Visit the most magnificent castles in the Aosta Valley

magnificent castle on top of the hill - Visit the most magnificent castles in the Aosta Valley

Let’s discover some of the magnificent castles of the Aosta Valley. Italy’s smallest Region has over 130 castles and stately residences dating from the Middle Ages, through the Renaissance and up to the early 1900s. Almost all of them can be visited and some also host museum collections. Driving along the valley at night with all the castles lit up makes you feel like you are in a fairy tale.

Fenis Castle – Castello di Fenis

stunning castle in Fenis - Visit the most magnificent castles in the Aosta Valley

You can find Fenis castle just 10 minutes’ drive off the A5 motorway at exit Nus.

This castle is undoubtedly the most famous in the Region, dating back to the 13th century. Its fame is mainly due to its splendid architecture, with an imposing crenelated wall and numerous towers. Although Fenis Castle is a classic medieval castle, it was not built as a military base but to serve as a prestigious residence for the Challant family.

It is worth taking the guided tour of this fascinating castle to discover anecdotes and curiosities of the place and its surroundings. The rooms and furniture are very nicely restored and you can imagine how people really lived in that era. Don’t forget to take a look at the fantastic frescoes inside the chapel.

Bard Fortress – Forte di Bard

the majestic fortress of Bard

The fortress, which is at the entrance to the Aosta Valley, is located in a narrow gorge above the Dora Baltea river, just 10 minutes off the A5 motorway from the Verres & Pont-Saint-Martin exits.

The origins of the fortress date back to the 800’s and it was built to control this vital trading route between Italy and France. It was in use as a military facility right up until 1830. Bard Fortress was constantly in the firing line and famously held out against Napoleon Bonaparte in 1800. The defensive structures were so efficient that Napoleon’s army took around two weeks to overcome them.

It is one of the best examples of an early 19th century barrage fortress. It consists of three buildings, located at different heights between 400 and 467 meters. After a long renovation undertaken in 1990 by the regional authorities the fortress now permanently hosts 3 museums, The Museum of the Alps and The Children’s Alps Museum, plus The Prisons (Prigioni del Forte), which tells of the evolution of the fortress from Roman times to the twentieth century.

In addition to the permanent museums the fortress hosts large events, ancient and modern art exhibitions and photographic exhibitions. In the outdoor courtyard they regularly hold concerts, theatrical performances and markets. Forte de Bard has featured in the movies, the latest one being the Avengers – Age of Ultron.

Verres Castle – Castello di Verres

the block structure of the castles - Visit the most magnificent castles in the Aosta Valley

The Verres castle can be reached in 5-10 minutes off the A5 motorway at the Verres exit.

The castle was built in the fourteenth century by the brilliantly named Yblet of Challant. It is in fact a single block, a stone cube 30 meters long on each side. It is built on top of the rock overlooking the town of Verrès, in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape.

To reach the castle you take a short walk through the centre of Verrès and continue uphill on a beautiful mule track for approximately 20 minutes. In case that is too much, you can halve the walk by driving up and parking at the foot of the castle.

Every year in February the castle hosts the traditional carnival of Verrès.

Issonge Castle – Castello di Issogne

elegant residence in the castle

On the opposite side of the valley from Verres Castle you will find Issogne castle.

Owned by the Bishops of Aosta up to 1379, Issogne Castle subsequently passed into the hands of the Challant family. The buildings were renovated, extended and united through the years and its current appearance was developed under Giorgio di Challant, who transformed it into a luxurious Renaissance residence for his cousin.

After passing through various owners it was bought by the artist Vittorio Avondo in 1872 who restored it and donated it to the State in 1907. Today the castle belongs to the Aosta Valley Region. It is most famous for its pomegranate-shaped central wrought iron fountain and its magnificent frescoes.

Ussel Castle – Castello di Ussel

Another block structure medieval castle - Visit the most magnificent castles in the Aosta Valley

To reach Ussel Castle you need to exit the A5 motorway at Chattilon and follow the signs to Castello di Ussel which you reach in about 10 minutes.

The castle was built towards the middle of the 14th century. It is a monobloc structure, like Verres castle, with the addition of battlements. It has a rectangular shape and is of considerable size.

It belonged both to the Challant and the Savoy families. At one point in time it was used as a prison. Thanks to the restorations it is now possible to visit Ussel castle, however only when they hhold organised exhibitions or events open to the public.  It still deserves a walk up on the nice pedestrian path from where you will enjoy a wonderful view over the Aosta Valley.

