Val D'Aosta Photographs, Museums, Alpine Skiing, Transportation

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Donnas: The Roman Road
Today we think of Val d'Aosta as off the beaten track, except for skiers and serious hikers. Yet for millennia it was a well-trod crossroads, one of the main access routes between northern and southern Europe. Hannibal marched his elephants through here in the 3rd century BC. Generations of Roman legions trudged through, building roads and bridges that are still visible today. For centuries, an unending stream of pilgrims trekked through on their way to Rome, braving impossible snows, exhausting altitudes and the exorbitant tolls levied by local lords. More recently, Napoleon and his armies swept through the region on their way to victory at Marengo. All of this occurred before two of the great engineering feats of our time, the Mont Blanc Tunnel and the Great St. Bernard Tunnel, were built. And yet, though it is now considerably easier to cross the French-Swiss-Italian borders, Val d'Aosta is no longer on the itineraries of many foreign travelers.

hich makes it our kind of place. There is something for everyone in this tiny region, including a hundred castles, a surprising array of Gothic sculptures, spectacular views, glamorous ski resorts, secluded hiking trails, sophisticated and hearty food, abundant wildlife, Baroque village churches, Europe's largest casino, and 116,000 friendly inhabitants who value their independence so dearly that they managed to force the reigning Savoys to grant them a constitution as early as the 12th century.

heltered by the soaring peaks of Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn and a dozen other giants, Val d'Aosta has a milder, sunnier climate than the resorts on the northern side of the Alps. No matter what time of year, it's a great place to slow down and relax for a week or so. There are no world-class museums (unless you count Courmayeur's Duca degli Abruzzi Mountaineering Museum!), but there is so much to do we bet you won't be able to squeeze it all in.

[Regions of Italy]