Rifugio Giorgio Bertone, Courmayeur - Best things to do in Aosta Valley, Italy

Aosta Valley, Italy

Best Things to Do in Aosta Valley, Italy

Have you heard of Aosta Valley (Valle d’Aosta), Italy’s smallest region? Surrounded by Europe’s highest peaks and snuggled between France, Switzerland, and Piedmont (Italy), this Northern Italian region is brimming with historical, culinary and natural treasures. Though a favorite alpine holiday destination among Italians, Aosta Valley is virtually unknown to the rest of the world. 

Valle d’Aosta is made up of a central valley, from which branch 13 side valleys. You could spend weeks exploring the many hamlets and trails of these glacial and river valleys. Some of these side valleys branch into Gran Paradiso National Park, while others extend in the direction of Switzerland. The noteworthy Val Veny and Val Ferret lie at the foot of Mont Blanc. This is the heart of the Italian Alps.

 

When to Visit Aosta Valley

Valle d’Aosta is a seasonal destination. Italians vacation here chiefly in summer (hiking and cycling season) and winter (skiing season). If you come off-season, it might seem lifeless. Many properties in the region are second homes, which means that outside of those high seasons, many areas in the valley are empty. We visited Aosta Valley in May. While traveling to Aosta off-season has its advantages, it also feels dead. Many restaurants and businesses are closed. From a weather standpoint, spring is a tricky time to visit. The weather isn’t stable and there’s a good chance that many trails are still covered in snow. That being said, we still had a great time in Aosta Valley in May. We just know we want to come back in summer. 

 
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Best Things to Do in Aosta Valley, Italy

Aosta Valley Travel Guide Overview

  • How to Get to Aosta Valley
  • Where to Stay in Aosta Valley
  • Aosta Valley Map
  • Best Things to do in Aosta Valley
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Italian Alps, Aosta Valley, Italy - Best things to do in Aosta Valley

Where to Stay in Aosta Valley

We recommend basing yourself in the town of Aosta, or the town of Courmayeur.

Stay in Aosta Town

Budget | Maison Du-Noyer is a clean and comfortable guesthouse located above Aosta (10-15 drive). It’s ideal for exploring the surrounding countryside.

Mid-Range | Relais Bondaz is a stylish family-run hotel in Aosta. The location is superb. And, the breakfast is excellent!

Luxury | Hotel Milleluci is a beautiful hotel in Aosta with panoramic views and spa facilities, including an outdoor pool, sauna, and Turkish bath. Breakfast is superb.

 

Stay in Courmayeur

Budget | Hotel Locanda Belvedere is a charming hotel in Val Ferret with unbeatable mountain views. Locanda Belvedere serves an Italian breakfast and offers private parking (free).

Mid-Range | Villa Novecento Romantic Hotel is a 4-star boutique hotel in Courmayeur with cozy rooms, spa facilities, and delicious food. Opt for their half-board (breakfast and dinner) option during your stay.

Luxury | Hotel Auberge De La Maison is the best hotel in Courmayeur. Rooms are decorated in a refined-rustic style. Views are phenomenal. And, you can enjoy top-rated Valdostana cuisine in a wood-paneled dining room, warmed by a large fireplace. Located in the Entrèves neighborhood, this Courmayeur hotel is also only 300 meters from the Sky Way Mont Blanc cable car. Guests have access to a heated outdoor pool, sauna, Turkish bath, and solarium.

 
Monte Bianco, La Salle, Aosta Valley, Italy

How to get to Aosta Valley

Aosta Valley is located in the north-west corner of Italy. You can approach the valley from France, Switzerland, or the Italian region of Piedmont. The closest airports are in Turin, Milan, and Geneva.

From France: Chamonix to Courmayeur

There is an 11.6 km tunnel that connects the French town of Chamonix-Mont Blanc to Courmayeur in Aosta Valley. You can get to Aosta from Chamonix by bus, or car. If you drive the Tunnel du Mont-Blanc, you will pay over 40 EUR. You can calculate the cost of the crossing here. If you opt for a bus, you’ll pay 15 EUR per person. Bus connections between Chamonix and Courmayeur are operated by SAVDA. Book your ticket in advance.

 

From France: Haute-Tarantaise to Thuile

Little Saint Bernard Pass is a mountain pass connecting the valley of Thuile (Aosta Valley) with Haute-Tarantaise (France). France. The pass is usually open from June to end of October.

 

From Switzerland: Bourg-Saint-Pierre to Aosta Town

The Great San Bernard Tunnel links Aosta Valley with Switzerland. There is a toll to use the Tunnel del Gran San Bernardo, starting at 26.90 EUR (car) for a one-way crossing.

In summer, you can drive the San Bernard Pass, Colle del Gran San Bernardo. 

