Discover the Rome of the Alps
The guided tour of Aosta, the Roman and Medieval town of Aosta, takes two hours and consists in a walking tour along the main monuments of the town.
Augusta Praetoria was founded in 25 b. C. by Roman Emperor Augustus after the defeat of the Salassi, the proud local Celtic population and the new colony became very soon a strategic centre for the control of the newly conquered territories, as well as the access roads to the Little and Great Saint Bernard Alpine passes.
The urban design of the city still shows nowadays its rectangular plant and it is crossed by two main roads: Cardo and Decumano Maximo.
Surrounded by massive walls, the colony had a precise internal urban planning, with residential neighborhoods and the main monuments: the buildings for public shows were located in the North-East part, while most of the population lived in the South side.
Augusta Praetoria was also surrounded by a monumental boundary wall that had obviously a defensive function. Along the wall twenty towers and four doorways.
After the foundation of the town the Roman built the road, the Roman road to Gaul was an indispensable infrastructure for the political and military expansion of the Roman empire. The road crossed the lower Aosta Valley leading from Eporedia (Ivrea), up to Augusta Prætoria (Aosta), then split in two directions: to Little Saint Bernard Pass and to Great Saint Bernard Pass.
Visit Aosta: the bridge and Arch of Augustus
Coming from the lower Valley, the first ancient monument in Aosta to welcome visitors is the Roman bridge that sits above the ancient course of the Buthier River. The bridge is perfectly preserved; although the Buthier River changed its course during the Middle Ages.
Not far away from the bridge we are welcomed by the Arch of Augustus built in honor of Roman Emperor Augustus. The monument has half-columns surmounted by Corinthian capitals in origin there was also an attic on which a commemorative inscription was written in bronze lettering. The Crucifix was positioned here during Middle Ages, to protect the town from floods of Buthier river.
Visit Aosta: Church of Sant’Orso
Left the Arch of Augustus the guided tour of Aosta continues to the Church of Saint Orso, one of the most important churches of the town. The origins of the building go back to the 5th century, but the church that you can see today is a late gothic church thanks to the works made by the Prior George of Challant between 15th and 16th century. In that period were realised the façade with gothic triangular pediment over the portal and the pinnacles. Inside the church a new choir with wooden chairs, new glass coloured windows and the cross vault showing Apostles and Prophets. He also built the Priorate with a private chapel inside.
The nearby cloister is the jewel of the monumental complex of Sant’Orso and was built in the middle of the 12th century. The capitals depict symbolic scenes from the Old and New Testaments, from the life of Saint Orso, imaginative characters or animals.
Visit Aosta: Porta Praetoria and the Theatre
The guided tour of Aosta continues to the Porta Pretoria which was one of the four urban gates of Roman Aosta, representing the Eastern access to the city. The gate still shows the grey-green and white marble covering realized during the 1st century. Porta Pretoria had three openings, which are still visible today: the central one for carriages and two side openings for pedestrians.
The Roman Theatre was not built at the same time as the town, but rather during the first century a. C. The façade reveals the magnificence of the building with its openings and its 22- meters high structure and it has been estimated that the theatre could hold up thousands spectators.
Throughout the centuries, and in particular during the Middle Age, public roman buildings were left abandoned ad used as stone quarries for other buildings. The theatre also fell into disuse; other buildings were erected and the façacde became the retaining walls for other constructions.
Nowadays the theatre is used as location for the Christmas Market.
Visit Aosta: Cryptoporticus and Cathedral
The Cryptoporticus was built during the Augustan Age in the middle of the city forum.
This monument was probably a structure built for containing and levelling the ground that must have been slightly sloping from north to south in that part of town, creating a difference level between the holy area and the adjacent forensic plateau. Beside this securing structural function, the Cryptoporticus was also used as a covered market during rainy and snowy days.
The Cathedral, the main church of the Aosta diocese, is certainly the oldest and most important Christian building in the entire region. The church was built during the earlier stages of the diffusion of Christianity in the Aosta Valley during the 4th century close to the eastern wing of the cryptoporticus, in an area occupied by an older Roman domus.
The current Cathedral was promoted by Bishop Anselmo during the 11th century, but the golden time for the cathedral was during the 15th century, when some bishops and the archdeacon Giorgio of Challant radically transformed the church. During the 16th century there is the construction of a new Renaissance façade decorated with frescos and terra-cotta statues.
Aosta Christmas Market
Between November and January, the “Marché Vert Noël” turns the Roman Theatre into an alpine village. During the Christmas Market visitors can stroll through the village, between 51 chalets, in search of a gift idea among the crafts on display: candles, handmade soaps, ceramics, wooden handicrafts, Christmas decorations or typical food.
The itinerary (except for the forensic cryptoporticus) is accessible to visitors with disabilities.
Admission with fee to theatre and forensic cryptoporticus. Here prices and opening time.
During the opening of the Christmas Market the entrance to the Roman theatre is free