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Aosta Valley: the region and the localities
With its predominantly mountainous terrain, the Aosta Valley (known in Italian as the Valle d'Aosta, or VDA) is the ideal region for a holiday in the
mountains, a unique alpine environment that combines sport and hiking opportunities with a fascinating history and fine cuisine.
Located on the border between France, Switzerland and the Italian region of Piedmont, the Vallée d'Aoste (as it is known in French) is surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Alps, including some of the tallest in Europe: Mont Blanc (4810 m), Monte Rosa (4634 m) and the Matterhorn (4478 m). The region also includes the Gran Paradiso (4061 m), the only peak above 4000 m located entirely in Italy.
The main valley, through which the Dora Baltea river flows, is met by spectacular glacial valleys such as Val Savaranche, Valle di Cogne, Val Veny, Val Ferret, Val Tournanche and Val D’Ayas, surrounded by an infinite array of 2000-3000+ m mountains, including many of the 4000+ m peaks of the Alps, which are often covered in glaciers all year round.
The southern Aosta Valley is part of the Gran Paradiso National Park, the first Italian national park, which was founded in 1922 to protect several species of alpine flora and fauna at risk of extinction, including chamois, Alpine ibex, marmot and stoat.
Between the Valle di Champorcher and the Vallone di Champdepraz is the Mont Avic Natural Park, the Aosta Valley's first regional park, a Site of Community Importance (SCI) and a special protection area due to its unique natural attributes and its biodiversity. As well as its natural abundance, the Aosta Valley also has a rich history: in the first century BC it was conquered by the Romans, who created the road network that still today connects the Great and Little St Bernard Passes in the Alps with the Via delle Gallie Consular Road, and founded the city of Augusta Praetoria, known today as Aosta. During the Middle Ages the region became renowned across Europe as a religious centre, due to its location on the Via Francigena pilgrim route. Castles and towers sprang up across the valley, from the uplands to the valley sides, and were arranged in a way that each fortress could see those on either side. Some of the more famous examples include the fairytale-like Fénis Castle, Issogne Castle, Verrès Castle and Saint-Pierre Castle and the more recent Fort Bard and Savoy Castle.
The Aosta Valley is also famous for its folklore, with festivals and events held in individual valleys and villages, wellbeing, with spa facilities in Pré-Saint-Didier and Saint-Vincent, and fine food and wine, with traditional cheeses and cured meats from the area including Fontina, Jambon de Bosses, Valle d'Aosta Fromadzo, Motzetta and Vallée d'Aoste Lard d'Arnad, best served with the finest DOC (controlled designation of origin) wines the valley has to offer.
2015 saw the opening of the Skyway Monte Bianco, which has been described as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Starting in Courmayeur, two long cable car rides allow people of all fitness levels to reach Pointe Helbronner at the heart of the Mont Blanc massif, where a terrace at an altitude of 3466 m offers an incredible panoramic view.
In the summer there are hiking and sporting activities in the Aosta Valley to keep everyone happy: a network of footpaths covering hundreds of miles is
served by numerous mountain huts and shelters, and offers both hikes to be enjoyed by all the family and more strenuous climbs for mountaineers. The
beautiful, lush valleys provide a wide range of options for mountain biking, trekking, horse riding and Nordic walking, whilst the Dora Baltea river and its
tributaries are the perfect setting for exciting hydrospeed and rafting adventures, accompanied by expert guides.
The Gran Paradiso National Park is an ideal destination for nature lovers, who can enjoy hikes in search of the Alpine ibex and marmot, animals that are widespread in the park's mountainous areas.
In the winter, snow takes centre stage across the mountains of the Aosta Valley: hundreds of miles of downhill ski slopes, silent cross-country skiing routes
through snow-covered forests and beautiful snowshoe hiking trails guarantee unforgettable days in the fresh air.
The Pila ski resort, located in the mountains above Aosta, is one of the region’s main skiing destinations, with modern slopes covered in perfect snow thanks to the resort's high altitude and artificial snow machines. Cervinia, La Thuile and Courmayeur are also among the most visited skiing areas in the Alps, extremely popular with fans of Nordic skiing, downhill skiing and snowboarding. In winter, ski mountaineers have a huge array of high-altitude mountain routes to choose from, while ice climbers are sure to find heaven on earth at the world-renowned ice falls in Cogne and Lillaz. Other unforgettable experiences include daring toboggan descents and fun spent on the indoor ice skating rinks in Courmayeur, Cervinia, Aosta and Gressoney.