Aosta: crossroads of France, Switzerland and Italy

Aosta can deceive, presenting you with a significant amount of industry as you enter. But it would be a mistake to write the city off.  A closer look reveals a rich history, with monuments and remains dating back to at least Roman times. Stay and explore Aosta and you will be able to discover the Arco di Augusto; a grand arch, dating to the First Century, a Roman Gate, Roman Theatre and even the remains of a Roman Amphitheatre. Later buildings of note worth a visit, are the Collegiata dis Orso and the Cathedral. Looking at the city up close will reveal that the inscriptions on the buildings are almost all in French. This region held on to its French Provençal dialect for a long time.

Roman Theatre

On my visits to the city, I’ve wandered around savouring the feeling that only being in Italy can bring. I’ve wandered around taking in buildings, doing some window shopping interspersed with real shopping before stopping at a café to enjoy a Cioccolata caldo (Italian hot chocolate) and a Tiramisu. Here I’d sit and do some people watching.

Porta Praetoria
Aosta occupies an important strategic position in the Aosta Valley, with three major Alpine crossing routes passing through the city. The oldest two being the where the roads Petit (Little) Saint Bernard Pass from France and the Grand Saint Bernard Pass from the Swiss Valais. Since the 1960’s the road from the Mont Blanc Tunnel also comes down to Aosta.

Roman bridge

Roman bridge, Aosta

Lift to Pila

Lift to Pila

The valley in which Aosta is located is named after it, and so is the Region. The Aosta Valley has some highly rated ski resorts including Courmayeur and La Thuile. There is even a ski lift bottom station in Aosta where you can board one of the gondolas to be whisked up to the resort of Pila. If your aspirations are for a bigger resort then Cervina the resort on the Italian side of the Matterhorn is not too far away as well.

Getting there:

The nearest railway station is Aosta. Book a rail ticket there with RailEurope.
Flixbus also stop here on their Amsterdam to Milan route.

#PhotoFlashback: The Roman Theatre at Gubbio, Umbria

Gubbio was one of the visits on my recent vacation this September, in Umbria, Italy. It was  recommended by Rebecca, the kind provider of our prize in the 2011 Passports with purpose competition. When I asked for typical Umbrian towns and villages to visit for a short hike, this was one of her selections. Then she said there was a gondola type lift where you stood inside a cage to take you up the mountain, I just had to go there!

We did end up hiking to the Basilica of St. Ubaldo on skyline in this photo. One of my friends even came down using the lift. For a number of reasons, that I will not bore you with, we hiked down again. Then spent the best part of the day exploring the town before heading to the old Roman Theatre where I took this HDR photo with a Panasonic TZ6 set to autobracket at -1, 0, +1 and then processed in Photomatix Essentials.

Plaes to stay:
Our prize in the Passports with purpose competition was a week’s stay at Brigolante Guest Apartments which was a couple of hours drive through some breathtaking countryside.

Getting there:
The nearest train station is Fossato di Vico at about 20 km away. A bus service connects Gubbio to the station. There is also a bus from Perugia to Gubbio. Nearest airport is Perugia.