This is an excerpt from the book “Aosta Valley Itineraries”.
The Bard Fortress: A trip to the center of the Alps
The recent reclamation of the Bard Fortress and its hamlet has led to the establishment of a large cultural center in the centre of the Western Alps. The fortress, which used to be a closed military building, has now turned into a space open to the public, describing and illustrating the culture and the history of the Alps.
The visit to the Fortress represents an ideal journey in time and space, merging its historic tradition with its educational mission and with the communicative strength of the Theme Park.
A fascinating exhibition: a journey along the various buildings in the fortress. There is the Carlo Alberto building with the Museum of the Alps, the temporary exhibitions, the “Vallee culture” promo area; the opera Vittorio building with its museum “Youngsters and the Alps”, the opera Mortai and the Polveriera building with tutorial labs for school children; the Opera Ferdinando building with the “Fortress” and the “Borders” museums.
The Bard Fortress.
Almost intact from the moment of its construction, the Fortress of Bard represents one of the best examples of early 1800 military strongholds.
The Fortress of Bard is formed of 3 main defence stations positioned at different levels upon a high imposing rock spur, the lowest at 400m above ground and the highest at 467m. The Ferdinando Opera is the defense structure at the bottom, the Vittorio Opera in the middle, and the Carlo Alberto Opera at the top. There are a total of 283 rooms in the entire fortress.
The Ferdinando Opera is a tenaille (pincer-shaped) structure and is formed of two buildings, the Inferior Ferdinando Opera and the Superior Ferdinando Opera. Both are presently inaccessible to visitors.
The Mortai Opera with the Polveriera next to it are found behind the Ferdinando Opera; these two buildings are used for educational workshops.
The Vittorio Opera will host The Children’s Alps, a highly interactive museum entirely dedicated to the young. Through playful activities the children will learn about mythology and take on the challenge of a virtual climb up Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc). The Museum will be opening shortly.
At the very top of the rock sits the most impressive of the defense stations, enclosed by a wall upon which all the buildings are sustained. Defending the south side is the Gola Opera with its internal courtyard, and overlooking the north is the Carlo Alberto Opera with its magnificent Piazza d’Armi, a great quadrangular courtyard surrounded by a wide arcade. The first floor of the Carlo Alberto Opera hosts the Museum of the Alps.
On the south side of the fortress there is an external footpath that leads you into the courtyard of the Gola Opera. There is also an internal footpath which with its hairpin bends supported by high mighty walls leads you up the north slope to the Carlo Alberto Opera.
The top of the fortified rock is easily accessible thanks to futuristic external glass lifts with stunning views, taking you from the medieval village of Bard at the foot of the fortress right up to the Carlo Alberto Opera.
The Museum of the Alps
The Museum of the Alps is an itinerary leading to discovering, interpreting and experiencing the mountains through the five senses: a people-friendly museum for people of all ages. The itinerary runs along the 29 halls on the first floor of the Carlo Alberto building. The tale it tells along the way captures you in a twirl of sensations, suggestions and emotions. The visit starts with an ascent to the peak of the mountains with high altitude scenes and landscapes projected around the visitor. The “mountain symphony”, the all-involving soundtrack of the museum, accompanies you throughout the visit.
The entrance corridor contains an enveloping video-installation by artist Armin Linke; it gives you the idea of what seem to be alpine pastures, tunnels, jumps and high-tech skiers that you can see and hear. “Let’s go up the mountains” is the cry you hear in the “gallery of voices”: a kaleidoscope of Alpine languages welcoming you to the museum.
You feel like caressing the mythical Dahu, the legendary animal with two shorter forelegs, suitable for climbing mountain slopes, part of the fascinating biodiversity of the alpine environment. Show cases, videos, dioramas and touch-screens show you the climate, the short seasons at high altitude, the vegetation and the sturdy inhabitants of the mountains.
A 3D video puts wings on visitors: a breathless “eagle flight” takes you from the peak of Mont Blanc, across the most spectacular landscapes of the Valle d’Aosta, amidst glaziers, waterfalls and ancient castles, landing you on the Bard Fortress.
In the Geography Hall, a spectacular interactive map on the floor allows you to have a walk on the Alps. Surrounding the hall is the representation of the most spectacular and unmistakably famous peaks where one can see the tectonics of mountain building. It is a journey back in time amidst the phenomena that led to the formation of the Alps and the Dolomites.
There is the reconstruction of the stable, the stove, the school; interactive videos inform on alpine civilization and culture based on work, the mills and the mines. Then you find yourself involved in the merry winter-end celebrations: dancing, fiestas and colorful alpine carnivals with the procession of “lanzette” – typical Valle d’Aosta carnival characters- or the dances of the “wild man”. And lastly there is the romantic experience of nineteenth century artist-mountain climbers trying to conquer invincible peaks; and a train trip with ski tourists who crowd the ski runs. Here are multifaceted mountains to be discovered and experienced with passion.
Where to stay in Bard
There are high quality hotels, apartments, hostels and B&Bs available, check them out and make a reservation here.
Il Borgo di Bard
The charming medieval town, with its roofs “lose” the slates local winds at the foot of the fort of the same name, along the ancient Roman consular road, of which there are several tracks: a stretch of road, arcs walls, the bridge over the stream.
In the village, 25 houses have been preserved declared historical monuments, including the House of Nicole (house number 41-45) dating from the fifteenth century. The building, built in part on one of the entrances to the village, belonged to the noble De Jordanis and in 1744 it became the residence of the noble Nicole, last counts of Bard. External plaster are still visible signs of bullets fired in May 1800, by the defenders of the fort against the Napoleonic army.
Challant house (house number 46), built in the fifteenth century and the residence of Count Filiberto of Challant, is close to a feature on the front arch and exhibits beautiful stone windows and the remains of ancient frescoes.
It is also interesting Valperga House (number 22) recognized by mullioned window at the center of the facade and the two mullioned windows. Within many houses can still be seen stone stairs, presses, architraves, doors molded according to the medieval models.