Five things... reasons to visit Aosta, Italy: Part 2
We hope we whetted your appetite with Part 1 of our reasons to visit Aosta! Here are five more reasons why Aosta might be the perfect place to visit in the winter…
It's easy to get around
Aosta is easily accessible by train from Milan and Turin, so getting there is a breeze. The train also helps you get to other places of interest along the valley, as well as connecting with buses that take you off to all the mountain villages. Buses run west from the town along the valley towards Courmeyeur and Monte Bianco (in place of the train line that was due to be renovated and reopened, but hey, this is Italy!) Aosta bus station is conveniently located next to the train station. If you are sticking to public transport there are few snowy places with as many options, though as always, if the snow is heavy then some transport may not run. Good job the town is so delightful and you have that gondola to Pila for play time!
Markets and Festivals
Aosta has a Christmas market that runs from late November to early January, where you can buy local produce, toys and crafts to add a little magic to the holiday season. As well as trying all the food and booze, you might be tempted by the lovely and often intricate wooden objects that are a mountain speciality deeply connected to the culture of the area. Another opportunity for shopping is the Festival of St Ours in late January; the streets come alive with music and cultural events, alongside the market and food stalls, and it feels like the whole population of the valley has come to town. It makes for an immersive if slightly hectic experience!
Castles and Culture
Want a day of culture and history? There are loads of stunning fortifications along the valley, and many of them house fascinating museums. We particularly enjoyed the Forte di Bard which had exhibitions on the history of fortifications, borders and the mountains. Or try Sarre Castle with its hunting related interiors, or the fairy-tale architecture of Castel Savoia. Of course, most of these places are reachable by train or bus. The Valle d’Aoste authorities have a map of the castles and information about which ones are open to the public.
It’s no secret we love our alpine skiing – but there are other sporty things to do in and around Aosta. If it’s a low snow year, as we experienced, there are plenty of hiking, trail running and mountain biking trails towards Pila and through the valley. Some of the hikes along the mountainside are stunning with enormous views, and if boots won’t cut it then strap on some snow shoes. Mountain biking is particularly well catered for in the area though some trails are closed during the winter as they are within the ski areas; we did see the lower trails being used in January and February, and there are also companies that run fat biking tours - plenty of fun to be had on two wheels! Finally, why not ditch the steep slopes and go cross country skiing? We gave it a go for the first time in gorgeous Cogne, and thoroughly enjoyed our lesson.
The valley has a variety of wellness options from yoga to massages with local juniper products, or hotel spas with the standard trappings. However, after all the activity you’ll need some proper pampering. In Pre St Didier, a bus ride from Aosta, is a thermal spa where the baths, fed by mountain water, have existed since the 19th century. Now it’s a modern spa with pools, saunas and the usual trappings – but surrounded by sumptuous views. A lovely way to ease tied muscles and minds, it’s not cheap, but it’s a quintessential valley experience.
Forte di Bard
Cross country skiing in Cogne