the best starting point to discover our small region, its immaculate nature and its prestigious historical heritage: towers and impressive castles are spread all over the region. One of the most spectacular is the recently renowned Fénis castle: situated about ten kilometers from Aosta it dominates the landscape over the central valley with its squared and cylindrical towers. Another unforgettable building is the “Forte di Bard”, an old fortress, ancient sentinel for all strangers coming to visit our region and now the new and modern museum of the Alps.
In the district of Aosta, right at the entrance of the Valley of Cogne, you will find the royal castle of Sarre, of medieval origin but almost entirely rebuilt by Jean-François Ferrod during the eighteenth century. The castle was purchased by the Royal House in 1869 and, under the request of Vittorio Emanuele and his son Umberto I, its walls were adorned with numerous hunting trophies. That is probably the reason why the King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, decided to establish his hunting lodge right here, in a position that would allow him to easily reach the prior Royal Hunting Reserve, which is nowadays the National Park of Gran Paradiso. The Savoy family lived in the castle as in a summer residence until they had to depart because of the exile. In 1989 they decided to sold it to the Regional Administration of Aosta Valley, which has reopened it to the public: while visiting its rooms, decorated with furniture, paintings and vintage items, tourists can now retrace interesting pages in the history of the Savoy family.