It is always great to walk through nature after being in a big city for a while. Everything is quiet and relaxed; chaos and the city’s pollution seem to be so far… So today, we are going to the remote corner of Italy.
This region is called Valle d’Aosta in Italian and Vallée d’Aoste in French; in fact every child who is getting education here has to deal not just with writing and learning Italian grammar and vocabulary, but also with the French, from a very young age.
Yes, we are bilingual! Because of our history, the official languages of Valle d’Aosta are Italian and French. Nowadays, 96% of the population speak Italian as a first language and the French (or Francophone) speakers are just 4%. It is amazing to notice that, less than 70 years ago, these percentages were exactly the opposite!
During the Middle Ages, some German speaking societies colonized the Eastern part of the region, known as “Valle di Gressoney”, giving birth to a Walser community which still exists after hundreds of years (if you are visiting during the end of June, they have a great Bier fest!).
So, the Valle d’Aosta is the smallest region of Italy and represents about 1/100 of Italian territory. It is also the least populous and densely populated region with only about 130,000 residents. Other characteristics of this small corner are the landscapes and the culture which is usually hidden right in front of your nose.
Aosta, with about 35,000 residents, was founded by the first Roman Emperor Augustus in the year 25 BC, with the name of Augusta Praetoria. The city itself is a small “open-air” museum; the different Arches and Roman monuments are dislocated in the entire city and even in the most remote area of this region. This area was very important for the Empire´s commerce during many centuries because of its two branches: the Great Pass and Little St Bernard Pass, leading respectively to Switzerland and to France.
And how to forget the mountains? This region is the cradle of the Alpinism and has the highest mountains of the Western Europe: Mt. Bianco (Mt. Blanc) 4810 m, Mt Rosa (Mt. Rose) 4634 m, Mt. Cervino (Matterhorn) 4478 m and Gran Paradiso (Grand Paradis) 4061 m.
These mountains attracted even the Pope John Paul II to spend his holiday in Valle d’Aosta. He once said:
“Queste montagne suscitano nel cuore il senso dell’infinito, con il desiderio di sollevare la mente verso ciò che è sublime”.
“These mountains bring to heart the feeling of infinity and the wish to elevate the mind to what is sublime”.
Do not miss the second part of this article: you´ll never stop learning, even when it comes to your homeland!