What to see around Aosta

Cosa vedere nei dintorni di Aosta- Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso- Lillaz- Vallone di Valeille-torrente- alberi-rocce

A Brief Guide to Discovering the Best Corners of Valle d’Aosta Chosen by Scimmia

Planning a vacation in Valle d’Aosta but unsure of what to visit? Read on to discover what to see around Aosta!

Valle d’Aosta, the smallest region in Italy, has been our preferred destination for both winter and summer vacations. This charming region always offers compelling reasons to visit, from winter skiing adventures to immersing oneself in the pristine nature of its mountains during the summer.

Around the capital city Aosta, with its ancient and fascinating history, lie other wonderful places worth a visit. We have gathered some of the most interesting and significant locations to help you explore the diverse facets of this splendid region. Continue reading to discover what to see around Aosta.

What to See Around Aosta: Castles

Upon entering the region, one immediately notices the abundance of castles, a testament to the historical significance of this land characterized by numerous alpine passes and deep valleys. These castles and fortresses were strategically positioned to control the passes and valleys, crucial access routes to the Po Valley.

Unless you’re a castle enthusiast planning to spend your entire vacation exploring them, we’ve selected a few notable ones for you.

The Fort of Bard

Bard Fort - Fortress-mountain - purple flowers
Fort of Bard (Credit to Giulio Crivellari CC BY SA)

The Fort of Bard is the first you encounter when driving from Turin towards Aosta. Its imposing structure dominates the town and the valley. Built and expanded over the centuries, it now spans three main levels around a rocky ridge. After its reconstruction in 1830 by King Charles Albert, fearing a French invasion, it became one of the most important museum complexes in Valle d’Aosta. The Frontier Museum and the Alpine Museum within offer intriguing insights into the region’s history, addressing contemporary issues like borders and climate change.

Additionally, the Fort of Bard hosts captivating temporary photography exhibitions, attracting even those less inclined towards mountain landscapes. For those wanting an extended stay, the fort houses a luxurious hotel with historically rich rooms.

Savoia Castle in Gressoney

What to see around Aosta - Savoia Castle - Gressoney - Fairytale Castle - Alpine botanical garden
Savoia Castle (Credit to Paola25 CC BY SA)

Heading up the Gressoney Valley, you’ll encounter a castle that seems straight out of a fairy tale: Savoia Castle. Unlike other defensive castles in the Aosta Valley, this structure was commissioned by Queen Margherita as a neo-Gothic villa for her summer retreat. Noteworthy are the distinct pointed towers constructed with local gray stone. The interior is colorful, adorned with decorations on walls and eclectic neo-Gothic furniture favored by the queen. Visitors can explore the ground floor’s day rooms and the noble floor with royal apartments. The botanical garden at the castle’s base features alpine plants.

Il Castello di Fenìs

What to see around Aosta - Fenis Castle - Walls - Towers - Battlements
Fenis Castle (Credit to nonmisvegliate da Pixabay)

On the way to Aosta lies one of the most famous Aosta Valley castles: Fenis Castle. Its pentagonal shape, surrounded by walls and merloned towers, stands out as a clear symbol of medieval Aosta. What sets it apart is its peculiar location, not atop a hill or rocky ridge but on a small defenseless hillock. The Challant family, its original owners in the 14th century, fortified it with an imposing wall for this reason. Inside, visitors can explore the armory, soldiers’ refectory, kitchen, noble dining room, chapel, family representation room, and the justice hall. The courtyard’s frescoes, especially the one depicting St. George slaying the dragon, captivate visitors.

Sarre Castle

What to see around Aosta - Sarre Castle - internal courtyard - tower - pergola
Sarre Castle (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Beyond Aosta towards Mont Blanc, the high tower of Sarre Castle stands on a hill. Dating back to the 13th century as a defensive house, its current impressive appearance is attributed to Jean-François Ferrod d’Arvier, a wealthy entrepreneur who acquired it in the 18th century. Notably, it became a royal residence in 1869 when purchased by King Vittorio Emanuele II, serving as a refuge for the royal family during critical moments in World War II. The castle features a rectangular structure in local stone with three floors. Inside, there is a permanent exhibition on the Savoy family on the ground floor, while the first floor houses the royal apartment with original and replica furnishings from the time of King Umberto I. Of particular interest is the Trophy Gallery with decorations made from hundreds of ibex horns, along with paintings depicting ancient French proverbs on wooden balconies.

