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Aosta
Aosta is a small cultural city near the French-Italian border. It is a popular interchange for Italians on their way to Mount Blanc, a popular ski destination. The town is small and easy to explore in a day’s walk.

History

Aosta was settled in proto-historic times and later became a Celtic-Ligurian city of the Salassi. Terentius Varro captured it in 25 BC and founded the Roman colony of Augusta Praetoria. After 11 BC Aosta became the capital of the Alpes Graies ("Grey Alps") province of the Empire.
After the fall of the Western Empire, the city was conquered by the Burgundians, the Ostrogoths, the Byzantines. The Lombards, who had annexed it to their Italian kingdom, were expelled by the Franks of Pepin the Younger. Under Charlemagne Aosta acquired importance as a post on the Via Francigena, leading from Aachen to Italy. After 888 it was part of the renewed Kingdom of Italy under Arduin of Ivrea and Berengar of Friuli.
In the 10th century Aosta became part of the Kingdom of Burgundy. After the fall of the latter in 1032, it entered the lands of Umberto I Biancamano of the House of Savoy . After the creation of the county of Savoy, with its capital in Chambéry, Aosta followed its history, as well as the later Kingdom of Sardinia and unified Italy.
Under the House of Savoy Aosta was granted a special status that it maintained when the new Italian Republic was proclaimed in 1948.

Main monuments

Roman Aosta: City walls, Praetorian Gate, Crypto-portico and Forum, Theatre, Arch of Augustus and Roman Bridge;
Medieval Aosta: Towers (Bramafam, Lebbroso, Tourneuve, Balivi, Signori di Porta Sant'Orso, Fromage), Cathedral, Collegiate Church of Sant'Orso and Cloister.

arch of August
arch of August Aosta Aosta Valley tourism

This imposing monument towers over the western outskirts of Aosta, near the course of the Buthier River. The arch is perfectly aligned on the axis be­tween the Roman bridge and the Pretorian Gate (see no. 6), which constituted the eastern entrance of the city wall. It was built in 25 B.C. (the year the city was founded) both to commemorate the victory of the Roman troops, under the consul Terenzio Varrone Murena, over the proud local tribe of the Salassi, and in homage to Augustus. The honorary monument, with a single supporting Arch is 11.5 m high, with each vault measuring 8.81 m. Built in block of pud­ding-stone, it represents a mixture of Dorian and Corinthian styles: the four half-columns which deco­rate each facade and three of its sides are actual­ly completed by Corinthian capitals, but sustain a Dorian trabeation. The penthouse was replaced in 1716 by a slate roof with four slopes to avoid water seepage (1912). The statues and trophies deco­rating the niches and the penthouse were removed during Barbarian invasions. Under the vault, there was a 15th century wooden crucifix called "of the Saint Voult" (of the Holy Face) placed in 1449 (now the Saint Voult is in the Treasure museum of the Cathedral and a copy of it is in its place). The Arch of Augustus is the symbol of the town of Aosta.

Roman Theatre
Roman Theatre Aosta Aosta Valley tourism

Only the colossal southern face of this grandiose theatre remains standing: it is 22 meters high and is protected by a scaffolding structure in an attempt to preserve its integrity. It manages, in spite of this modern day metal support, to transmit the impres­sive greatness of an edifice that held up to 3000 people in its heyday. The majestic faca­de (which is still visible), of the main rectangular body of the building, which surroun­ded the semicircular cave, gives weight to the hypothesis of a covered theatre.
Roman Theatre Aosta Aosta Valley tourismThe remains of the amphitheatre are contained in the nearby monastery of Santa Caterina; this could hold up to twenty thousand people, more than the entire population of Aosta. There are still eight arcades surrounded by hardly rough-hewn Tuscan semi-columns. It probably had no area for keeping animals, which were usually a typical element of Roman games. This structure was later used in medieval times for "judgments of God" which were fierce clashes where the victor of a physical duel was also judged victor of the juridical dispute.

Piazza Chanoux
Piazza Chanoux Aosta Aosta Valley tourismPiazza Chanoux Aosta Aosta Valley tourism

The heart of the city.

Saint-BÉnin College
Saint-Bénin Aosta Aosta Valley tourism

The Saint-Bénin College, built about 1000 by the Benedictines. It is now an exhibition site.

 
Porta Pretoria
Porta pretoria Aosta Aosta Valley tourism

Of the four city gates, the only one remaining is the eastern Porta Praetoria. Today the ground has risen up on it by 3 meters: it is described by Promis as "one of the most beautiful and best preserved city gateways of the Roman world". It truly is one of the greatest remaining of our day. In ancient times it was sealed off with a mighty portcullis, the joints of which can be seen in the breadth (4.53 m) of the walls, upon which was mounted a guard's walkway. The two lateral archways were designated for the passage of pedestrians, and the larger central one, for carriages.

