This is an excerpt from the book “Aosta Valley Itineraries”.
Who knows how many stories would tell the Dora Baltea river which in 1953 was crossed over by the impressive bridge connecting the two sides of Avise. The river was there long time before, when the three castles (Cru, Blonay and Avise) were built.
It was there when the road of Gaul was created. It attended the cooking of plain bread in the village oven, it knows well the taste of the roast chestnuts and the flavor of the cream named “fiocca”, whipped in the icy natural cave.
The Dora Baltea has seen the colors of autumn, has carried the dry leaves, shining in the sun, has melted the snow to its waters. So many things the river knows! If you are able to listen to it, you may be told its secrets about streams and peaks. Prick up your ears…
Avise: here history passed by
The Avise family settled here in the 12th century. The village grew up around the castle Blonay, residence of the feudal family. The church, dedicated to San Brizio, and its bell-tower, dated to the 15th century, are still standing right near the castle.
In the same century, in order to strengthen the control of the village, the family built the Avise castle, of which you can admire the facade decorated with twin windows.
The origins of the village go back to the roman era as it was a strategic point on the road to Gaul. Here the Romans made their way through the rocks in order to reach the Mont Blanc, in the hamlet Runaz they carved the trail named Pierre Taillie still evident today.
In Runaz is also located the Fortress of Mosse with its beautiful windows in gothic style and the interesting main door. The fortress belongs today to the regional administration and is the seat of the regional association of audio archives. Several expositions take place in summer and throughout the year (booking is required in low season).
In the village center take a look at the wash-house, where ladies still meet for a chat, observe the meridian and the frescos of the town hall and the medieval bridge in Le Pont.
When all secrets are discovered let’s plunge into the peace of the pic-nic area named Lo Crou on the road to Cerellaz, take an easy walk to the falls of Frenay (30 minutes) or reach the village to see signs of our traditions: mills, ovens and dairies.
Further up is the green Vertosan valley, surrounded by the peaks of Chateau Blanc, here every summer the traditional cow fights take place. Are you fond of gastronomic events? Do not miss, at the end of June, the Fiha de la Fiocca, a traditional whipped cream made in an icy cave at 1800 meters a.s.l.. The event takes place in Baulin; you need to drive to Planaval, in Valgrisenche, and follow signs for La Clusaz. Plenty of chapels are located all over Avise.
THE HORNS’ QUEENS
Two cows in calf enter the arena and compete for the title of queen: we talk about one of the most important traditions in Valle d’Aosta which has been handed down from generation to generation.
The fight named “bataille des reines” is between the most aggressive and struggling cows in calf, the best cattle of the bovine race in the Valley. Each year, up in the mountains, the fights take place from March till October. Every queen returns home showing the bouquet fasten to her horns with colored ribbons. At the end of October the queens challenge to a final duel in Aosta and the winner has the pleasure to be applauded by nine thousand celebrating people.
Castle of Avise
The first building you meet on the left side of Arvier is the castle: a construction on three floors with a square tower. Very interesting are the ornaments with embrasures on the tower and the wonderful geminate windows with decoration of overturned keels. The castle was built at the end of the 15th century by Rodolfo d’Avise. After the extinction of the dynasty, it had many different owners and now it is a private residence.
Castle of Blonay
The castle of Blonay is situated nearby the church of Avise. It is composed by a square tower of the 12th century and a main body of the 15th century with beautiful window bars. The castle was the residence of the powerful D’Avise Family until 1645. Then it became a property of the Blonay Family and it changed its name. The ancient tower was called “des prisons”, of the prisons: still in 1787 Filippo de Blonay laid claim to jail the criminal inside! The tower was then sold to other families and the main body was alienated by the Blonay Family.
Not far from Saint-Pierre, it is possible to visit San Teodulo, a little church of the eighteenth century. Inside, you will find a beautiful painting which represents the Deposition of Jesus, two bishops, Saint Rocco, Saint Barbara and Saint Grato.
Fortress of Mosse
The D’Avise Family built this fortress nearby the roman road of Gaul, which crossed the village of Runaz from east to west. At the end of the 15th century, the seigniory of the D’Avise was divided into four brothers. Jean le Jeune became lord of Runaz and, probably, he was who transformed the fortress in a residence. In fact, the beautiful windows in gothic style with sash of Villeneuve’s stone have the typical architecture of the beginning of the 16th century. The main door is also very interesting. The fortress belongs today to the regional administration and is the seat of the regional association of the sonorous archives.
27/06-29/09: H 10.00-12.30 / 14.30-19.00 (for every day) – Openings with reservation.
The parish church of Avise was built on the rests of an older construction of which we see today only the bell tower. The tradition says that the old church, destroyed by the army around the 10th century, was situated between the two villages of Runaz and Pierre Taillie. The new one, dedicated to San Brizio, was erected on the other side of the river, where the risk of military incursions was not so high.
Remains of the castle of Cru
At the exit of the village, to the limit of a promontory rises the castle of Cru. This fortress was probably built in the 10th century. It belonged to Pierre d’Avise, official of the Savoia Family in Valle d’Aosta. Around 1450, it was sold to Bonifacio Ducrest, a Savoyard ducal official. The Family Ducrest disappeared at the beginning of the 18th century.
Remains of the road of Gaul “Pierre Taillie” and of fortifications (17th-18th centuries)
S.S. N. 26
Strategic point of the roman road of Gaul, Pierre Taillie took its name from the cut that Roman did in the stone to create the passage. They who went to the Gaul or came in Augusta Praetoria (Aosta) were compelled to pass through Pierre Taillie. That’s the reason why this point had an enormous strategic and military importance. For example, it helped the inhabitants of Valle d’Aosta during the French invasions of the 18th century. Still today it is possible to see, over the tunnel of the Mont Blanc’s road, the remains of fortifications.
Courtesy of the AIAT Gran Paradis