Saint Pierre Castle

Saint-Pierre Castle - rocky spur - turrets-church
Saint-Pierre Castle(Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Heading west, you’ll be captivated by the uniqueness of the last castle we recommend seeing around Aosta: Saint-Pierre Castle. Perched on a marble spur overlooking the town below, it is one of the oldest castles in the region, dating back to the 12th century. The addition of four characteristic turrets to the central keep in the 19th century by Pietro Filiberto Roncas gave it a fairy-tale castle appearance. The interior hosts the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences of the Aosta Valley. Saint-Pierre Castle is also a must-see for its beauty, especially when illuminated at night.

What to see around Aosta: the Charming Village of Chamois

What to see around Aosta - Village of Chamois - Pearl of the Alps - houses - coat of arms
Village of Chamois (Credit to Samuele Beltrame)

Among the most interesting places to see around Aosta is the small village of Chamois. Situated in the Cervino Valley at 1815 meters, it is the highest municipality in the Aosta Valley and one of the highest in Italy. What makes it special is its inaccessibility by car; one can only reach it by cable car from Buisson or on foot along mountain trails. Chamois offers stunning views with its well-preserved ancient houses, narrow streets, and a peaceful ambiance reminiscent of alpine hamlets from years ago. For a panoramic view of Chamois and its surrounding nature, a stroll along the Ru de Novalles is recommended. This trail, following an ancient irrigation channel, leads to Lake Lod, where alpine plants thrive in rocky beds.

In winter, Chamois also provides an interesting ski area suitable for various types of skiing, both on and off-piste.

What to see around Aosta: the Blue Lake of Cervinia

What to see around Aosta- Blue Lake- Cervinia- Matterhorn- trees
Blue lake (Credit to Samuele Beltrame)

Among the things to see around Aosta, the Blue Lake of Cervinia is a must-visit. This small lake, reflecting the Matterhorn, is one of the most picturesque places in the region due to its unique topaz hues caused by special algae on its bottom. Accessible with minimal physical effort, it is a favorite destination for families with young children. During summer, it’s ideal for enjoying the surrounding nature and the panoramic view of the Matterhorn, perhaps while having a picnic by the lake.

Not far from the Blue Lake, consider visiting the nearby beautiful Lake Goillet. Starting from Plan Maison, trail 18 leads along an easy path on the edge of a rocky slope, offering views of a significant portion of the Alpine arc from the Matterhorn to Teodulo, Testa Grigia, and Dent d’Hérens.

What to see around Aosta: the Great St. Bernard Pass

 
Great St. Bernard Pass - Lake - Italy-Swiss border - Clouds
The lake of the Great Saint Bernard Pass (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Another fascinating place to visit in summer is the Great St. Bernard Pass. Initially skeptical about the recommendation from an alpinist friend, we were pleasantly surprised. Situated at 2472 meters, this pass is an incredible blend of natural beauty and historical significance. For over 1000 years, it has been part of one of the most spectacular stretches of the Via Francigena, along a beautiful alpine lake. The lake is divided by the Italian-Swiss border, marked by the Customs House. With its green-blue color contrasting against the surrounding rock amphitheater and snowy peaks, the lake offers a breathtaking sight.

The climate, even in summer, is cold and changeable, often requiring refuge in nearby structures. Among them is the millennium-old Augustinian Canon’s Hospice, built by St. Bernard of Aosta to provide shelter for pilgrims. Inside, visitors can explore the church, crypt, treasury, museum, and the famous Saint Bernard dog breeding facility.

On the Italian side, we recommend trying the cuisine at the Du Lac Restaurant. Here, you can savor authentic Aosta Valley dishes at reasonable prices, served by friendly staff, providing a true family-like atmosphere.

For a unique experience when at the Great St. Bernard Pass and if you enjoy mountain excursions, consider crossing the Swiss border along the trails. One of the most beautiful routes, in our opinion, leads to the alpine lakes below Col de Fenêtre. The path is not too challenging and allows you to reach the two lakes while enjoying a magnificent view of Mont Blanc and the Upper Ferret Valley.

