The sights and flavours of the Aosta Valley

Donald's guide to Aosta valley holidays


Donald Strachan

Donald Strachan 
HomeAway travel expert


Aerial View of CogneWith its towering granite crags and four of the Alps’ highest mountains, Italy’s Valle d’Aosta is best known as a winter playground.

But the semi-autonomous valley region has much more to offer. In spring and summer, the climate is benign, and alpine meadows are scattered with wildflowers. Mountain bike trails are busy, hiking opportunities are almost limitless, and there’s canyoning, whitewater rafting and much more for the truly adventurous. In autumn, trees are heavy with chestnuts and the foragers roam the forests looking for seasonal bounty.

And then, of course, the snows arrive.

Donald Strachan's verdict on the Aosta Valley

 Wine. White wines here, in particular, respond to a borderline climate that gives them a mineral bite. Look out for native grape varietals, like Fumin and Cornalin, both intense red wines. In Aosta, you will find the best selection of regional wines at La Dolce Vite.

 Crafts. The valley has a rep for craftsmanship, especially woodcarving and lace-making (the latter centred in the old iron-mining town of Cogne). The best place to browse and buy traditional wood crafts is a L’Artisana, a shop in Aosta’s main piazza. Prices are not cheap, but everything is made by hand within the borders of the Valle d’Aosta.

 Language. The valley was historically part of Savoy, a mountain region that straddled the borders of France and Piedmont. It is officially bilingual—even trilingual, if you include its Provençal dialect, Valdôtain, or quadri-lingual, taking into account the small, German-speaking Walser community who live close to Gressoney. In practice, however, almost everyone you will encounter speaks Italian.

 

 
 

Top activities and places to visit in the Aosta Valley


   

Food Food

Forget “Italian food”: the cuisine of the Valle d’Aosta has grown over the centuries to feed hearty mountain appetites. Fontina is one of Europe’s best mountain cheeses—its ‘sweaty sock’ aromas are strong—and the main ingredient in valpellinentze, a cheese and cabbage soup-stew. Lardo di Arnad is sweet, delicate rendered pork fat infused with herbs and served in very thin slices. Air-dried, cured Jambon de Bosses is the finest local cured ham. For a fine-dining take on Valdostan cooking traditions, book a table at Michelin-starred (but affordable) La Clusaz, where the 3-course menu tradizionale costs €35 all-in.

View lettings in Gignod

 
   
 

   

Winter sports Winter sports

All winter long, skiers ply the route between Turin Airport (an hour away down the A5 motorway) and Aosta’s resorts. Courmayeur, at the head of the valley close to the Mont Blanc Tunnel, has fine intermediate pistes, some of the best mountain restaurants in the Alps, and a dash of glamour along Via Roma, its main street. Just a short gondola ride uphill from Aosta itself, Pila is a great choice for beginners and kids. Tiny Champoluc has a wilder feel to it, but also lift links via Gressoney to the vast Monterosa Ski area.

View villas in Courmayeur

 
   
 

   

Aosta Aosta

The valley’s small capital was established as a Roman garrison town in 25 BC—the Arch of Augustus, erected then (and modified since) still guards the eastern entrance to the centro storico, and the town’s Roman Theatre still partly stands. Mountain peaks frame the view along pretty much any central street. The tiny cloister at the Collegiata di Sant’Orso is decorated with sculpted Medieval capitals carved by Lombard sculptors. Scenes show Biblical characters or snapshots of Medieval life in the valley.

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Hiking in the Gran Paradiso Hiking in the Gran Paradiso

When the snows melt, pull on your boots to explore one of Italy’s wild places. The Gran Paradiso National Park was established in the 1850s within the boundaries of a former royal hunting reserve, and spreads over adjacent valleys south-west of Aosta. It is now one of the major preserves of the European Ibex, and also home to smaller, cuter fauna like marmots and mountain hares. The park has trails suited to all walking abilities, right up to extreme, long-distance hikes with stays in remote refuges. One easy introduction to the trails, with views of the 4.061m Gran Paradiso mountain itself, is the flattish path from Cogne to Valnontey.

View holiday lettings in Cogne

 
   
 

   

Pré-Saint-Didier spa Pré-Saint-Didier spa

The Romans probably bathed in the natural thermal waters at Pré-Saint-Didier, and there has been a full-blown spa here since 1838. Alongside the spring, there is a range of treatments, sauna and Turkish baths, and expert massages. Access to the complex, including the steaming outdoor thermal pools, costs from €44 for a day. They throw in the mountain views, unforgettable in any season, for free.

View holiday rentals in near-by La Thuile

Images

Gignod © Donald 
Courmayeur © raffaele sergi
Colle-de-Nivolet © Soumei Baba

 

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Aosta Valley Holiday Homes

Holiday house in typical style

Your vacation object: The holiday house is surrounded by 40 sqm large, enclosed garden property with meadow and trees. The property is surrounded by a hedge. Das zweistockige FerienHaus wurde vor einigen Jahren renoviert. Your holiday house: 2 flo...

Apartment in an 18th century palazzo set in the Sesia Valley, which extends at the foot of Monte Ros

Apartment in an 18th century palazzo set in the Sesia Valley, which extends at the foot of Monte Rosa. The property is on the fourth floor (no elevator), it has a small sunny terrace and ground floor ski storage room. The valley has an incredible ...

Apartment in the beautiful Val d'Ayas, 1,710 m a.s.l. and only 300 meters from the ski slopes (18km)

Apartment in the beautiful Val d'Ayas, 1,710 m a.s.l. and only 300 meters from the ski slopes (18km) of Antagnod. The attic floor is available to the house owner. Ideal starting point for exploring the historic castles of the region, including Uss...

Apartment in a picturesque village nestled in the green Val d’Aosta, with barbecue and large common

Apartment in a picturesque village nestled in the green Val d’Aosta, with barbecue and large common areas such as a bar, games room, TV room, bicycle workshop, small football and basketball field, bocce court. The nearest ski resorts are Pila (18 ...

Apartment in a typical Alpine hut dating back to the 19th century, set in the characteristic village

Apartment in a typical Alpine hut dating back to the 19th century, set in the characteristic village Cheverel. The house is reached via a short walkway. The nearest ski areas are Courmayeur (18km) and La Thuile (21km), they form one of the finest ...
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