This will be a more pleasant post, compared to the one before.
Sunday, 28 May 2017:
One of the great things about living here in Italy is the ability to visit nearby towns and discover something new and unique. We took a day trip to a few small towns the other weekend to visit their main attractions.
The three cities we visited were Pont-Saint-Martin, Bard, and Verres, which are all in the Aosta area in northern Italy. A little less than two hours away for us.
In Pont-Saint-Martin, there is an extremely old Roman bridge, referred to as Ponte Romano (Roman Bridge). It is said that the bridge dates back to the first century BC. It was completed during Augustus’ reign (27 BC – 14 AD). Made of stone, this bridge is considered to be one of the oldest and largest ancient bridges. It’s amazing that they were able to make this all the way back then!
And here we are 🙂
It’s a cute little town, but there wasn’t much to do except see this bridge and visit their museum (which we opted not to do).
Our next stop was at another little town called Bard. Their main attraction is the Forte di Bard (Fort Bard). This fort is the entrance to the Aosta Valley and is located above the Dora Baltea river.
After parking, we decided to walk up to the top of the fort rather than take their funicular (lift) up. It was a nice climb to not only enjoy the warm weather (it’s been in the upper 80’s several times recently), but also to try to appreciate the original purpose of this fort: to defend Italian land.
The site itself has structures on it as far back as the 5th century. A castle was built in the 10th century and that served as the base for the current fortified structure. This current fortress was built in the 19th century and has gone over much construction over the years. After years of neglect, it was eventually reopened as a Museum of the Alps, and other art exhibits were added.
- In 1800, when Napoleon Bonaparte attempted to accomplish a surprise attack on the Po Valley and Turin, the 400 soldiers at Forte di Bard were able to stop the French army, which consisted of 40,000 soldiers!
- After this, Napoleon was determined to destroy Forte di Bard.
- In 1830, Charles Albert of Savoy ordered for the fort to be rebuilt in fear of more French attacks.
- The newly-constructed fort was able to hold a three-month supply of ammunition and food supplies.
- By the 19th century, the fort was no longer used as a military base.
- In the 1980s, the fort was reopened. Instead of military use, though, it became a tourist attraction.
It was pretty surreal being inside the fort and seeing how well-restored it was. Places like this where much fighting took place definitely lends to my appreciation for what the soldiers had to endure.
Here are some pictures climbing of sights you see while climbing up the fort:
As we climbed up, we were greeted with these beautiful views:
And of course, here we are 🙂
One of the cool things we saw when walking up through the fort is this unique thing called a bivacco (the English translation is apparently bivouac). A bivouac is “a temporary camp without tents or cover, used especially by soldiers or mountaineers”. The one on display is in a secure spot where visitors can climb up to it. Based on the pictures on the display, these bivouac would normally be placed in much more risky locations (like on the edge of a mountain cliff).
Here we are climbing up to it! Don’t we look like such professional climbers? 😛
To give you an idea of what this temporary camp looks like on the inside, I snagged this picture:
Not very spacious, is it? You have be pretty cozy with your camping buddy to share this!
Here is a picture of how the bivacco was used…insane!
Here we are in front of Forte di Bard after climbing down:
After we hiked back down, we went to a nice little bistrot called Café-Bistrot Ad Gallias. I actually ordered a vegan burger that was absolutely delicious and insanely giant.
Needless to say, I did not eat all of it. I focused on the inside and barely had any of the bread. 🙂
Our last stop for the day was the city of Verres. In this city, you can find il Castello di Verrès (Verrès Castle). This is a 14th century (~1390) castle that is still standing and is open to the public. Being built during the Middle Ages, it’s known as one of the most impressive structures in the Aosta area.
This castle was built by the Challant family with the intentions of making it a military fortress. Notice how it is a single structure rather than multiple buildings? This was intentional, making il Castello di Verres one of the first castles constructed in this fashion (as one structure).
Nearly 500 years later in 1894, the castle was shut down and eventually transferred over to the Italian state. After restoration work and after World War Two, the castle was declared a Monument of Italy. The final restoration ended in 1994. Here we have it as it stands today:
The castle is open to the public for private tours and/or visiting. Honestly, this was probably one of my favorite buildings that I’ve seen so far. Why? I think it’s one of the oldest structures we’ve been inside and it was just so cool to be inside something that has been around for so long!
As you can probably tell in some of the above pictures, the restoration crew built a stable and safe floor for easier access to the public. You can see where this new floor touches the original stone structure. I mean look how cool this looks!
Something that we try to do when we visit places like this is try to visualize how people used the space when they lived there. At this castle there is an Armory Hall, dining areas, and kitchens with giant fireplaces to cook…no, seriously giant, just take a peek:
One of the other fascinating things here are the old-fashioned bathrooms.
Boy, seeing this sure makes me grateful for plumbing, lol.
Some scenes from The Avengers: Age of Alton were filmed in the Aosta Valley, including Pont-Saint-Martin, Bard, and Verres!
Overall, it was a great day spent in the Aosta area and we learned a lot!
Until next time!