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Forts & Castles in Aosta Valley

In the Middle Ages the Aosta Valley was the only route to reach the Alpine passes. As the region was not controlled by any authority, it was easy for self appointed lords to set themselves up and dominate the area and control access through it. From the 11th century on, they built towers and fortified residences to control these routes; often on previously fortified settlements. Typically they were square towers surrounded by walls, with chapels showing simple Romanesque architecture. From the 13th century onwards the defensive functions of these forts and castles become less important as they start to take on more residential functions. This development is taken further in the 15th century as castles constructed in urban areas taken on a prestige role as the seat of wealthy families. 

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Forts & Castles in the Aosta Valley

Cly Castle

Cly Castle is a typical example of a Valdostan medieval fortress. Namely a central square tower surrounded by a defensive wall, and placed in a strategic location to exploit the natural defensive elements of the setting. Tree-ring analyses indicate that the castle was built in 1027 AD, making this one of the oldest castles of its type in the Aosta Valley. Of particular note is the Romanesque chapel within the fortification. Inside the chapel are frescoes from three distinct periods in the 13th and 14th centuries. Sadly, these are not well preserved, due to preservation and vandalism.

Fénis Castle

This Medieval castle is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Aosta Valley. The castle has a typical defensive layout, which includes a pentagonal keep with towers at each corner. The keep is surrounded by a double wall complete with battlements, watchtowers and walkways. Built on top of a small hill and contrary to first impressions, the castle did not have a military or defensive purpose. Rather, it was a prestigious family residence. What visitors see today dates to the early 15th century.

Fort Bard

Strategically situated on different levels of a rocky spur above the town of Bard in the Aosta Valley, Fort Bard is an 1830 rebuild of a series of defensive structures destroyed in 1800 by Napoleon. The Romans were the first to exploit the strategic nature of the spur and its role in protecting the passe into the Aosta Valley. By the end of the 1800s it was no longer used for military purposes and became a prison. Following extensive renovations, the fort opened to the public in 2006, with various exhibitions, including the Museum of the Alps.

Issogne Castle

One of the most well known manor houses in the region, the Issogne Castle is located in the middle of the town of Issogne. With archaeological evidence that it was built on the ruins of a 1st century AD Roman villa, the first documented mention of the mansion is not until a 12th century papal bull that was issued in 1151. As a Renaissance seigniorial residence, the castle is much more lavish than its nearby contemporary, Verrès Castle. It is particularly admired by tourists for its frescoes showing scenes of daily life from the late Middle Ages.

Saint-Pierre Castle

The first castle on this spot is thought to have been built towards the end of the 12th century. Then it would have been a very simple structure of basic walls and a few towers. Over the years, and as it changed hands, the castle was added to, renovated and modernised until it looked like it does today. In the 20th century the castle was converted into a museum, and is now home to the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences. At the foot of the castle is the parish church of Saint-Pierre, built in 1872 on the foundations of an earlier church. Between the church and the castle is a 12 century Romanesque bell tower.

Savoy Castle

Built between 1899 and 1904, the medieval-style castle was commissioned by Margherita of Savoy, queen of Italy as wife of Umberto I. It was the Queen’s summer residence, a fairy tale castle, she had built after falling in love with the region during her visits. The Queen would stay for long periods during summer, during which she would host leading artists and writers. After her death in 1925 the villa passed into private hands and was acquired by the region in 1981, and parts of it are open to the public. Period furniture has been included, mostly from the nearby Villa Margherita, where the Queen stayed before the castle was built.

Ussel Castle

Built in the mid 13th century, Ussel Castle was the last truly medieval castle erected in the Aosta Valley. It marks the end of the military fortress and the start of the contemporary castle in Valdostan fortress architecture. After passing between he Challants and the Savoy on numerous occasions, the castle became a prison. In 1983 it was donated to the region, which has restored it for exhibition purposes. Given its prominent position in the valley, a walkway added during renovation gives visitors spectacular views of the Châtillon plain.