Capital of the bilingual region of Aosta Valley (Val D'Aosta), the city of Aosta rests at the foot of the French Alps, not far from the Italian entrance of the Mont Blanc Tunnel.
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Mont Blanc from Aosta - Photo: Simo Räsänen
In Italy Aosta is classed as 'the most Roman town after Rome'. In fact, it is perhaps one of the most authentically Roman towns in the world and is an example of some of the best architectural aspects of the Roman Empire. It was founded in the year 25 B.C after Caesar Augustus defeated the local population (Salassi) as he needed to build a military outpost to prevent the enemy sweeping over the alpine passes and taking over the newly conquered territory. Three Thousand Praetorian soldiers were stationed there and the town was given the name Augusta Praetoria Salassorum. The soldiers proceeded to build a whole new city which was a strategic centre to establish control over the newly acquired land.
Torre dei Signori di Quart
The city was laid out on a perfect grid and was surrounded with walls measuring 728 x 574 metres with fortified towers on each corner and every 20 metres along the wall. The remains of the old city are in good condition and the original layout is still visible today, along with most of the significant structures. One of the four entrances to the city, Porta Praetoria, is very well preserved and is considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of Roman architecture.
Porta Praetoria - Photo: Bumba
Other remains of the original city that can still be seen are:
- The Amphitheatre (contained in the monastery of Santa Caterina) which could hold up to twenty thousand people.
- The Theatre, of which only the southern face remains standing but it is 22 metres high and is protected by scaffolding in hope of preserving it.
- An Archaeological Museum where you can find unique Roman works of art, including the famous bust of Jupiter.
- The perfectly preserved, 17.16 metre wide, Roman Bridge over the Buthier River which is still used today even though the river changed its course long ago and no longer runs under the bridge.
The Roman Bridge - Photo: Lysippos
Away from the Roman history, the city of Aosta has many other things to offer, like the 11th-century cathedral with a double facade and the Piazza Chanoux which is the main square of the city.
Aosta Cathedral - Photo: Laurom
Aosta has a relaxed feel and with its beautiful moutain backdrop it is a pleasant place in which to wander the cobbled streets and breathe the fresh air. There are plenty of bars and cafes to sustain you and the city is clean and well organised.
Piazza Chanoux - Photo: Luca Aless
Population density: 1,633.2 per square km
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