Aosta: the gateway to Italy

Aosta is a city located in the northwestern part of Italy, and at the same time it is the main city and capital of Valle d’Aosta, at the level of the Italian Alps; about 80 km from Turin and next to the Mont Blanc tunnel. That is to say, it is located in a very strategic place, surrounded by mountains that have an altitude of about 3,000 meters. 

In addition, the Dora Baltea and the Buthier rivers converge in the area, as well as the passage of both the Little and the Great St. Bernard, when crossing the Alps and the Grays. According to history, the Aosta area was inhabited by the Gallic/Celtic population of the Salassians as early as 1,000 BC. 

But the Romans who were under the rule of Emperor Augustus conquered the place in the 25th century B.C., and it was from this moment that the city was founded with the name of Augusta Pretoria Salassorum; allowing the legionaries to settle, as a form of gratitude for the help they gave to Rome. A city that allowed the communication of the Italian country with the other Gallic provinces; that is to say, beyond the Alps. 

The city was walled. This wall had an extension of 724 x 522 m and was covered with travertine sedimentary rock, which can still be seen on several roads, such as via Carducci, Monte Solarolo, Carrel and Abbé Chanoux. This wall was also well protected by square towers, about 20 of them. 

Some of them are still preserved, such as the Pailleron and the Lebbroso; the latter was modified during the Renaissance. So, when visiting Aosta it is impossible not to remember the Roman past or the still visible traces of that time, at the level of some monuments. 

Likewise, its Museum of Archaeology has many objects that were recovered in the excavations that were carried out in this Valley; among them some foundations of the northern part of the main gate of Augusta Pretoria. 

Some of the monuments of the Roman period:

The Pretoria Augusta Gate: 

We are talking about the main gate to enter the city of Aosta, located towards the east side of the wall. This gate had 2 parallel arches, and each of these arches had 3 openings or passages; the central one for the carts and 2 lateral ones for the passage of people on foot. 

On the external part or façade, the travertine marble with which the monuments were clad was visible. But in 2012 some restorations were carried out on this gate, which uncovered, at a depth of 3 m from its current level, the original floor of the Augusta Pretoria gate.

The Roman Stone Bridge:

The Roman Stone Bridge was built around the 1st century B.C., with the idea of crossing the Buthier River at the time of Augustus. Today the course of the torrent is no longer located there; its course changed due to a flood during the Middle Ages.

Therefore, all the land under the bridge is completely dry, although the bridge is still fixed on both sides to the rock. It has an arcade with a width of 35m and a height of 25m. 

The ruins of the famous Roman Theater:

These ruins are located towards the Rue du Baillage, next to the Pretoria Gate. It is said to have been built a few decades after the foundation of the city, in the 25th century BC. Some parts are still preserved today, such as the central part of the south façade, 22 m high, and where several superimposed arcades can be observed; it is also estimated that it had a capacity to hold between 3000 and 4000 spectators.

In the inner and lower part, the semicircle with the bleachers and some foundations of the wall that served as the back of the theater can also be seen. Some professionals mention that this theater had some kind of fixed roof. 

The Iconic Triumphal Arch of Augustus in Aosta:

This arch was erected outside the walls of the city of Aosta, towards the eastern side of the Porta Pretoria, exactly 320 m away, but also near the Roman bridge. It is located in Piazza Arco d’Augusto and was erected to remember and commemorate the victory over the Salassians.

The style is combined with a single arch of 9m wide and is supported by the pillars of 10 semi-columns that are adorning the facades; but on the sides they end with Corinthian style capitals at the level of the 4 angles. The entablature was decorated with triglyphs and metopes in Doric style.

The Cryptoportico of the Roman Forum in the city of Aosta:

It is located in Piazza Giovanni XXIII, in the vicinity of the ancient Roman forum. We are talking about a very long double gallery, of corridors that are separated by arches. The true function of this cryptoportico is not really known.

Some think that it functioned as a warehouse or granary, to protect them from any weather adversity. However, it is known that the forum was used by the Romans as a public space for economic, financial, commercial, religious and administrative functions; a place where social life took place.

Other monuments of the city of Aosta:

The Collegiate Church of San Orso:

Both the Cathedral of the city of Aosta and this Collegiate Church of San Orso are considered important monuments in this region. The construction has been dedicated to St. Orso and St. Peter, on an ancient Paleochristian basilica and later from the Carolingian period. A church in Romanesque style, consisting of 3 naves and walls with painted frescoes. 

The Paleochristian Basilica of San Lorenzo:

Thanks to the different excavations it has been possible to see the remains of this Paleo-Christian basilica, which has been identified as the Assembly of the Saints, since it was erected over the tombs of martyrs who were buried in the Roman cemetery, which in turn was over another funeral settlement.

Inside you can see liturgical remains, tombs of the bishops Agnelius, Gratus and Gallus of the V and VI centuries, as well as other funerary remains that are estimated between the following centuries, including the VIII.

The Town Hall and the Hotel des Etats:

Both are palaces located in the center of the city of Aosta, in the Emile Chanoux Square. In the case of the City Hall Palace is a beautiful and majestic building, with a neoclassical style. While that of the hotel is said to have been the seat of government in medieval times; that is, the Conseil des Commis functioned.

The Cathedral of the city of Aosta:

This cathedral is the result of many centuries of both history and art. It is said that it went through different reconstructions during 16 centuries, passing from its origin through the Romanesque style, then the Gothic, to the Baroque and Neoclassical. 

Posted in Europe, Italy.