Italy is on the bucket list for many traveling to Europe. But while most people flock to Rome, Venice, and the Amalfi Coast, there is a charming region in Northern Italy that is often overlooked by travelers, yet well deserves recognition – the Aosta Valley.
From Roman empire ruins to elaborate medieval castles, there are a variety of historic attractions you can experience in Aosta! This mountain town is also surrounded by some of the highest peaks of the Alps offering plenty of fun adventures for outdoor enthusiasts.
Here are the top 12 things to see & do in Aosta Valley, Italy on a visit!
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Where Is Aosta, Italy Located?
Aosta (also called Valle d’Aosta) is situated in northern Italy, near the Italy-France border.
We visited Aosta on a day trip from France after arriving at Chamonix resort town in September and finding out that most of the attractions had closed for the fall season. Thankfully it is very easy to get to Aosta from the French border so we decided to check out this charming mountain town for the day!
Aosta is located just an hour southeast of Chamonix. The roads that lead to Aosta Valley from France are wide, paved, and easy to drive.
To get there you can take the Mont Blanc Tunnel that passes underneath the Mont Blanc mountain range. The Mont-Blanc tunnel is a bit expensive – we paid $59.80 for a two-way ride to Aosta from Chamonix.
Once you arrive in Aosta, finding parking is very easy. Many of the top attractions like castles offer free parking within a short walk to their entrances.
After exploring a few of the castles outside of the city center, we ventured into the Old Town as well. It’s best to explore Old Town Aosta on foot as the city is very walkable.
Travel Tip: For traveling around Europe, we recommend getting a rental car because of how spread out everything is. While public transportation is reliable, you will be more limited in time and how much you can see, especially if you’re looking at going to some of the best hikes, resort towns, and mountain destinations which tend to be far apart from each other. Browse the best rental car deals here!
What Is Aosta, Italy Famous For?
Aosta is a cozy mountain town in Italy that is best known for medieval castles, lush green vineyards, and a charming downtown area.
This town is small but it’s packed with historical landmarks, old churches, and even ancient Roman-empire ruins.
Aosta has a high amount of castles within the small city limits. Some of the top castles in the Aosta region include the grand Fénis Castle, Castello di Aymavilles, and Castello Reale di Sarre.
Is Aosta Worth Visiting?
If you’re thinking about making a stop in the town of Aosta, it is so worth visiting! We visited Aosta on a day trip from France and we had a wonderful time in this lovely mountain region.
We traveled to Aosta Valley in September during a ‘culture week’ when all of the museums and landmarks within the historic center were free to enter. Outside of the culture week, there is a small fee to visit the local attractions.
Aosta is a small town so we were able to see most of the main highlights within one day. This area is popular with local tourists, but very few foreign visitors venture out here.
Aosta is a true hidden gem in the Italian Alps and a great place to visit if you like to go off the beaten path and escape the crowds!
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What Language Is Spoken In Aosta?
This town is located in Italy near the France border so the main languages spoken in Aosta are Italian and French.
Within the historic attractions, most people speak some level of English, especially at the ticket counters. We even took a guided tour of the Fénis Castle in English where we learned more about this region’s history.
Outside of the tourist attractions, very few people spoke English, but we were able to get by using Google Translate when needed.
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Best Things To Do In Aosta, Italy
Valle d’Aosta is an underrated region in Italy with many historic landmarks dating back thousands of years.
Aosta also offers easy access to world-class ski resorts and Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso (Gran Paradiso National Park) – the oldest National Park established in Italy.
From Roman empire ruins to castles built in the middle ages, here are some of the top things to see & do in Aosta Valley:
1. Fénis Castle
The Fénis Castle (Castello di Fénis) is located 20 minutes East of downtown Aosta and is one of the most popular attractions to visit in this region. The Fenis Castle is an enormous medieval castle that has been well-maintained over the years and is still standing in excellent condition.
Despite the intimidating exterior that consists of multiple defense towers (that makes you think it was involved in many Game Of Thrones types of battles), over the centuries nobody has ever tried to attack or invade this towering castle.
Visitors can only enter the grounds on a guided tour which operates every 30 minutes. After arriving, we purchased the entrance tickets and waited around for a few minutes until the next tour started.
The tour guide explained everything in English and Italian to both international and local visitors. The tour lasted about an hour and was very educational.
We got to explore various rooms of the Fénis Castle including the kitchen, bedroom, justice room, and entertainment room. We even got to step inside the largest fireplace in Europe that kept the entire castle warm during the winter months.
Originally this castle was built in 1242 and consisted of just 2 towers. In the fourteenth century, more additions were added to the castle expanding its grounds. Eventually, the castle was sold in 1716 and used as a farm (yep you read that right!).
One of the most notable parts of this castle is the courtyard with colorful frescoes that were painted in the 15th century and have been reconstructed over the years.
- Google Map Location: Fenis Castle
2. Castello Reale di Sarre
Castello Reale di Sarre is a beautiful castle situated on top of a hill, just off the main highway. The castle is surrounded by a well-kept garden and a courtyard that offers amazing panoramic views of the mountains and the valley floor. Castello Reale di Sarre is such a quintessential stop and a must-see in the Aosta Valley region!
