If you're in Valle d'Aosta, there's no use trying to pretend you're in Florence or Rome. The Pitti is not just around the corner! However, like most isolated mountainous regions, Valle d'Aosta has carefully conserved many of its native traditions and crafts. We strongly recommend you visit at least one of these charming "living museums," which boast no Michelangelos but offer a unique glance into the local way of life.
Mostra "La lavorazione del canapa" (tel. 0125/37327). The cultivation of jute was an economical pillar of this community until the last century, when it fell into neglect. Recently the "city mothers" began reviving the local weaving methods and products, and they offer a range of demonstrations at this little museum. Open 9-12 and 2-6 in summer; 9-12 and 2-5 in winter. Closed Mondays.
Mostra "I pizzi di Cogne" (Cooperative "Dentellières de Cogne," tel. 0165/749282). Bobbin lace manufacture was probably brought to Cogne in the 16th century by a group of Benedictine nuns who escaped from the convent at Cluny in France. The local women quickly developed their own designs, based on the landscapes and animals of their valley. The patterns have been passed down from mother to daughter, and hundreds of them are exhibited here. Open 9-12:30 and 3-7:30 in summer; 8:30-11:30 and 1:30-5:30 in winter.
Mostra "I tessuti della Valgrisenche: Lo Drap" (Cooperativa "Les Tisserands," tel. 0165/97163). The local specialty here is the drap, a thick handwoven fabric made from sheep's wool and most often used for upholstering heavy wooden furniture. Traditionally the weaving was done by both women and men, partly because the looms require singular muscle power, as you'll see if you witness a demonstration. Open 9-12 and 2:30-6:30 in summer; 8:30-11:30 and 1:30-5:30 in winter.
Mostra permanente "Costumi a Issogne" (in the castle). This little display will fascinate anyone who likes period costumes. Inspired by the lovely portraits of former castle residents, visible in lunettes throughout the building, the faculty and students at the Fashion and Costume Institute of Torino faithfully recreated the costumes and draped them on lifesize mannequins. Open every day 9-7.