Popular for hiking, cycling and other outdoor pursuits in the summer and skiing in the winter, cultural travellers and history buffs are in for a treat in Aosta all year round.
Boasting more Roman ruins than any Italian town outside Rome, ancient roads, a crumbling theatre, city walls, bridges and old crypts are all in evidence throughout the valley. Here is our pick of our favourite most notable monuments:
Porta Praetoria: this was the ancient Roman gateway to Augusta Pretoria (as Aosta was known), with three openings that are still visible today; a central one for carriages and two side openings for pedestrians. On the openings facing outwards you can still see the grooves from where the gates were lowered at night, and the external facade still has some marble slabs that covered the entire monument. The city walls of Augusta Praetoria are still in evidence in certain places too, particularly at the crossroads with Via Vevey, where you can see the openings in the wall that enabled the passage of modern city roads.
Arch of Augustus: immediately after Buthier Bridge, along the road that leads to the city Porta Praetoria, you’ll find this honorary arch, dedicated to the Emperor Augustus. In Late Republican style, Augustus Arch is around 9m wide with supporting pillars decorated in Corinthian capitals. In medieval times the arch was called “Saint-Vout” due to an image of Saviour, which was later replaced with the cross (today a copy of the original is used). In 1716, a decision was made to protect the monument against water infiltration by covering it with a slate roof. The arch was renovated in 1913, when two large gilt bronze letters came to light, which most likely formed part of the dedicatory inscription.
Roman Theatre: This ancient theatre’s southern facade is still visible today, with its additional arches, semi-circular tiered area that hosted guests, and the foundation of the wall that acted as the backdrop. Built in the 1st century some years after the foundation of Augusta Praetoria, the theatre was then extended two centuries later. It’s still a striking structure, with the surviving southern facade measuring 22m in height. Its magnificence is amplified by a series of buttresses and arches, and you can still identify its semi-circular tiers, the orchestra pit, and the stage wall, which was once raised with decorated columns, marble and statues. It’s estimated that the theatre could hold as many as 4000 spectators.
About Aosta Valley: The smallest region of Italy located in the Northwest of the country; Aosta Valley boasts spectacular scenery, world-class skiing and snowboarding, food of the highest quality and a history stretching back to Roman times. At the heart of the alps and bordered by France and Switzerland, Aosta valley is surrounded by some of the highest peaks in Europe: Cervino, Monte Rosa, Gran Paradiso and the king of them all, Mont Blanc, which at 15,781 feet is the highest mountain in Europe, the roof of the old Continent. With Turin, Milan and Geneva airports all within easy reach, the Aosta Valley resorts are among the easiest to get to from the UK making it an ideal destination for a weekend or short break.
For more information on Aosta Valley visit: www.aosta-valley.co.uk