This castle was originally built between the 11th – 12th centuries but was later rebuilt in the 18th century. Over the years, the castle was passed down between different families until it was acquired by the royal Savoy family and turned into a hunting residence.
During your visit, you can take a tour of the castle’s interior. The most notable room within this castle is the trophy room which has unusual decorations featuring skulls and horns from hunted animals including ibex (wild goats) and chamois (goat-antelopes).
Outside the castle, you can also view an external chapel that was added later in 1713.
- Opening Hours: In the summer months, the castle is open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. In the winter, opening hours are from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
- Cost: It costs 8 Euro to visit this castle.
- Google Map Location: Castello Reale di Sarre
3. Castello di Aymavilles
Castello di Aymavilles (Château d’Aymavilles) is one of the most elaborate castles in Aosta Valley.
Unlike other castles in this region that have kept their original medieval appearance, Aymavilles Castle displays a unique mix of medieval and baroque styles in its façade. This castle is also located on well-kept grounds surrounded by a perfectly manicured garden, park, and lush vineyards.
Upon entering Castello di Aymavilles grounds you will be greeted with amazing views of the surrounding Aosta town and valley. For a small fee, you can enter the castle and walk around on the inside. Here you can read various information signs in English to learn about the castle’s history and the noble family that used to live there.
This castle originally was constructed as a simple, square building. Over the years, owners added towers, raised the height of the building, and even added modern features like a sunroom, windows, fireplaces, and elaborate stucco work.
The first floor displays photos, paintings, and furniture of the Challant family that used to live here. This family built most of the castles that you can now visit in the Aosta Valley.
You can also take a small elevator to the top floor where you can see exhibits of the different architectural styles that have been incorporated into Castello di Aymavilles over the years.
- Google Map Location: Castello di Aymavilles
4. Roman Theatre
At the heart of the Aosta Valley, you can visit the location of a historic Roman theater. Our trip to Aosta was my first time seeing Roman Empire ruins, made even more impressive by the grand Alps as the backdrop!
Here you can walk around excavated ruins of an ancient theater and a coliseum situated next to the Porta Pretoria city gate. The main façade of the theatre is still standing intact and looks quite impressive. This is a great location to visit if you enjoy history and archeology!
Google Map Location: Roman Theatre
5. Porta Praetoria
Porta Praetoria is the main city gate situated at the center of Aosta’s Old Town, right next to the Roman Theatre. This gate consists of multiple arches that were used as the main passageways for pedestrians and carriages headed into the old Roman city Augusta Praetoria in the year 25 B.C.
This gate is very impressive and well-preserved. It is still used as a footbridge leading into the Old Town Aosta but is now surrounded by modern buildings, cafes, gelato stores, and gift shops. Here you can also stop by the Aosta tourist office which is located at the center of the Porta Praetoria gate.
Google Map Location: Porta Pretoria
6. Pont d’Aël
Pont d’Aël is a historic Roman bridge situated outside of the main city center in a small village near Aosta. At this location, you can visit and go for a walk inside an impressive single-arch aqueduct bridge that was built during the Roman times back in 3 B.C.
Upon arrival, you can park in a small visitor lot and go through a quaint residential neighborhood to reach the entrance. After paying for the ticket, you can enter and view the aqueduct from the outside. See if you can spot an inscription on the bridge façade that references Emperor Caesar Augustus that ruled during this time!
After crossing the bridge, take the stairs down and walk through the inside of the aqueduct along a pedestrian walkway.
The interior of Pont d’Aël is very narrow and made with a glass floor. It felt a bit scary walking on this glass pathway at first, but it is very durable and safe. All in all, this is a short and quick attraction that takes about 30 minutes to explore!
- Opening Hours: The summer hours are from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. The winter hours are from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
- Cost: It costs 5 Euro to visit this location.
- Google Map Location: Pont d’Aël
7. Criptoportico Forense
Criptoportico Forense (Cryptoportique du forum romain d’Aoste) is a bit different from other attractions in Aosta. This landmark consists of an eerie underground tunnel underneath the Cathedral of Aosta where visitors can walk through and marvel at beautiful arches.
At the end of the tunnel, you can sit down and watch a movie covering this region’s history and what it used to look like back in the day. Before Aosta, this area was home to the Roman city Augusta Pretoria, although very little remains of it now.
Criptoportico Forense was built underneath an old city complex that was the center of political, economic, and religious activities during the year 25 B.C. Most of the buildings from this period are long gone, but some landmarks have been preserved including this underground tunnel.
- Opening Hours: In the summer months it is open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, with the last admission 30 minutes before closing time. The winter hours are from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
- Cost: It costs 10 Euro to enter this underground tunnel.
- Google Map Location: Criptoportico Forense
8. Chiesa di San Lorenzo
Chiesa di San Lorenzo (Chiesa Paleocristiana di San Lorenzo) is a sacred area where people have been buried since the Iron Age (1200 B.C.). Here you can walk through an archeological site with underground pathways that offer up-close views of ancient tombs.
