Aosta Valley

Italian language French language Aostan French
Aosta Valley

Valle d'Aosta  (Italian)
Vallée d'Aoste  (French)
Val d'Outa  (Arpitan)
Coat of arms of Aosta Valley
Coat of arms
Anthem: Montagnes Valdôtaines
Aosta Valley in Italy.svg
Coordinates: 45°44′49″N 7°26′21″E / 45.74694°N 7.43917°E / 45.74694; 7.43917Coordinates: 45°44′49″N 7°26′21″E / 45.74694°N 7.43917°E / 45.74694; 7.43917
 • PresidentAntonio Fosson (PNV)
 • Total3,263 km2 (1,260 sq mi)
 • Total126,933
 • Density39/km2 (100/sq mi)
 • Official languages[1]
Italian, French
Demonym(s)English: Aostan, Valdostan ou Valdotainian[2]
Italian: Valdostano (man)
Italian: Valdostana (woman)
French: Valdôtain (man)
French: Valdôtaine (woman)
 • Italian95%
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
ISO 3166 codeIT-23
GDP (nominal)€4.9 billion (2018)[4]
GDP per capita€38,900 (2018)[4]
HDI (2018)0.877[5]
very high · 14th of 21

The Aosta Valley (Italian: Valle d'Aosta [ˈvalle daˈɔsta] (official) or Val d'Aosta (usual); French: Vallée d'Aoste [vale dɔst][6] (official) or Val d'Aoste (usual); Francoprovençal: Val d'Outa (usual); Walser: Augschtalann or Ougstalland; Piedmontese: Val d'Osta) is a mountainous autonomous[7] region in northwestern Italy. It is bordered by Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France, to the west, Valais, Switzerland, to the north and by Piedmont, Italy, to the south and east. The regional capital is Aosta.

Covering an area of 3,263 km2 (1,260 sq mi) and with a population of about 128,000 it is the smallest, least populous, and least densely populated region of Italy. It is the only Italian region that is not sub-divided into provinces (the province of Aosta was dissolved in 1945).[8] Provincial administrative functions are provided by the regional government. The region is divided into 74 comuni (French: communes).

Italian and French are the official languages,[1] though the native population also speak Valdôtain, a dialect of Arpitan (Franco-Provençal); 50.53% of the population can speak all three languages.[9]


A view from refuge Champillon, Valpelline

The Aosta Valley is an Alpine valley which with its tributary valleys includes the Italian slopes of Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, Gran Paradiso and the Matterhorn; its highest peak is Mont Blanc (4,810 m or 15,780 ft). This makes it the highest region in Italy by list of Italian regions by highest point.


The valleys, usually above 1,600 metres (5,200 ft), annually have a Cold Continental Climate (Dfc). In this climate the snow season is very long, as long as 8 or 9 months at the highest points. During the summer, mist occurs almost every day. These areas are the wettest in the western Alps. Temperatures are low, between −7 °C (19 °F) and −3 °C (27 °F) in January, and in July between 20 °C (68 °F) and 35 °C (95 °F). In this area is the town of Rhêmes-Notre-Dame,[10] which may be the coldest town in the Western Alps and where the winter average temperature is around −7 °C (19 °F).[citation needed]

Areas between 2,000 and 3,500 metres (6,600 and 11,500 ft) usually have a Tundra Climate (ET), where every month has an average temperature below 10 °C (50 °F). This climate may be a kind of more severe Cold Oceanic Climate, with a low summer average but mild winters, sometimes above −3 °C (27 °F), especially near lakes, or a more severe Cold Continental Climate, with a very low winter average. Temperature averages in Plateau Rosa, at 3,400 metres (11,200 ft) high, are −11.6 °C (11.1 °F) in January and 1.4 °C (34.5 °F) in July. It is the coldest place in Italy where the climate is verifiable.[11]

In the past, above 3,500 metres (11,500 ft), all months had an average temperature below freezing, with a Perpetual Frost Climate (EF). In recent years though there was a rise in temperatures. See as an example the data for Plateau Rosa.[11]


View of Aosta

The first inhabitants of the Aosta Valley were Celts and Ligures, whose language heritage remains in some local placenames. Rome conquered the region from the local Salassi around 25 BC and founded Augusta Prætoria Salassorum (modern-day Aosta) to secure the strategic mountain passes, and they went on to build bridges and roads through the mountains. Thus, the name Valle d'Aosta literally means "Valley of Augustus".[13]

The Astronomical Observatory of the Aosta Valley, in Saint-Barthélemy (Nus).[14]

In 1031–1032, Humbert I of Savoy, the founder of the House of Savoy, received the title Count of Aosta from Emperor Conrad II of the Franconian line and built himself a commanding fortification at Bard. Saint Anselm of Canterbury was born in Aosta in 1033 or 1034. The region was divided among strongly fortified castles, and in 1191, Thomas I of Savoy found it necessary to grant to the communes a Charte des franchises ("Charter of Liberties") which preserved autonomy—rights that were fiercely defended until 1770, when they were revoked in order to tie Aosta more closely to Piedmont, but which were again demanded during post-Napoleonic times. In the mid-13th century, Emperor Frederick II made the County of Aosta a duchy (see Duke of Aosta), and its arms charged with a lion rampant were carried in the Savoy arms until the reunification of Italy in 1870.[15]

