For the last few years we have been living in the French alps very close to the Italian and Swiss boarders, we have enjoyed days in Switzerland but have never ventured into Italy. So we decided to take a coach trip to Aosta organised by the local tourist office here in Les Carroz. Although the day was very long, the trip was superb value for money and a great way to see the Italian side of the Alps.
The day started with boarding the coach at 8.30am, croissant in hand we found some seats and we were on our way. Both excited to visit Italy and cross the border via the world famous Mont Blanc Tunnel. Built in 1965 the nearly 12km tunnel takes just over ten minutes to pass through and can be very pricey. A return with a car is priced at €55.40 so for just us two, plus fuel, parking etc it would have been an expensive day! It was once the longest tunnel in the world but is now beaten by the Gotthard tunnel not far away in Switzerland! 711 tonnes of explosives were used to make the tunnel, so I can see why it’s expensive!
Once through the tunnel you can see the magnificent side to Mont Blanc which is completely different to the French side! The Italian side looks much more impressive, very rocky and looks incredibly challenging, whereas on the French side though very tall, it is a big snowy field up to the peak. We passed through Courmayeur, (the first Italian ski resort through the tunnel) and continued on towards Aosta. We drove passed various chateaux’s, vineyards, waterfalls and our driver was very helpful telling us the history and all the names of the places, even if it was in French! We also drove through a lot of tunnels to get in and out of the mountains and into Aosta.
Aosta is the first major city that you come to after passing into Italy; it has a population of 34,000 and is well known for its ruins and for being a bilingual place. Originally speaking Latin, replaced by French and in the 19th century French was banned and replaced with Italian! Luckily for us we managed with the 3 words of Italian I knew and pointing, this was before we knew most of them could speak French too! Aosta is filled with lovely little shops, with crafts, chocolates, bakeries and of course fresh pasta. You can just wonder the same streets and see a new bit of architecture or a different shop tucked away amongst all the hustle and bustle of the people visiting. We stopped for a break and watch the world go buy over a coffee costing us a mere €2!
The city of Aosta (previously named Augusta Praetoria) was founded in 25bc and is rich with roman ruins! Most of the ruins are right in the town and many of which you can walk right up to and see for free! They have a great map available from the tourist office for free to show you where they all are and there are also signs to point you in the right direction. A few of the ruins such as the amphitheatre and the roman forum are paid entry but for €7 you can access them all. We only spent around 5 hours in Aosta and managed to get around most of the ruins and visited the churches too.
Aosta Cathedral was a highlight of the day as it has the most beautiful paintings on the entrance. These date back to the 4th century and parts of the original building are still visible inside. Aosta was a pretty place to visit and we spent most of our day wondering, watching and taking pictures. Tuesday is also market day where there are a lot of clothes and household bits and bobs for sale!
We stopped for lunch in a really nice micro-brewery called B53, hoping for Pizza and cabonara but It seemed we had picked the only place that didn’t do it! Instead we had a lovely Carpaccio and burgers, with various different beers and Aperol spritz at the bargain €3.50 each!! We then headed to buy pasta to take home with us and to find some Gelato which was so amazing we went back for more!
Overall our day trip to Aosta was great and very interesting and filled with history. With the coach costing just €28 each it was bargain for what we saw and we even got to nap on the coach home (maybe because of the Aperol Spritz!) I really loved the ruins and the city itself is truly beautiful. I would recommend as visit if you in the area or even for a weekend away.