What to See Around Aosta: Lillaz Waterfalls

What to see around Aosta - Lillaz waterfalls - rocks - flowers
One of the three jumps of the Lillaz waterfalls (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Almost obligatory to see around Aosta are the Lillaz Waterfalls, located in the Cogne Valley, in the northernmost part of the Gran Paradiso National Park. Easily reachable with a 10-minute walk from the center of Lillaz, the waterfalls present a mesmerizing display of water, light, and rock formations that leave visitors speechless. The Urtier Torrent, with its abundant waters, creates three cascades between the rocks, forming deep basins at their base. The atmosphere is further enhanced by the presence of rhododendron flowers and small shrubs among the rugged rocks.

At the end of the path along the waterfalls, beyond the bridge, you reach a grassy plateau from where the third waterfall reveals itself in all its splendor. For us, it is the most beautiful and fascinating spot, featuring captivating water plays and impressive rock formations.

Excursions in Lillaz: Lake Loie and Valeille Valley

For nature enthusiasts seeking more than the enchanting Lillaz Waterfalls loop, we recommend two beautiful routes starting from the falls and venturing into the Gran Paradiso National Park.

The first, more suitable for seasoned hikers, leads to the scenic Lake Loie. Ascending through larch and Swiss pine forests, interspersed with areas dominated by rhododendrons, you’ll reach a less steep zone. Here, amidst rocks, you’ll quickly arrive at Lake Loie, where lucky visitors may spot marmots and ibex. On the way back, descending towards the village, consider taking the path through Alpe di Bardoney, a valley rich in alpine pastures, and following the Urtier Torrent downstream.

The second route is considerably easier and takes you into the Valeille Valley. Passing through a forest of larches and red fir, you’ll arrive at a wide valley framed by the immense glaciers of the Gran Paradiso massif. Encounter small squirrels, listen to the songs of numerous birds, and perhaps spot chamois scaling the rocky walls. Noteworthy along this brief route are the numerous rock formations created by glacier movements, such as the moraine rocks and the large erratic boulder.

What to See Around Aosta: Punta Helbronner on Mont Blanc

Punta Helbronner - Mont Blanc - Panorama - Mountains - Glacier - Snow
Panorama fromPunta Helbronner (Credit to Naturalista14 CC BY SA)

Climbing Mont Blanc is one of the most unique activities to do around Aosta, especially in summer. Granted, it might not be ideal for those sensitive to cold, as even in midsummer, temperatures rarely rise above 0°C. However, with proper heavy clothing, you can witness a truly awe-inspiring spectacle.

The easiest way to ascend is with the futuristic Skyway cable way from Courmayeur to the intermediate station of Punta Helbronner. Recently renovated, this cable car is a technological gem. During the ascent, the transport cabin rotates, allowing all passengers to enjoy a 360° panorama of the Alpine arc and the valley below.

Arriving at Punta Helbronner, located at 3466 meters and precisely on the border between Italy and France, you’ll be greeted by a breathtaking panorama. Here, you can marvel at the pristine glaciers of Mont Blanc and the highest peaks of the Alpine arc, seemingly within arm’s reach. Additionally, you can walk on the Sky Vertigo, a glass terrace that gives the sensation of walking in mid-air, and enjoy some dishes at the Bistrot. Inside the station, there’s also a Crystal Room housing the most beautiful minerals found on the Mont Blanc Massif.

What to See Around Aosta: Val Veny

Val Veny- Dora di Veny- Torrente- Mont Blanc- Courmayeur- fisherman trees
Glimpse of Val Veny (Credit to Martina Chighine)

At the foot of Mont Blanc lies the distinctive Val Veny, offering less demanding walks. Maintaining its wild soul with lakes, the Dora di Veny river, and the steep walls of Mont Blanc, Val Veny has numerous hiking and trekking paths at both low and high altitudes. We recommend following the trail leading to Lake Miage through the Peuterey woods. Alternatively, for well-trained individuals, continue to the Elisabetta Hut, skirting Lake Combal, and consider taking a break or even staying overnight. The silence and starry sky at night are truly spectacular.

With this, we hope to have provided you with some good advice on what to see around Aosta and suggested interesting activities! If you plan to stay in the Aosta Valley for a few days, click here to discover the best accommodations at the best prices!

 

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Summary
Article Name
What to see around Aosta
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Plan your Aosta Valley getaway with insights on what to see around Aosta, from historic castles to stunning alpine landscapes
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La Scimmia Viaggiatrice

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