Bordered by Switzerland and France, Valle d’Aosta is Italy’s smallest region, both in scale and population. Despite its diminutive size, the highest mountains in Europe lie within its territory (Mont Blanc, Cervino, Gran Paradiso and Mont Rosa). It was these mountains that drew Rome to capture Valle d’Aosta from its original inhabitants, the Celts and Ligurians, in order to create a pass through the range. However, the extreme weather of the region kept most invaders at bay, allowing for a largely autonomous existence for the population. Though several kingdoms controlled Valle d’Aosta at various times, leaving behind many remarkable castles, the region maintained its independence and was granted official autonomy in 1948.
It is no surprise that Valle d’Aosta is renowned for the skiing found on the peaks of the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. The resort towns of Cervinia and Courmayeur are popular destinations; Cervinia is positioned at the foot of the Matterhorn, allowing skiers to share the slopes of Zermatt, Switzerland as well. The lush, green valleys and mountains of the region are also wonderful spots for hiking in the warmer months. For those looking for a less strenuous but equally entertaining experience, Valle d’Aosta is home to Europe’s largest casino, located at the heart of the lovely and charming town of Saint Vincent. The regional cuisine is unique, hearty and eclectic, influenced by neighboring France and by local produce. Many dishes utilize locally made Fontina cheese and are paired with one of the wonderful local vintages, such as Nus Russo, Blanc de Morgex or Chambave Rosso. While Valle d’Aosta may be best known for its small size, the impact of this varied and stunning region is large.