 

From Piedmont, Italy: Turin to Aosta Valley

Turin connects directly with the A5 motorway, which runs through Aosta Valley. The city of Turin is 55 km to Pont-Saint Martin, the so-called “Eastern Gate” of the valley.

 
Valle-di-Cogne, Aosta Valley, Italy

Aosta Valley Map

Click the dots to explore specific destinations
Towns
Gran Paradiso National Park
  • Valle di Cogne
  • Valle di Rhêmes
  • Valsavarenche
Tunnels & Passes
  • Tunnel du Mont-Blanc
  • Tunnel Du Grand Saint Bernard
  • Great St Bernard Pass
  • Little Saint Bernard Pass
Val Ferret, Courmayeur, Aosta Valley, Italy

Best Things to do in Aosta Valley

Our favorite experiences
Rifugio Giorgio Bertone, Courmayeur, Aosta Valley, Italy
Rifugio Giorgio Bertone, Courmayeur, Aosta Valley

Hike in Courmayeur

The Italian Alps frame Valle d’Aosta in epic fashion. As you journey deeper into the valley to Courmayeur, the snow-capped mountain views become increasingly more dramatic. Courmayeur is an alpine town at the foot of the towering Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) massif. It’s also one of the most sensational hiking destinations in Europe.

For a short day hike, head to Ermitage (1467 m), the trailhead to La Suche (1810 m). To reach Ermitage from the center of town, drive up Strada Grand Ru in the direction of Villair Inferiore and Plan Gorret. From Ermitage, it’s a 50-minute ascent to the La Suche, a mountain hut situated on a high plateau. From the plateau, you’ll have staggering views of Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc, and the many peaks that mark the French border.

Many more hikes begin in Val Veny and Val Ferret, two valleys that extend in opposite directions from Courmayeur. You can visit the local tourist office in town (Address: Piazzale Monte Bianco, 15 11013 Courmayeur) for maps and trail recommendations.

To learn more about what to do in Courmayeur, read Epic Things to Do in Courmayeur, Italy.

 
Saint-Pierre Castle, Aosta Valley, Italy
Saint-Pierre Castle, Aosta Valley

Tour the Aosta Valley Castles

A string of castles decorates the central valley of Aosta, adding a level of enchantment to this corner of Italy. Simply driving through the valley affords you terrific views of the many hilltop castles. However, one of the best things to do in Aosta Valley is to visit one, or several of these eye-catching buildings. Fénis castle, Sarre Castle, Bard Fortress, Savoy Castle, and Sarriod de La Tour Castle (Saint-Pierre) are all open to the public. To see the caste interiors, you must join a guided tour. At this time, tours are only conducted in Italian.

 
Val-di-Rhêmes, Gran Paradiso National Park, Aosta Valley, Italy
Gran Paradiso National Park, Aosta Valley

Explore Gran Paradiso National Park

Gran Paradiso National Park (Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso) is a protected area located in both Aosta Valley and Piedmont. From the Aosta Valley side, you can access the park from Valle di Cogne, Valsavarenche, and Valle di Rhêmes. This is a helpful map to visualize how these valleys extend into the Gran Paradiso.

The history of Italy’s first national park is tied to the protection fo the ibex. In the mid-19th century, the ibex population was rapidly dwindling. Luckily, King Vittorio Emanuele II declared the alpine region a royal hunting reserve, thus safeguarding the population from extinction. By 1922, the hunting reserve was donated to the Italian State, for the creation of Gran Paradiso National Park. Today, the park’s ibex population continues to flourish. While you’re out exploring the park’s valleys, keep your eyes out for herds of ibex.

There are many ways to experience Gran Paradiso National Park. In summer and early fall, you can embark on rewarding day hikes as well as multi-day hut-to-hut tours. Check out Cicerone’s Guide to Walking and Trekking in Gran Paradiso. In winter, you can go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Climbing and cycling opportunities abound as well.

 
Arpelles hamlet, La Salle, Aosta Valley, Italy
View of the Italian Alps from Arpelles, La Salle

La Salle

La Salle is a village between Courmayeur and Aosta. The base of the village sits at 891 meters, while the top (Planaval) is located at a lofty 1762 meters. We recommend zigzagging your way up the village for sunset views of Monte Bianco and the surrounding mountains. You’ll pass the tower of Castello di Chatelard on your way up. In summer, there’s a restaurant at Planaval, the top of the village, that you can visit. It’s also the trailhead to a bunch of hikes.

For an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Aosta Valley, you can hike to the ridge Col de Bard (2178 m) from Challacin in La Salle. This 2-hour hike (one-way) is best tackled in summer and early fall. We hiked here in May, and it was difficult to follow the trail due to snowfall and fallen trees. Crampons were a necessity. The trail follows a gravel road for 10 minutes before sharply veering right on a forest path. You’ll follow the forest trail for about 15 minutes to the peaceful Arpelles hamlet. From here, continue straight and follow signs to planta monumentale and the yellow circle with 2.

