Aosta Valley occupies the sweetest little corner of northwest Italy. To me Aosta is the fairy tale region of Italy – full of history, romance and of course – castles. Here in the smallest region of Italy you will find French-speaking Italians, surrounded by The Alps and every kind of castle you can imagine. What could be more fairy tale than THAT setting?
So why are there so many castles in such a small region? According to the Aosta Valley tourism site, during the Middle Ages, since there was no controlling authority in Aosta, nobles made wealthy off the Alpine toll road access were able to freely take the land, appoint themselves lords and extend their control to the lands below. I love this story as it really shows how things just do not change in Italy! The toll road to get to Aosta is – to this day – the most expensive stretch of highway in Italy. And Aosta is only one of two autonomous regions in Italy as well – the controlling authority is still relatively limited (as compared with the rest of Italy).
Below are a few of the beautiful castles you can find in Aosta. Many of these castles can be seen from the highway (see the map) and are easily accessible. For a more extensive list see: www.lovevda.it
1. Aymavilles Castle
The Aymavilles Castle has been through lots of renovations since its construction in the 12th century. Originally it served as a defensive function, but later became a luxury home in the 18th century. These days it is open to the public, but for the moment is closed for renovations.
Address: 11010 Aymavilles
2. Verrès Castle
Verrès is a 14th-century castle built as a military fortress noted for its single structure design as opposed to a series of buildings contained by a fortress wall. This castle is right across the street from Issogne Castle.
Address: 11029 Verrès
3. Issogne Castle
Issogne Castle as mentioned above is right across the street from Verrès. This castle is of interest more for its interior than its exterior apart from the pomegranate tree fountain in the garden. There is a frescoed portico depicting life in the Middle Ages. Another point of interest is graffiti that is centuries old left not only by visitors and guests of the castles, but also the servants and the owners providing intimate insights about life in the castle.
Address: Piazza Castello, 11020 Issogne
4. Forte di Bard
You might recognize this Castle from the movie “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Bard is an imposing, 19th century complex built on top of the ruins of a 10th century castle by the Savoy family. Since its recent restoration in 2006, it is now open to the public and also has musical performances during the summer.
Take a look at the trailer for “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The first few seconds feature this fortress.
Address: Forte di Bard, 11020 Bard
5. Savoy Castle
Although built in the early 1900’s, the style of this castle is in the medieval, Lombard style. I love this building. It is so romantic and looks like a mini Walt Disney castle. Yes – total romance.
Address: Località Belvedere, 11025 Gressoney-Saint-Jean
Aosta is only a 2.5 hour drive from Milan. It is an excellent option for day trip or weekend getaway. In addition to the numerous castles to see, there are excellent ski resorts, the terme at Courmayeur, The Gran Paradiso National Park as well as great eating.