The Aosta Valley is a mountainous region in northwestern Italy, bordered by France to the west, Switzerland to the north and Turin to the south and east. Most of the people there speak Italian and French. The Aosta Valley is an Alpine valley offering stunning views, various trekking options within its natural parks, numerous medieval castles, delicious local wine and Fontina cheese.
How to get there
The region’s capital is Aosta, a city with good connections with different villages in the area, but also with Turin and Milan. Of course, the best way to get there would be by car from Turin (115 km) or Milan (185 km), but there are also several buses and trains. However, you should be aware that moving around in Aosta Valley without having a car would be very difficult and would limit your experience there.
Since it is an Alpine valley bordering France and Switzerland, accommodation prices are not modest at all and the closer you get to Courmayeur, the higher the prices will be. We were on a budget, so we chose a property in Donnas with about 50 € per night, breakfast not included.
Donnas is a small town located about 50 km away from Aosta. It has an old district with charming narrow alleys, frescoes, 16th-century windows, ancient walnut doors. There are a few restaurants where you can taste the “Donnas” red wine, the Fontina cheese or some meat and polenta based dishes. In Donnas, you can find modest prices for food and accommodation and it can be a good base for exploring the valley, as long as you don’t want to go so far up to Courmayeur.
As I said at the beginning, the Aosta Valley is full of castles and fortifications. Luckily for us, only 3 km away from Donnas we could find Bard Fort, a fortified complex built in the 19th century by the House of Savoy on a rocky prominence above Bard. The fort is formed of 3 main defense stations positioned at different levels.
Between 1990 and 2006, the fort was closed due to restoration. The entrance is free, but the complex houses various museums and exhibitions which are not free of charge. You can arrive up by walking or by trying the glass elevators or the funicular ride for free. For more information, you can check the official website of Bard Fort.
In order to enjoy stunning views, you should visit the fort on a sunny day. We had bad luck with the weather, it was all cloudy and foggy.
Other castles in Aosta Valley
Since we spent only one day and a half in the Aosta Valley, we didn’t visit other castles, but for our next time there we would like to visit Verrès castle, Fénis castle, Sarre castle, which are on the way from Donnas to Aosta, and Savoy castle which seems from a fairytale. You can find here more information about all the castles in the Aosta Valley.
Mont Avic Natural Park
If we talked about late spring or summer, then Mont Avic Natural Park and Gran Paradiso National Park would offer endless possibilities, from various trekking paths to lakes, waterfalls, guided tours and other kinds of activities. In November though the offer is limited, many of the touristic facilities being closed. Even if we knew that we didn’t have much time at our disposal, nor the proper equipment, and the weather wasn’t helping us at all, we still decided to give it a try and have a walk inside Mont Avic Natural Park.
So we drove to Covarey. For the last 10 km, the road was winding up the hill. Once arrived up, we couldn’t see anything down because of the fog. That was certainly not a suitable day for wandering through the woods, but we couldn’t give up that moment, so we entered the park and chose one of the shortest itineraries. Apparently, the signs were not quite accurate, it was taking much longer than expected, so we didn’t finish. However, it was not a bad experience at all. We could see autumn at its best – a palette of yellow, orange, green, brown, copper shades blending together in harmony:
Is it worth travelling to the Aosta Valley in November?
I would say NO, especially if you plan to go just for one weekend. There are a lot of things to do in the Aosta Valley, but the perfect time would be late spring, summer, early autumn when the days are longer, the weather is better and much more touristic facilities are open. Well, at least we visited one fort, enjoyed a wonderful autumn landscape and a quiet weekend, far away from the vivid and noisy Milan.