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Aosta

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Dec 15, 2021

Aosta (French: Aoste) is the capital of Italian autonomous region of Aosta Valley. The town is in a small valley with houses going up the slopes of the surrounding mountains.

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The Roman colony of Augusta Praetoria Salassorum was founded by the general Marcus Terentius Varro, who conquered it from the Salassi tribe in 25 BC. The colony housed 3,000 retired veterans. After 11 BC Augusta Praetoria became the capital of the Alpes Graies (“Grey Alps”) province of the Roman Empire. Its position, at the confluence of two rivers, at the end of the Great and the Little St Bernard passes, gave it considerable military importance, and its layout was that of a Roman military camp.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city was ruled sucessively by the Burgundians, the Ostrogoths, the Byzantines and the Lombards (who had annexed it to their Italian kingdom but were later expelled by the Frankish Empire under Pepin the Short). Pepin’s son, Charlemagne made Aosta an important post on the Via Francigena, leading from Aachen to Italy. Later it belonged to the kingdom of Savoy.

By plane: the nearest commercial airport is Turin TRN, with flights across Europe and within Italy. Aosta can also be reached from the Milan / Bergamo airports, and from Geneva GVA via the Mont Blanc Tunnel. Aosta’s own airport handles private aviation but is too small and hemmed in by mountains for regular flights.

By train: Trains run hourly to Ivrea, 80 mins. These connect immediately with trains to Turin Porta Susa and may be shown on timetables and displays as through trains, but usually it’s a change. For Milan and elsewhere in Italy, take the train towards Turin but change at Chivasso. Aosta is now the terminus of the line up the valley – trains no longer run further up to Pré-Saint-Didier. 45.7341677.32251 Aosta railway station is just south of town centre.

By bus: three Savda buses per day link Aosta with Turin Porta Susa and Porta Nuova, taking two hours. Two of them extend west to Pré-Saint-Didier and Courmayeur.

By car: The main road up the valley is Autoroute A5 (toll) from Turin, with a crosslink to A4 from Milan. It bypasses town to the south and continues west up the valley (mostly in tunnel) to Pré-Saint-Didier (turn-off for Little St Bernard pass, summer only, via La Thuile to Bourg-Saint-Maurice in France) and Courmayeur, where it enters the Mont Blanc tunnel to Chamonix in France.

The old valley road SS26 skirts Aosta to the north, with SS27 branching north to climb the Great Saint Bernard pass and tunnel (open year-round) to Martigny in Switzerland.

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