The Very Best Things to See and Do in Aosta Valley Italy
Charming Villages, Enchanting Landscapes & Delicious Food
by Yvonne Buggy
Looking for some peace and quiet and a respite from the crowds? Then consider visiting the beautiful Aosta Valley in Italy – it could be exactly what you’re looking for! It is home to some of Italy’s most charming villages, enchanting landscapes and a destination for breathtaking adventures.
It is also home to many well-known ski resorts, such as Courmayeur and Cervinia just to name a couple. Aosta Valley is packed with historical landmarks, old churches, castles and even ancient ruins from the Roman-empire. There is something to be discovered around every corner.
Étroubles Valle d’Aosta
We went for a three day voyage of discovery in the Aosta Valley and here are some of our highlights. On the first day we set off bright and early from Zurich and arrived in the charming town of Étroubles just in time for lunch at Le Gîte aux Marronniers.
Lunch at Le Gîte aux Marronniers
This picturesque town which has been around since Roman times is definitely worth exploring and offers a wide range of recreational facilities and leisure activities. You can find out more about Étroubles here.
After refuelling on the delicious regional cuisine, we began hiking a section of the popular Cammino Balteo trail which is a circular path winding through more than 40 municipalities in the Aosta Valley.
Along the way we saw beautiful scenery and some lovely animals.
The section we walked along was No.11 from Gignod to Arpuilles – Cammino Balteo. Our knowledgeable guide, Marco Schenoni, led us along the Ru – Neuf canal where you can see the old irrigation canals built between the 13th and 14th centuries. This beautiful section is suitable for all levels of hikers as it meanders through meadows and villages and finally reaching the municipality of Arpuilles.
To find out more about this section and the complete route of the Cammino Balteo path take a look here.
Visiting Bard in Valle d’Aosta
On the second day we visited the picturesque town of Bard in Valle d’Aosta.
The town of Bard in Valle d’Aosta
Until around 10,000 years ago, the entire valley was occupied by the Balteo Glacier, a huge mass of ice, 5 kilometres wide and 600 metres deep.
The valley of Bard in Valle d’Aosta
Over the years of its slow moving advance and retreat, the glacier has re-modelled the valley into its characteristic “U” shape with steep slopes and flat valley floor.
Marché au Fort Market in Bard – A Once A Year Event
Traditional Costume at the Marché au Fort in Bard
We began by visiting the Marché au Fort market in Bard to savour some more delicious regional cuisine. Marché au Fort is a large market exhibition promoting agricultural products from the Aosta Valley in the medieval village of Bard. This 2-day festival only happens once a year!
It really was quite a spectacle as people were dressed up in traditional WALSER costumes, which are still seen as a sign of identity to the outside community.
The Valley is renowned for its dairy products, baked goods, honey, fruit and wine. There was a huge array of produce, to try out and experience first hand.
The Marché au Fort Market – A once a year event in Bard
Bleu di Nicoletta Double Cream Blue Cheese From Valle d’Aosta
Bleu di Nicoletta double cream blue cheese
For example, the Bleu di Nicoletta double cream blue cheese is produced by adding cream to whole milk and the Tegole biscuits were first made in the 1930s by confectioners from the Aosta Valley and are now well known as their traditional local biscuits.
Grappa Della Valle d’Aosta
Grappa Della Valle d’Aosta
The local grappa, the Grappa Della Valle d’Aosta, is obtained exclusively from grapes produced and processed in the territory of Valle d’Aosta. Another unique product is the Arnad Lard, a tasty and fragrant cured meat that has been seasoned with salt, spices and mountain aromas.
Arnad Lard Cured Pork
Cave Mont Blanc – Highest Vineyards in Europe
Cave Mont Blanc wine from the highest vineyards in Europe
The Cave Mont Blanc has the highest vineyards in Europe. Their wines are produced from the local grape, Prié Blanc, and grown almost exclusively in the Valle d’Aosta. This grape was brought to the valley by the Romans and has been cultivated in these mountains for over 2,000 years. To find out more about the Marché Au Fort market take a look here.