The region remained part of Savoy lands, with the exceptions of French occupations from 1539 to 1563, later in 1691, then between 1704 and 1706. It was also ruled by the First French Empire between 1800 and 1814. During French rule, it was part of Aoste arrondissement in Doire department.[16] As part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, it joined the new Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

French forces briefly controlled the area at the end of World War II, but withdrew under British and American pressure.[17] The region gained special autonomous status after the end of World War II; the province of Aosta ceased to exist in 1945.[8]

Government and politics

For more than 20 years the valley has been dominated by autonomist regional parties. The last regional election was held in May 2018. On 27 June 2018 Nicoletta Spelgatti of the Lega Nord was elected president by the region's cabinet. She is the first woman and the first Lega Nord member to hold the position.[18]


Typical Alpine houses in Rhêmes-Notre-Dame (left) and Valtournenche (right)

The population density of Aosta Valley is by far the lowest of the Italian regions. In 2008, 38.9 inhabitants per km2 were registered in the region, whereas the average national figure was 198.8, though the region has extensive uninhabitable areas of mountain and glacier, with a substantial part of the population living in the central valley. Migration from tributary valleys has now been stemmed by generous regional support for agriculture and tourist development.[citation needed]

Negative natural population growth since 1976 has been more than offset by immigration. The region has one of Italy's lowest birth rates, with a rising average age. This, too, is partly compensated by immigration, since most immigrants arriving in the region are younger people working in the tourist industry. Between 1991 and 2001, the population of Aosta Valley grew by 3.1%, which is the highest growth among the Italian regions. With a negative natural population growth, this is due exclusively to positive net migration.[3] Between 2001 and 2011, the population of Aosta Valley grew by a further 7.07%. As of 2006, the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) estimated that 4,976 foreign-born immigrants live in Aosta Valley, equal to 4.0% of the total regional population.

The Valdôtain population and their language dialects have been the subject of some sociological research.[19]



The Aosta Valley was the first government authority to adopt Modern French as the official language in 1536, three years before France itself.[20] In modern times, Italian and French are the region's official languages[1] and are used for the regional government's acts and laws, though Italian is much more widely spoken in everyday life, and French is mostly spoken in cultural life. Education is conducted evenly in French and Italian,[1] so that anyone who has gone to school in the Aosta Valley can speak French to at least a medium-high level.[21]

The regional language, known as patoué valdotèn or simply patoué (patois valdostano in Italian, patois valdôtain in French), is a dialectal variety of Franco-Provençal. It is spoken as a native and second language by 68,000 residents, or about 58% of the population according to a sociolinguistic survey carried out by the Fondation Émile Chanoux in 2001.[22]

The survey found out that the Italian language was spoken as a mother tongue by 77.29% of respondents, Franco-Provençal by 17.91%, while French by 1.25%. The residents of the villages of Gressoney-Saint-Jean, Gressoney-La-Trinité and Issime, in the Lys Valley, speak two dialects of Walser German, Titsch and Töitschu, respectively.[21] According to the survey, Walser German was spoken as a mother tongue by 207 people, or 17.78%, in these three villages. Nevertheless, it was known to 56.38% of the population.[23]

Mother tongues in the Aosta Valley (2001)[22]
Valdôtain (Franco-Provençal)
Aostan French
Other languages
Use of languages by the population (2001)[22]
Aostan French
Valdôtain (Franco-Provençal)
All three languages


The Fénis Castle, 13th century

There are a numerous medieval castles and fortified houses in the Aosta Valley, including Châtel-Argent, Saint-Pierre Castle, Fénis Castle, Issogne Castle, Ussel Castle, Sarre Castle, Cly Castle, and Châtelard Castle.[25] Savoy Castle in Gressoney-Saint-Jean was conceived in the 19th century and completed in 1904.[25] Since 1990, it has also been home to the Savoy Castle Alpine Botanical Garden.


The cuisine of Aosta Valley is characterized by simplicity and revolves around "robust" ingredients such as potatoes, polenta; cheese and meat; and rye bread. Many of the dishes involve Fontina,[26] a cheese with PDO status, made from cow's milk that originates from the valley. It is found in dishes such as the soup à la vâpeuleunèntse[27] (Valpelline Soup). Other cheeses made in the region are Tomme de Gressoney[28] and Seras. Fromadzo (Valdôtain for cheese) has been produced locally since the 15th century and also has PDO status.[29]

Regional specialities, besides Fontina, are Motzetta (dried chamois meat, prepared like prosciutto), Vallée d'Aoste Lard d'Arnad[30] (a cured and brined fatback product with PDO designation), Vallée d'Aoste Jambon de Bosses[31] (a kind of ham, likewise with PDO designation), and a black bread.

Notable dishes include Carbonnade, consisting of salt-cured beef cooked with onions and red wine served with polenta; breaded veal cutlets called costolette; teuteuns,[32] salt-cured cow's udder that is cooked and sliced; and steak à la valdôtaine,[33] a steak with croûtons, ham and melted cheese.

