An appealing mountain town with an ancient heart, Aosta -- nicknamed the “Rome of the Alps” -- is surrounded by snowcapped peaks and steeped in a history that goes back to Roman times. Although you’re not going to find much pristine Alpine quaintness here in the Valle d’Aosta’s busy tourist center, you will find Roman ruins and medieval bell towers while checking out the chic shops. Aosta’s weekly market day is Tuesday, when stalls selling food, clothes, and crafts fill the Piazza Cavalieri di Vittorio Veneto.
Well-preserved walls date from the days when Aosta was one of Rome’s most important trading and military outposts. A Roman bridge spans the River Buthier and two Roman gates arch gracefully across the Via San Anselmo. The Porta Pretoria forms the western entrance to the Roman town and the Arco di Augusto the eastern entrance. The Teatro Romano and the ruins of the amphitheater are north of the Porta Pretoria; the ruins of the forum are in an adjacent park (theater and forum open daily generally 9am to 6pm, typically closed for a few hours in the afternoon in the winter; admission free). Architectural fragments from these monuments found during excavations are displayed in Aosta’s Archaeological Museum at Piazza Roncas 12 ((tel) 0165-275-902; free admission; daily 9am–7pm, fall and winter Tues–Sun 10am–1pm, 2–5pm).
Festivals & Markets
Aosta celebrates its patron saint and warm winter days and nights with the Fiera Sant'Orso on the last 2 days of January. The festival fills the streets and involves dancing, drinking vast quantities of mulled wine, and perusing the local crafts pieces, such as lovely woodcarvings and woven blankets, which vendors from throughout the Valle d'Aosta offer for sale. Aosta's other major event is the Bataille des Reines (Battle of the Queens, who, in this case, are cows), in which these mainstays of the local economy lock horns -- the main event is held the third Sunday in October, and preliminary heats take place throughout the spring and summer. Aosta's weekly market day is Tuesday, when stalls selling food, clothes, crafts, and household items fill the Piazza Cavalieri di Vittorio Veneto.
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