Dinner at Ad Galias Gourmet Restaurant in Bard
Our day ended on a high note with a delicious dinner at Ad Gallias Gourmet Restaurant in Bard.
Dinner at Ad Gallias Gourmet Restaurant in Bard
Sleeping in a Castle – Bard Fortress
Bard Fortress overlooking the river and the town in Valle d’Aosta
To round the day off we spent the night sleeping in a castle! Bard Fortress is situated on a steep rock high above the gorge which was shaped by the retreat of the massive Balteo Glacier and is indeed an impressive building! In former times the road was the only way to access to the Aosta Valley, thus an ideal place for a fortress. Today the Bard castle no longer fulfils its original defensive function but it is a wonderful hotel and museum. You can find more details on Bard Fortress here.
If you’re interested in the history of Bard Fortress take a look here. Also on a previous visit to Aosta we visited some other castles you might be interested to read about.
Visiting Aosta – the capital of Valle d’Aosta
On our third and last day we visited the charming town of Aosta, the capital of the beautiful Valle d’Aosta. The top sights worth visiting in Aosta are the remnants of Aosta’s Roman past including the Arch of Augustus and the Praetorian Gate, the latter was the city’s former main entrance. For the best value for money ticket, consider purchasing Aosta Archeological cumulative card (details in Italian), which gives you access to the Roman Theatre, the MAR–Regional Archaeological Museum, the Forensic Cryptoporticus and the Early Christian Church of San Lorenzo.
It is a haven for art and architecture lovers, designers and foodies alike.
Aosta Valley – an area of Heritage and Tradition
Wherever you go, you still feel the family spirit, pride, passion and heritage in their love of local cuisine, crafts and artisanal products. The Italians take their crafts very seriously and each family and each company possesses their own distinct style and unique touch. My favorite was the friendship cup, one of the main symbols of the Aosta Valley. It is used for the tasting a Valdostan-style coffee drink by passing the cup clockwise, each time accompanied by a wish for good luck.
Delicious Food in Valle d’Aosta
Restaurant Osteria Nando
We ate lunch at Osteria Nando restaurant and enjoyed some delicious regional cuisine. In 1957 Nando Scarpa and his wife Germana opened this restaurant in a restored old building. Their son, Corrado, helped them from the age of fourteen. Some years later, Corrado and his wife Franca decided to run a more exclusive restaurant at the location. Their restaurant re-interprets traditional Valdotainian dishes and uses fresh and seasonal products. They also serve gluten and food allergen free dishes. One of their specialties is Zuppa d’Aosta.
Zuppa d’Aosta – Regional Speciality
It’s a characterful, whole-meal type soup made from bread, cabbage and smoky bacon baked in layers in a casserole with Fontina cheese. Visit the Osteria Nando website here.
Stefenelli Desk Restaurant
Our experience culminated in an exceptional dinner at the Stefenelli Desk Restaurant with fine food and outstanding service.
Chef Marco Stefenelli is creating spectacular cuisine and takes food design to an absolutely new level.
Chef Marco Stefenelli Stefanelli Desk Restaurant Aosta
Afterwards, we found a great place to spend the night at Maison Bondaz.
It’s a really charming place with a delicious breakfast, an amazing spa and clean, comfortable rooms.
FREE Transfer To The Valle d’Aosta
To allow as many people as possible to enjoy this region, the Valle d’Aosta offers FREE passes to and from the Grand-Saint-Bernard tunnel for any stay of at least 2 nights booked via the reservation centre. For more details, please see the all the relevant booking information here. You will find links and contacts for the free passes below.
Tel: +39 0165 33352
After making your reservation, send a request for your free passes for the Tunnel du Grand-Saint-Bernard to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org at least five days prior to your visit. For further details on the free tunnel passes please take a look here.
More Information On Aosta Valley Italy
To to find out more about Aosta Valley check out the Valley D’Aosta Website here or why not take a look at one of our previous blogposts about Aosta Valley here.
With thanks to Yvonne Buggy for this great article and photos.
Yvonne is a passionate walker, hiker, and nature lover who who loves to share her enthusiasm of the outdoors to inspire others.
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