Roman bridge
Roman bridge Aosta Aosta Valley tourism

Coming from Ivrea, the first ancient monument that welcomes the visitor, close to the confluence of the Dora Baltea and Buthier rivers, is the Roman bridge, which characterizes the eastern part of the city and is actually called 'Font de Pierre' i.e. 'bridge of stone'. Parallel to corso Ivrea, the bridge is on a slightly raised level, perfectly preserved and still used for thoroughfare, even though in the Middle Ages the Buthier changed its course and its waters no longer run under the single 17.16 m wide arch of the humpbacked bridge. It is approximately 6 m wide and was built in the time of Augustus at the end of the 1st century B.C. with slabs of stone, in typical Roman style, imposing but elegant.

Cathedral
Cathedral Aosta Aosta Valley tourism

Beneath the Cathedral foundations, paving, baptismal fonts, mosaics, stairways and tombs have been discovered; these are all elements of an Early-Christian basilica, constructed in turn over a 3rd century Roman edifice. On the floor of the central nave, a sheet of glass reveals the principal baptistery of the Early-Christian basilica below. Such a superimposition of religious edifices marks this area as the heart of sanctity in Aosta. In the Cathedral, the whole evolution of Aosta Valley religious art is on show: the Early-Christian baptistery, the late medieval frescos, the Romanesque bell towers, the Gothic sculptures, the Renaissance atrium, the baroque altars, the Neo-classic facade. There is such an over­lay and amalgamation of centuries and styles in this church that it represents a spiritual and artistic synthesis of the Valley's history.

St. Orso
St. Orso Aosta Aosta Valley tourism

Sant'Orso is a completely unique monumental structure within the length and breadth of the Alps. The collegiate church is a contemporary of the Cathedral, and like it underwent many modifications, as its present Gothic facade dating back to the 15th century shows it. To the interior, frescos depicting the life of Christ and stories of the apostles date back to the 11th century. The area in which the medieval religiousness of Sant'Orso is most palpably and thoroughly experienced is the cloister. The marvelous capitals are made of marble from Aymaville and they are historiated with evangelical and biblical scenes and scenes from the life of Saint Orso; they were carried out, with the exception of three capitals on the east side, around the middle of the 12th century, as can be established from an inscription on one of them. Frightening figures of monsters are alternated with the edifying figures of saints, which in turn alternate with decorations of leaves and shoots and with illustrations of moments in the history of the collegiate church and of its patron saint, all combining to give a spec­tacular idea of the eloquence of medieval vision.
St. Orso Aosta Aosta Valley tourismThe bell tower (dating back to the 12th century) is the most impressive in the region, and it also originally functioned as a place of refuge, as it is surrounded and defended by a bat­tlement wall. Under the collegiate church lies an 11th century crypt, presenting a veritable forest of columns dating from various epochs, in the very site where one of the Valley's first Christian churches arose.

 

The towers

Torre del lebbroso
Torre del lebbroso Aosta Aosta Valley tourism

 

Tour du pailleron
Tour du pailleron Aosta Aosta Valley tourism

 

Tour du baillage
Tour du baillage Aosta Aosta Valley tourism

 

 
Tour neuve
Tour neuve Aosta Aosta Valley tourism

 

Tour fromage
Tour fromage Aosta Aosta Valley tourism

 

 

Museums

Museum of the treasure of the Cathedral

In the Museum, situated in the ambulatory of the Cathedral, marble sculptures, wooden icons, jewellery and reliquaries are displayed.
Address: Piazza Giovanni XXIII
Tel: +39.0165.40413 - +39.0165.40251 (parish priest)
Opening time: all year round - closed on Monday
Visiting hours: from April 1 to September 30: 8.30-10am; 10.45-11.30am; 3-5.30pm Sundays and public holidays 9 - 11.30 am / 3 - 5.30pm
weekdays from October 1 to March 31: 8.30-10am; 10.45-11.30am; 3-5.30pm
Sundays and public holidays
Entrance fee: € 2.10 adults; € 1.30 groups (min. 10 people); € 0.75 children under 6 The entrance is limited to 20 people for each tour.

 
Archaeological museum

- "Andrea Pautasso" numismatic collection. Exhibition of coins from the Grecian age to the Savoy period. The collection of celtic, gallic and upper Po area coins is very important.
- The remains of the Roman city discovered during the excavations can be visited.
- On the ground floor there are exhibits illustrating the city's history and the principal monuments.
Address: Piazza Roncas, 1, Aosta
Tel: 0165.275902 fax 0165.275948
Opening time: all year round
Visiting hours: 9am - 7pm every day
Entrance fee: Admission free