This is an excerpt from the book “Aosta Valley Itineraries”.

The lower valley and its castles

Valle d’Aosta is very famous for its castles testifying a wealth particularly rich history. The castles were built in direct sight from each other, a signaling system was in place that used flags during the day and torches during the night. Using this system a message could be delivered from Bard, at the entrance of the Valle d’Aosta, to Martigny, on the other side of the Alps, that now is part of France, in just three hours.

Bard Castle - Photo © photostar58
Bard Castle – Photo © photostar58

Bard Castle

This itinerary can start at Bard where there is an impressive fortress built in 1034 AD, one of the main military buildings in Valle d’Aosta.

It played a very important role during the French invasions in 1704 and 1800 when Napoleon and his troops were trapped there for a week.

Camillo Benso was also confined there as a political prisoner for eight months in 1830, when the fortress was rebuilt by the Piedmontese.

Bard is a typical transit village which developed along the Roman road. Its medieval layout is unchanged and it still preserves a number of noteworthy 15th and 16th cent. residences such as: the Challant house, the Bishop’s house, the Valperga house and the Sundial house. Another beautiful building is the elegant 18th cent. palace which belonged to the last counts of Bard, the Nicole family.

An Anasazi Pueblo in Arizona? No, a construction in lower Aosta Valley! Photo © Donato Arcaro

Leaving Bard on the way to Aosta you can find on your left, after 5 km, the village of Arnad where you can admire a pleasant Romanesque church restored in 1500. Arnad is very well known not only for the tasty lard but also for its red wine “Arnad Montjovet”.

Verres Castle - Photo © Umby
Verres Castle – Photo © Umby

Verres Castle

If you follow the state road along the river Dora, you will reach Verres, dominated by the castle built on a hill top between 1361 and 1390 by Ibleto di Challand on the ruins of an old fortress.

During Carnival the castle hosts 3 days of events, dancing evenings, historical representations and plays.

The castle is open to the public all the year round.

In Verres you can also have a nice walk in the arboretum “Borna di Laou” where there are different species of trees with panels showing their botanical names.

Issogne Castle Photo © Enrico Massetti
Issogne Castle Photo © Enrico Massetti

Issogne Castle

Close to Verres, on the left side of the Dora you will reach Issogne, with its medieval castle built in 1480 by Prior Giorgio di Challant.

Inside ancient pieces of furniture, the pomegranate wrought-iron fountain, the beautiful chapel and the valuable cycles of frescoes representing sketches of popular life are preserved.

The castle is open to the public all the year round.

Fenis Castle
Fenis Castle – Photo © mastino70

Fenis Castle

The Fenis Castle is probably one of the most famous and scenographic in the valley of Aosta. It is placed at the top of a little hill on one side of Dora Baltea river; it dominates the little village of Fenis creating a fairy atmosphere. At present the castle may be visited in quite all its parts: in the halls of the castle there is a museum about furnishing of the Aosta Valley.

Fenis is 13 km far from Aosta and 101 km from Turin.

Just before Fenis, where you can visit the medieval castle, you can stop at Chambave to taste the famous white wine “Muscat”, and at Nus where the “Malvoisie” one of the best white wines of Valle d’Aosta is produced.

Fenis on the left side of the Dora is dominated by the medieval castle , built in 1340 by Aimone di Challant.

Restored at the end of the 19th cent., it is surrounded by crenellated walls and towers, you can admire the inner courtyard, the semicircular staircase, the chapel and the frescoes from the 15th century, which are authentic masterpieces of international Gothic art. The castle is open to the public all the year round.
Courtesy in part of Regione Valle d’Aosta