Aosta, or Augusta Praetoria as the Romans knew it, was a colony founded by Augustus in 25 BC, and has a fascinating megalithic, Roman, medieval and renaissance past to discover. The tour starts from the Megalithic Area park-museum discovered just outside the centre in 1969, and now a 1,200 m2 exhibition space that allows you to leap 6000 years back in time, among standing stones, dolmens, steles and aligned poles. A light show reconstructs the phases of a day from the past, from dawn to dusk and the darkness of night, in a few minutes.
As you watch, the plough furrows appear, bearing witness to ancient farming or ritual activities. You can also see steles engraved with clothes decorated with diamond patterns, and pleated skirts similar to kilts. Then there are vases, razors, buckles and mortars for grinding cereals - all to touch and see, with reproductions and Braille texts for blind or partially sighted visitors to feel.
The Regional Archaeological Museum is the place to find out about the historical phases of the city, including an underground vault along with the remains of the Porta Principalis sinistra. One of the valuable pieces in the museum collection is a gold-plated bronze breast piece for a parade horse featuring 15 scenes of soldiers and mounted warriors. The next stop on the tour is the Forum, today a public square, under which lies a fascinating colonnaded underground vaulted walkway. On one side you can see a Roman house later transformed into a domus ecclesiae, a sort of early church.
A short walk further on, at street level, you’ll find the 11th century cathedral, which is two churches set together - Santa Maria and San Giovanni Battista: fragmentary frescos illustrating the life of Sant’Eustachio are hidden in the eaves. The trusses, available to visit on special request, show fragments of the extraordinary biography of San Grato, patron saint of Aosta. Before leaving the church, take a look at the 12th century mosaic showing personified months of the year.
Under the Forum lies a suggestive underground colonnaded walkway. On one side stands a Roman house later transformed into a domus ecclesiae
Outside the cathedral, cast your eye over the scenographic Roman theatre. The city tour ends with two symbolic monuments: the Praetorian Gate, once the main entrance to the Roman city and today a crossroads between shopping roads, and the Arch of Augustus, erected to celebrate the defeat of the Salassi tribe and the foundation of the new colony.
The Roman Theatre
© Regione Autonoma Valle d’Aosta
The underground colonnaded walkway under the forum
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