Aosta is capital of the Valle d’Aosta region, the most northwestern part of Italy. The central square is Piazza Emile Chanoux. Aosta is located in a ski area and therefore receives most tourists during the winter.
Aosta travel guide
Location and public transport
Aosta is situated between two rivers wedged into a valley in a mountainous region. The nearest ski resort is Pila, a suburb of Gressan, which has 29 slopes, with a total length of about 70 kilometers. For skiers, since 1957 there has been a cable car, which leads to Pila in 20 minutes.
The SS26 crosses the city in an east-west direction. The SS27 leads to the Swiss border at the Saint Bernard Pass. The E27 leads from Belfort, France, to Aosta, which is also along the A5 between Turin and Courmayeur.
Aosta has its own train station. It lies on two lines. The first, which is currently (December 2020) out of service, goes to Pré-Saint-Didier. The station is also a stop on the line between Chivasso and Turin (Porta Nuova).
The origin of Aosta is Roman. The name of the city is derived from the person who founded it around 25 BC, Emperor Augustus. The actual work, by the way, was done by General Aulus Terentius Varro Murena, who founded the colony Augusta Praetoria Salassorum, after having defeated the rebellious Salassi.
However, the territory itself had been inhabited before, as can be inferred from the discovery of a megalithic sanctuary.
After selling the Salassi as slaves, the general had the new colony populated by three thousand Pretorians (Pretorians were actually a type of imperial bodyguards. However, the word was also used for army units that offered protection to other rulers.).
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the region was attacked successively by the Burgundians, the Ostrogoths, and the Lombards. Later, in 575, it came into the hands of the Franks.
From 979 to 1032, the city again came into the hands of the Bourgondians, after which the county of Valle d’Aosta was given to Umberto I Biancamano. This “Humbert I Whitehand” was the ancestor of the House of Savoy, which at the end of the 19th century would become Italian royalty.
From then on this family maintained its power and Aosta also remained the capital of the region.
At present, tourism plays an increasingly important role in the city’s economy.
What to see
Sights from Roman times include the Arch of Augustus, the Porta Pretoria, the Roman Theater and Forum Romanum, and the city walls which are in percect condition. The latter were built in the year 25 BC.
The Arch of Augustus dates back to 25 BC and is a triumphal arch celebrating the victory over the Salassi and the foundation of the city. The monument stands opposite the Ponte di Pietra over the Buthier River.
The Porta Praetoria was built in the same year. The middle opening was for cars and the two side arches for pedestrians. On the eastern façade you can still see some of the marble with which the entire gate was lined.
This city gate stands at the beginning of what was once the then seven-meter-wide Decumanus Maximus, the Via Porta Pretoria, which ends at the central square Piazza Chanoux.
The Roman Theater with its 22 meter tall façade is only a few steps from the gate. It had a proscenium of 45 by 7 meters and could seat 4,000 spectators. It is used today for cultural events.
The Roman Porta Decumana cemetery was in use until the earlier Middle Ages. Three mausoleums and ruins of an early Christian church have been found, with several glass and bronze objects.
The Criptoportico Forense is a long, now underground passageway that ran along the Roman Forum.
The most beautiful and central square in the city is the Piazza Emile Chanoux, which includes the City Hall. The city’s Tourist Information Office (Ufficio Informazioni Turistiche) is also in this square.
The Palazzo Roncas is the main civic building. There are also quite a few medieval towers still standing.
The Cathedral, which was later renovated, originally dates from the 13th century. The Sant’Orso Complex includes a Gothic church, a crypt and a monastery. The Santa Caterina Monastery incorporates parts of the ancient Roman Amphitheater.
During the summer, Aosta is a great starting point for nature walks. One of the most popular destinations is the castle of Fénis, located 13 kilometers south of Aosta.
The University of the Valle d’Aosta has only existed since 1999. Its main seat is on the Strada dei Cappuccini.