The drawing above is from a 1726 text by Rutger Alberts. Although the city has grown, it is a good representation of Aosta as we find it now: an elegant, heady coalescence of Roman and Medieval history. In it we can read the city’s history, from its Roman origins to its position in the middle ages at the cross-roads of Europe.

Our self-guided walk Heart of the Italian Alps begins in Aosta – you can find more information here, or read on for a quick introduction to the city.

The standard itinerary includes just one night in Aosta, but we warmly recommend to all our customers to stay an extra night and spend a day enjoying the city’s elegant, pedestrianised centre and its many treasures.

  • In the background, stretching up into the mountains, is the valley to the Great Saint Bernard Pass. The photo here is from the very top. It was a cold, early morning crossing – the first snows had already come, and behind us they closed the road for the winter.

    Who knows how many pairs of feet have climbed this pass?

    The Romans coveted this strategically important route into Switzerland for trade and conquest, and that is why Augustus first subjugated the local Salassi tribes, before founding the city.

    In medieval times it became part of the great pilgrim trail, the Via Francigena, the way of St. Francis, from Canterbury to Rome.

  • On the right of the drawing is the majestic Arco d’Augusto (see photo), built in 25BC to commemorate the Roman conquest of the Salassi.

    From there westwards is the main street of the medieval quarter, Via Sant’Anselmo, named after the man who in 1093 became Archbishop of Canterbury. You can see his house on the main thoroughfare.

  • Beyond the medieval quarter, the thick Roman walls are visible – to this day they remain a part of the fabric of the city – and just think, on the farthest side, inside the city walls, is Via Marche Vaudan, home now to the beautifully appointed Le Rêve Charmant where MacNay Travel & Wine guests stay.

  • There are plenty of churches dotted around the city; indeed it is a rich source of knowledge for a time when the Roman empire adopted Christianity as its accepted religion.

    Pictured is the fascinating front of the church of S. Orso, the patron saint of the city. Twenty years of excavations beneath the church revealed the paleochristian basilica of S. Lorenzo, and beneath that, a great necropolis where early Christians were given burial rites alongside pagan Romans.

    Behind the church is one of the city’s architectural gems: the cloisters.

  • There are a number of important sites – Roman and Medieval – not portrayed by Albert’s drawing, which the visitor can enjoy today.

    But the most important surely is the stunning megalithic site at St. Martin de Corléans. Housed in its own visitor centre outside the city walls, this beautifully presented site is afforded the treatment it merits, as the European Alps’ most important neolithic excavations.

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