Introducing Valle d'Aosta
The Valle d’Aosta’s dizzying peaks dominate the Alps range. Three of Europe’s four highest mountains are here, including the highest, Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco; 4807m), which it shares with France; the Matterhorn (Monte Cervino; 4478m), shared with Switzerland; and the Monte Rosa massif, shared with both Switzerland and Piedmont, with no fewer than 12 peaks above 4000m.
History has carved its way through the valley through the ages. Turreted castles serve as a reminder of its importance as an Alpine passageway, as do relics from the Neolithic period, the early Bronze Age and early Roman sites, especially in its capital, Aosta. Off the main valley, numerous side valleys shelter ancient villages.
Spanning less than 100km east to west, the Valle d’Aosta is the smallest of Italy’s regions. Self-governed, like a handful of other Italian regions, it is officially bilingual, with everything from school classes to road signs in Italian and French. All Valdostan residents are required to be proficient in both languages to work in public service roles. But in reality, French is not used, and Italian is far and away the Valle d’Aosta’s primary language. Among close friends and family, locals also speak Franco-Provençal patois. A small number of Walser villagers in the east speak the German dialect, Tich.
For a century the valley was part of the French kingdom of Bourgogne, and later fell under the sway of Napoleon. The region was incorporated into the new Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Under Mussolini’s regime, massive immigration from other parts of Italy was encouraged in an attempt to bury the region’s separate identity. The economic and political aftermath of WWII led many Valdostans to consider ceding to rejoin France. Ultimately, the high degree of autonomy the Valdostans wanted to retain for their province was unacceptable to the centralised French government.
The region became physically closer to France – in terms of travel time – with the opening of the Mont Blanc Tunnel, connecting Courmayeur with Chamonix. Once blasted through in 1965, the tunnel transformed the quiet rural valley into a major road-freight thoroughfare and cemented its age-old status as the crossroads of Europe.
Mont Blanc Classic
A classic self guided supported walk in the Alps through France, Switzerland and Italy
Mont Blanc Guided Walk
An exhilarating walk through the Alps with spectacular views of famous peaks and glaciers