Wine growing

Notable wines include two white wines from Morgex (Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle and Chaudelune), a red wine blend from Arvier (Enfer d'Arvier) and one from Gamay.[34]


See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Statut spécial de la Vallee d'Aoste" (in French). Conseil régional de la Vallée d'Aoste. 2001. Retrieved 2015-10-25.
  2. ^ Valdotanian Regional Election, 1963. Equ Press. ISBN 9786138249726.
  3. ^ a b "Statistiche demografiche ISTAT" (in Italian). Retrieved 2010-04-22.
  4. ^ a b "Regional GDP per capita ranged from 30% to 263% of the EU average in 2018" (Press release). Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  5. ^ "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". Retrieved 2018-09-13.
  6. ^ Aostan French pronunciation - Jean-Marie Pierret, Phonétique historique du français et notions de phonétique générale, Peeters, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1994, p.|104.
  7. ^ "Le Statut spécial de la Vallée d'Aoste". 1948. Retrieved 2017-07-10. Articles 1 and 48b of the constitutional law officially assert the region's autonomy.
  8. ^ a b "Italian Parliament - VI Commission document 2000-07-18 (in Italian)" (PDF).
  9. ^ Decime, R.; Vernetto, G., eds. (2009). Profil de la politique linguistique de la Vallée d'Aoste (in French). Le Château. p. 20.
  10. ^ "Guida alla consultazione del bollettino meteorologico della Regione Autonoma Valle d'Aosta con elementi di meteorologia alpina" (in Italian). Valle d'Aosta Official Website.
  11. ^ a b "Tempo in atto su Plateau Rosa". 2012. Retrieved 2020-01-21.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Poling, Dean (October 12, 2009). "What does Valdosta mean?". Valdosta Daily Times. Archived from the original on July 19, 2012. Retrieved 2013-02-21.
  14. ^ "ESO Astronomy Camp for Secondary School Students". 13 May 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  15. ^ François Velde (2000). "Heraldry in the House of Savoia". Heraldica. Retrieved 2010-04-22.
  16. ^ Almanach Impérial an bissextil MDCCCXII, pp. 392–393, accessed in Gallica 18 February 2015 (in French)
  17. ^ Harris, Charles Reginald Schiller (1957). Allied military administration of Italy, 1943-1945. H. M. Stationery Office. pp. 318–20.
  18. ^ "Valle d'Aosta: Nicoletta Spelgatti (Lega) nuovo presidente Regione". (in Italian). 27 June 2018.
  19. ^ Saint-Blancat, Chantal (1984). "The Effect of Minority Group Vitality upon Its Sociopsychological Behaviour and Strategies". Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. 5 (6): 511–516. doi:10.1080/01434632.1984.9994177.
    Cooper, Danielle Chavy (1987). "Voices from the Alps: Literature in Val d'Aoste Today". World Literature Today. 61 (1): 24–27. doi:10.2307/40142443. JSTOR 40142443.
  20. ^ Caniggia, Mauro; Poggianti, Luca (2012-10-25). "La Vallée d'Aoste: enclave francophone au sud-est du Mont Blanc" (in French). Zigzag magazine. Archived from the original on 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2013-11-28.
  21. ^ a b AA. VV. "Une Vallée d'Aoste bilingue dans une Europe plurilingue". in French and Italian. Aoste: Fondation Emile Chanoux. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-04-07.
  22. ^ a b c "Sondaggio linguistico: Q 0301 Lingua materna - Qual è la sua lingua materna?". Fondation Émile Chanoux (in Italian). Archived from the original on 2017-12-21. Retrieved 2018-05-31.
  23. ^ "Sondaggio Linguistico Comunità Walser". Fondation Émile Chanoux (in Italian). Archived from the original on 2018-08-24. Retrieved 2018-05-31.
  24. ^ Aosta Valley Regional Museum of Natural Science
  25. ^ a b Massetti, E. "Aosta Valley Castles" n.d., accessed 15 March 2014.
  26. ^ "Fontina". Valle D'Aosta Official Tourism Website. 2014. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  27. ^ "Seupa à la Vapelenentse (Valpelline Soup)". Valle D'Aosta Official Tourism Website. 2014. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  28. ^ "Gressoney toma cheese". Aosta Valley Official Tourism Website. 2014. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  29. ^ "Fromadzo cheese". Valle D'Aosta Official Tourism Website. 2014. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  30. ^ "Valleé d'Aoste Lard d'Arnad". Aosta Valley Official Tourism Website. 2014. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  31. ^ "Vallée d'Aoste Jambon de Bosses". Aosta Valley Official Tourism Website. 2014. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  32. ^ "The Teuteun". Valle D'Aosta Official Tourism Website. 2014. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  33. ^ "Steak Valdaostan style" (in Italian). Consorzio Produttori e Tutela Della Fontina DOP. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  34. ^ "D.O.C. Wine". Valle D'Aosta Official Tourism Website. 2014. Retrieved 2015-10-23.