 
Praetorian Gate, Aosta Town, Roman Ruins, Aosta Valley, Italy
Praetorian Gate, Aosta Town

See Roman Ruins in the town of Aosta

Aosta town is the capital of Aosta Valley and the region’s largest city. In 25 BC, the Romans occupied the region and founded Augusta Praetoria, which is modern-day Aosta. Because of its proximity to the Great and Little Saint Bernard Passes, Aosta has always been a very strategic intersection in the Western Alps. Evidence of the Roman colony can still be seen throughout the historical center. Notable sites include the Roman Bridge, Augustan Arch, the Praetorian Gates, the Forum Cryptoporticus, the Roman Theater, and the city walls. While there’s no fee to see the gates, walls, and arch, there’s an entrance fee to visit the Roman Theater and Forum Cryptoporticus.

 
Rifugio Gian Federico Benevolo Hike in Val-di-Rhêmes, Gran Paradiso National Park
Hike to Rifugio Gian Federico Benevolo, Gran Paradiso National Park

Val di Rhêmes

Val di Rhêmes is a valley that extends into Gran Paradiso National Park from the central Aosta Valley. As we drove deeper into the valley to Rhêmes-Notre-Dame, we saw grazing chamois and Ibex. The end of the road brings you to Thumel, where you can park and continue on foot. We recommend hiking the mostly flat and easy path to Rifugio Gian Federico Benevolo. You’ll see dozens of marmots – which looks like joyful balls of fur – playing and chasing each other across the open meadows.

Note: This hike is best undertaken in summer and early fall. We hiked in mid-May and weren’t able to get all the way to the Rifugio, because of the snow. With snowshoes, it may have been possible.

 
Fontina Cheese and Regional Specialties, La Bottegaccia, Aosta Town, Aosta Valley
Fontina DOP and Regional Specialties, La Bottegaccia

Eat Fontina Cheese

Fontina is a mountain cheese made from milk of Valdostana cows. Aosta Valley is the only region officially authorized to produce Fontina since it has DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) status. To make Fontina, cheesemakers must use just-milked raw milk that hasn’t been treated in any way. The whole cheese-making process is conducted by hand and adheres to centuries-old traditions.

To sample Fontina and other regional specialties, head to La Bottegaccia in Aosta town. The shop is located on Via Sant’Anselmo near the Augustan Arch. Here, you can order cheese and charcuterie boards along with local wine. In addition to Fontina, ask for lardo di Arnad (another DOP food), motzetta, and prosciutto crudo di Saint-Marcel (if you consume meat). You can also buy Aosta Valley wines, meats, and cheeses at the supermarket Gros Cidac, located at Via Paravera, 4 in Aosta town. We highly recommend Fontina d’Alpeggio DOP. 

 
La Suche, Courmayeur, Aosta Valley, Italy

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@moonhoneytravelers
  • Alta Via 1.  We just finished hiking the Alta Via 1 - a multi-day trek in the Italian Dolomites. And, it was an adventure we’ll never forget.  The first two days of the trek, we hiked in pouring rain. With no mountain views and poor weather conditions, we tried our best to keep our spirits up.  On Day 3, we set off once again in rain. After a few hours on the trail, it started to snow. The smart thing would have been to turn back and secure a taxi to the next rifugio. But, we kept going. As we progressed, it became increasingly more difficult to find the trail. The snow was covering up the trail markers and the wind swept away the footprints of other hikers. We lost the trail several times.  The snow that was floating down ever so gently as first turned into a no-bullshit blizzard. We were soaking wet, increasingly numb, and at a complete loss of where to go. I started crying. With no one in site and no idea where the hut was, we started to freak out.  At this point, we were physically shaking. We took a few me minutes to regroup in a WWI cave. Sheltered from the blowing snow, we could locate where we were on Maps.me.  We found the trail and willed our frozen bodies into motion. When we saw Lagazuoi hut, we felt a tidal wave of relief.  After ringing out everything from our shirts to our underwear and changing into warm clothes, we drank 2 liters of hot tea and then met the most amazing group of women! Thank you Chris, Sigi, Jo and Susie for the wonderful company, conversations, and shared meals.  @susielambie @jored7  Photo: 2 days after the storm.
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  • I want to share with you one of my favorite German words.  Genießer/Genießerin is a person who delights and takes pleasure in living. It’s someone who enjoys and relishes the present moment completely. It can be applied broadly, whether someone enjoys reading, drinking a cappuccino, hiking, or cycling. The connotation of this type of pleasure is wholly positive.  There is no direct translation in the English language. In English, too much pleasure is perceived as a negative. We use words like glutton, hedonist, libertine to describe people who take (too much) pleasure in certain things. In English, pleasure must be restrained. Without such restraint, pleasure isn’t “good,” but marred with sin.  Would you define yourself as a Genießer/Genießerin?

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