The Italian alpine city of Aosta nestles snugly amongst some of Europe’s tallest mountains. Bordering Switzerland, its official languages are Italian and French, and its restrained, orderly atmosphere have led many to dub it “the least Italian place in Italy.” Others call it “the Rome of the Alps” in reference to the impressive Roman remains scattered about the town. These and the city’s churches and shops warrant at least a day’s exploration. Many stay longer and use Aosta as a base from which to enjoy winter sports or summer hiking in the mountains and valleys. The city’s good restaurants and cheerful bars make it an excellent place to come home to.


Once used by the Romans as a garrison town, Aosta is littered with reminders of their stay. The best preserved structures are concentrated in the north-east of the town, where you can hardly miss the imposing Arco di Augusto (Arch of Augustus) built in 25BC. Stop here and enjoy the mountains and great views over Aosta before heading on to see the cobbled Roman bridge, which has been in constant use for two millennia. The remains of an amphitheatre are also worth a look; although only a section remains, the ruins still tower 72 feet in the air.

Cathedrale Santa Maria Assunta’s impressive gothic interior is an incongruous surprise given its strictly neoclassical façade, but a pleasure to visit nonetheless. Admire the 15th century walnut-wood choir stalls, and the 12th –14th century floor mosaics.

Aosta’s other main church, the Chiesa di Sant’orso, is a monument to the passing of time and fluctuating architectural tastes. Originally built in the 6th century, it was recreated in the 11th century before ring gradually encrusted with gothic and later baroque additions, resulting in a slightly chaotic building. The jewel in the crown is the lovely 12th century Romanesque cloister, which can be entered through a door on the left of the façade.

If you like winter sports, Aosta is a perfect base. A cable-car runs from the city to Pila, the biggest ski-resort in the valley, where 13 ski-lifts serve 70km of runs.

The cable car also runs in the summer and you can take bikes on it for free. Ramble or cycle the mountains thick with firs and pines. Rhododendrons, junipers, edelweiss, gentians and buttercups add splashes of colour. Lower down the valley, gentler slopes are clad in birch, hazel and sycamore along with orchards and vineyards.

Wildlife enthusiasts should take a short drive to the Parco Naturale del Gran Paradiso, home to squirrels, hares, stone martens, marmots, woodpeckers, blackbirds and eagles.


Aosta is surprisingly well served with shops given its size and remote location. Fashion-seekers should head to the area near the train station where there are a number of designer boutiques from MaxMara to Valentino as well as a good spread of chain stores.

Aosta is famed for its wood-carvings and wrought-iron goods, which make great gifts. How about a wooden grolle cup so that you can drink hot coffee, lemon rind and grappa the traditional way? Though most touristy shops sell such goods, the best place to buy is the permanent crafts exhibition in the arcades of Piazza E. Chanoux. For an immense selection of such handiwork, make sure you’re in Aosta for the last two days of January, when the city’s annual wood fair brings artisans and tradesmen from across the region to set up stalls. Hot outdoor food, handmade lace from nearby Cogne, and brightly coloured woollens are also on offer.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Aosta’s plentiful trattorias and restaurants could satiate any appetite, though be prepared for cuisine a little different from the rest of Italy. The local cheese, fontina, crops up on every menu and is a staple of most soups and fondues. Other dishes include mint fritters, nettle omelettes, polenta and ratatouille. Meat-lovers should try Valle d’Aosta Jambon, ham aromatised with thyme, juniper, and other aromatic herbs, or valdostana: a veal chop covered with breadcrumbs, fried, wrapped in ham and fontina, then baked.

Night time in winter is generally quiet, although there are plenty of welcoming bars in which to pass the time before bed. In summer, though, a series of concerts and plays take place in various venues including the ruined amphitheatre. July and August also sees a series of organ recitals in the city, and world class organists arrive to play here. Consult the tourist office to find out what is happening during your stay.

Tourist Information

  • A.I.A.T. AOSTA, Piazza Chanoux, 45, 11100 Aosta (AO)
  • Phone: +39 0165 33352
  • Fax: +39 0165 40532
  • Email:
  • Website:


The closest international airport is Turin Airport. British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair fly there from London Gatwick, Luton and Stansted respectively. From Turin an incredibly pretty train route can take you to Aosta in two hours (the bus takes around the same time.) If you are driving, take the A5 from Turin in the direction of the Mont Blanc tunnel.

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