These tombs were used for the burials of Aosta bishops and very important people during the 5th century. The crypts are made of giant river rocks and blocks that were removed from the old Roman structures in the city.
Eventually, this burial ground was destroyed by fire and flood, and a new church was built on top of it. During WWI this location was even used as a military warehouse. Overall, this is a quick stop that only takes about 30 minutes to visit.
- Opening Hours: The summer hours are from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. The winter hours are from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
- Cost: It costs 10 Euros to visit this location.
- Google Map Location: Chiesa Paleocristiana di San Lorenzo
9. Piazza Emile Chanoux
If you’re looking to take a short break between all of the sightseeing, head over to Piazza Emile Chanoux! This is the main plaza of the Old Town Aosta where you can find a variety of restaurants, cafés, stores, and dessert shops.
At the center of Piazza Emile Chanoux is the Town Hall which stands out with its grand and elegant architecture. In December this area turns into a winter wonderland featuring a decorative Christmas tree and an ice ring at the center of it.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth like us, satisfy your cravings by indulging in local gelato – a must-try in Italy! We stopped by a gelato store next to the plaza and ordered a scoop of maracuya gelato which was very sweet and flavorful.
- Google Map Location: P.za Emile Chanoux
10. Go On a Walking Food Tour
Italy has a worldwide reputation for being a foodie paradise. If you want to spend the day eating like a local, be sure to sign up for this Aosta Food Tour that will take you to all the top places to eat in town!
During this tour, you’ll explore Aosta’s Old Town with an experienced tour guide while stopping at different restaurants, cafes, and wine bars within the city. You’ll get to try local cheeses, meats, pasta, and wine all while learning a bit about Aosta’s origins and history.
11. Birrificio 63
Looking for a fun spot to grab a drink after all the sightseeing? Birrificio Artigianale B63 is a trendy eatery and an excellent place to unwind after exploring Old Town Aosta.
Birrificio 63 is hidden on a side street outside the busy city center. On the inside, the restaurant is very modern while on the outside it overlooks historic attractions.
This brewpub has a large selection of craft beers and mouth-watering food such as burgers, sausage, and chicken plates.
- Opening Hours: The restaurant is open for lunch from 12:00 pm to 2:45 pm. It closes mid-day but re-opens for dinner from 6:30 pm to 11:45 pm.
- Google Map Location: Birrificio ’63
12. Mura Romane
During our Aosta trip, we explored all around the city including walking to the Mura Romane historic wall that surrounds the Old Town.
These towering walls were built to protect the ancient Augusta Praetoria city during Roman times. They are still standing intact and in great condition thousands of years later. There are also benches scattered in a grassy area around the wall where you can take a break and do a bit of people-watching.
- Google Map Location: Mura Romane
Best Places To Stay In Aosta
Planning to stay in Aosta for a few days while traveling around Italy & France? Here are some of the top-rated hotels in Aosta Valley for an enjoyable and comfortable trip:
Hotel Diana Jardin et Spa is an inviting and relaxed family-operated hotel not far from Aosta’s downtown. Guests have a choice to book a double, twin, or triple room that can sleep up to 3 people.
This hotel is a great choice for couples or smaller families. Many of the rooms also come with stunning mountain views!
After an exciting day exploring the nearby Aosta attractions, return to the hotel for a relaxing time at the onsite Finnish sauna, Turkish bath, or salt cave. Massages can be booked upon request.
Other amenities include a bar, lounge, and a serene garden area. The hotel offers complimentary parking and a daily breakfast buffet to start the day off right!
This modern hotel can be found near the Mura Romane historic wall at the center of downtown Aosta. Each of the 33 boutique rooms at the HB Aosta Hotel & Balcony SPA come furnished with stylish pieces made in Italy. Some rooms also have a hot tub and views of the surrounding mountains.
In the mornings, guests can enjoy a buffet breakfast featuring sweet and savory items. There is also an onsite bar and a wellness area with lounge chairs.
For those traveling with their furry four-legged friends, this hotel is pet friendly and allows pets for a small fee.
At Hotel Milleluci guests are treated to a cozy stay on a beautiful, tranquil property. Situated in an old family farmhouse made of stone and wood, this hotel will take you back in time away from your every day worries. The rooms are furnished in a traditional mountain style and come with balconies overlooking Aosta city and the mountains.
In the morning indulge in a buffet breakfast featuring local specialties such as rye bread, honey, and local cheeses. After an exciting day of sightseeing, enjoy some R&R at the spa and sauna, or go for a soak in the hot tub.
This hotel also features a seasonal outdoor pool in the shape of an alpine lake. The center of Aosta is less than 5 minutes from the property!
We hope this post has helped you prepare for a wonderful trip to Aosta Valley in Italy! If you have any questions, we’d be happy to answer them in the comment section below.
After visiting Aosta, we recommend continuing your journey to spend a few days in Zermatt, Switzerland. Aosta and Zermatt are located very close to each other, separated by the Monte Rosa mountain.
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