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Aosta (Aoûta, Aoste, Aosta) is the principal city of the bilingual Aosta Valley in the Italian Alps, north-northwest of Turin. It is situated near the Italian entrance of the Mont Blanc Tunnel, at the confluence of the Buthier and the Dora Baltea, and at the junction of the Great and Little St. Bernard routes. Aosta is not the capital of the province, as these functions are shared by the region and the communes.


Arches of the Roman Theatre.
Aosta was settled in proto-historic times and later became a centre of the Salassi, many of whom were killed or sold into slavery by the Romans in 25 BC.. Terentius Varro captured it in 25 BC and founded the Roman colony of ''Augusta Praetoria Salassorum'', housing 3,000 retired veterans. After 11 BC Aosta became the capital of the ''Alpes Graies'' ("Grey Alps") province of the Empire. Its position at the confluence of two rivers, at the end of the Great and the Little St Bernard Pass, gave it considerable military importance, and its layout was that of a Roman military camp.

After the fall of the Western Empire, the city was conquered by the Burgundians, the Ostrogoths, the Byzantines. The Lombards, who had annexed it to their Italian kingdom, were expelled by the Franks of Pepin the Younger. Under Charlemagne Aosta acquired importance as a post on the Via Francigena, leading from Aachen to Italy. After 888 it was part of the renewed Kingdom of Italy under Arduin of Ivrea and Berengar of Friuli.

In the 10th century Aosta became part of the Kingdom of Burgundy. After the fall of the latter in 1032, it entered the lands of Umberto I Biancamano of the House of Savoy. After the creation of the county of Savoy, with its capital in Chambéry, Aosta led the unification of Italy.

Under the House of Savoy, Aosta was granted a special status that it maintained when the new Italian Republic was proclaimed in 1948.

Main sights

Ancient remains

''Porta Praetoria''.
The ancient town walls of Augusta Praetoria Salassorum are still preserved almost in their entirety, enclosing a rectangle 725 by 571m. They are 6.4m high, built of concrete faced with small blocks of stone. At the bottom, the walls are nearly 2.75m thick, and at the top 1.83m.

Towers stand at angles to the enceinte and others are positioned at intervals, with two at each of the four gates, making twenty towers in total. They are roughly 6.5m square, and project 4.3m from the wall. Of the 20 original towers, the following are well preserved:
*''Tour du lépreux'', which has been given this name after a leper was jailed there in the late 17th century. ''Le lépreux de la cité d'Aoste'', a novel by Xavier de Maistre, was named after this tower.
*''Tour Neuve'' (13th century).
*''Tour du Pailleron''.
*Tower (Castle) of Bramafan, built in the 11th century over a Roman bastion. It was the residence of the Savoy viscounts. The Franco-Provençal term ''Bramafan'' is translated as "He who screams for hunger".
*''Tour du Baillage''.
*''Tour Fromage'' ("Cheese Tower").

The east and south gates exist intact. The latter, a double gate with three arches flanked by two towers known as the Porta Praetoria (1st century AD) was the eastern gate to the city, and has preserved its original forms apart from the marble covering. It is formed by two series of arches enclosing a small square.

The rectangular arrangement of the streets is modeled on a Roman plan dividing the town into 64 blocks (insulae). The main road, c. 10m wide, divides the city into two equal halves, running from east to west. This arrangement makes it clear that guarding the road was the main raison d'etre of the city.

The Roman theatre, of which the southern façade remains today, 22m tall. The structure, dating from the late reign of Augustus, occupied an area of 81 x 64 m: it could contain up to 4,000 spectators. In the nearby was the amphitheatre, built under Claudius. A marketplace surrounded by storehouses on three sides with a temple in the centre with two on the open (south) side, as well as a thermae, also have been discovered.

Outside the town is a triumphal arch in honour of Augustus, built in 35 BC to celebrate the victory of consul Varro Murena over the Salassi. About 8km to the west is a single-arched Roman bridge, called the Pont d'Aël. It has a closed passage, lighted by windows for foot passengers in winter, and above it an open footpath, both being about 10m in width.

There are considerable remains of the ancient road from Eporedia (modern Ivrea) to Augusta Praetoria into the Valle d'Aosta. The modern railway follows this route, notable for the Pont Saint-Martin, which has a single arch with a span of 35m and a roadway 4.5m wide; the cutting of Donnaz; and the Roman bridges of Châtillon (Pont Saint-Vincent) and Aosta (Pont de Pierre).

Other sights

Aosta Cathedral.
*The Cathedral, built in the 4th century and replaced in the 11th century by a new edifice dedicate to the Madonna. It is annexed to the Roman Forum.
*The Romanesque-Gothic ''Sant'Orso'' (Saint-Ours). Its most evocative feature is the cloister, which can be entered through a hall on the left of the façade. It is dedicated to Ursus of Aosta.
*The Saint-Bénin College, built about 1000 by the Benedictines. It is now an exhibition site.

Source: Wikipedia