Savoy Castle – Castello di Savoia

Fairytale castle in Gressoney

The Savoy Castle is located in Gressoney-Saint-Jean, 40 minutes from the A5 motorway exit at Pont-Saint-Martin.

The castle was owned by the Savoy family and was the summer residence of Queen Margherita between 1904 and 1925. Built between 1899 and 1904 at the foot of Colle delle Ranzola in a town called Belvedere, it enjoys magnificent views over the Monte Rosa and the Lyskamm glacier.

It was designed by Stramucci, who also designed the Neo-Baroque Royal Palace in Turin, as well as the Quirinale in Rome.

Savoy Castle is embellished with five pointed towers that give it the appearance of a fairy-tale castle. It is developed on three floors and comprises living quarters, royal apartments and gentlemen’s rooms. You can admire the original furniture, precious objects and wonderful art. Interestingly, the old kitchens were in a separate building, connected to the castle by an underground railway.

Outside, you can appreciate the terraced landscape and a charming little botanical garden with alpine fauna.

Royal Sarre Castle – Castello Reale di Sarre

Sarre castle with its unique terraced structure

The Royal Sarre Castle is right next to A5 motorway and 5 minutes’ drive from exit Aosta Ovest.

Built in 1710 on the ruins of an even older settlement (12th century), after passing through various owners the building became the summer residence of the Savoy Family.

In 1869 King Vittorio Emanuele II bought the castle, for the price of 55,000 lire, from the notary Gerbore Leonardo of Aosta. The King had the stables built and the ancient tower raised, transforming it into an observatory. It became the residence of the sovereign during his hunting visits and hunting trophies fill the walls of some of the rooms.

In 1989 the Aosta Valley Region purchased the complex and after a lot of restoration and preparation works it is now again open to the public.

Castello Sarriod de la Tour

Winder wibes on the castle of Sarriod

To reach Sarriod de la Tour you exit the A5 motorway at Aosta Ovest and follow the signs to Saint-Pierre. The castle is visible from the road.

This medieval manor sits on the opposite side of the village from Saint-Pierre Castle, overlooking the Dora Baltea river. The original building, comprising the main element of the castle, the chapel and the square tower (donjon) surrounded by the castle walls, is a typical medieval structure from the 10-12th century.

The castle is actually a set of buildings from different periods, it has been extended through the centuries and the latest addition was the north tower built in the 17th century. The “Hall of Heads” was built in 1430 and its ceiling features 171 corbels carved into grotesque shapes, monsters and fantastic animals.  It is a gothic masterpiece of original wooden carving. Definitely visit the chapel to see its 13th-century frescoes

The castle was owned and inhabited by the Sarriod de La Tour family until 1923.  Since 1970, it has been the property of the Aosta Region.

Saint Pierre Castle – Castello di Saint Pierre

on top of the rock Saint Pierre Castle

The location of Saint Pierre castle is also in the town of Saint Pierre, like the above mentioned Sarriod de la Tour.

It is one of the oldest castles in the Aosta Valley and stands on top of a rocky spur, overlooking the town. The castle was first owned by the De Santo Pietro family from which it takes its name. It has undergone many transformations and additions. The latest was in 1873 when the whole complex was unified based on the design of the architect Camillo Boggio. This gave the castle its fairy-tale appearance by adding four circular decorative turrets to the corners of the central Mastio. The towers are connected by a walkway supported by a series of small arches and the south side of the castle has a small courtyard surrounded by crenelated walls.

The castle is owned by the municipality of Saint Pierre and houses the Regional Museum of Natural Science. It has been undergoing a significant redevelopment since 2008, with the dual objective of enhancing the architectural heritage and renovating the museum exhibition. The new museum will be based on interactivity, experience and technology and will be about the natural history of the Valle d’Aosta.

Castello Aymavilles

Charming castle that was a residential place for the Challand family.

Aymavilles Castle shares the name of the town that is located in which you can easily reach from the A5 motorway exit Aosta Ovest. In fact these last four castles on our list are all very close to each other and can be easily visited in the same day.

The Aymavilles castle was originally erected around the 12th century on a low hill descending towards the Dora River and was rebuilt between the 14th and 15th centuries.  The central body is the oldest part of the building, while the four imposing cylindrical towers were added in the fourteenth century when the castle was transformed into an elegant residence.

Since 2013 the castle has been undergoing important restoration works. The two buildings in the park, the stables and the grange, when finished will become reception rooms while the rooms of the castle, in addition to being a museum, will be hosting the art and antique collection of the Sant’Anselmo Academy.

For further information about the Aosta Valley, please click here.

 

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