Did someone say vacation? My parents and I decided to take a little getaway last week to Aosta. In the midst of settling back into my vita da torinese and all the bureaucratic stuff I’ve been trying to get done, a little vacation was more than welcomed. Seeing as my parents were only here for 10 days on this trip, we decided to plan a trip somewhere close, hence, Little Miss Honey & Truffles takes Aosta!
Less than a two hour train ride from Torino, Aosta is super accessible (and cheap) when travelling by train. Plus, the views are absolutely stunning as you journey through the mountains, whizzing by quaint villages that seem to get smaller and smaller the closer you get to your destination.
Given that the region is so far north that it borders France and Switzerland, it comes as no surprise that the city is quite bilingual…all signs are written both in Italian and French. In fact, those working in the tourism sector are especially skilled, mastering English and even other European languages! That said, there’s definitely a French feel to this Italian town that we were more than happy to explore.
Where we stayed:
Inspired by my friend Debora who had told me about a trip she’d taken to Aosta last year for a spa retreat, I figured that we were just in need of that. So, we opted to stay at Hostellerie du Cheval Blanc.
Located just a short walk from Aosta’s city centre, the hotel has several spa amenities including an indoor and outdoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna, Turkish baths and even offers treatments like massages. The staff was super accommodating and made the experience extra special, opening up their hotel bar on a rainy evening and serving poolside Spritzes for us—talk about pampering!
There are also a bunch of hotels, chalets, and Airbnbs in the area that might fit your needs better depending on how you’d like to spend your trip. However, for us Cheval Blanc was the perfect spot to unwind—of course, good grub was just steps away too!
What we did:
The entire province of Valle d’Aosta is filled with gorgeous places and spaces from the healing Baths of Pré-Saint-Didier to the oldest national park in Italy, Gran Paradiso. There’s also definitely no shortage of castles like Castel Savoia and Verres Castle, along with historic spots all over the province.
Aosta (Valle d’Aosta’s capital) is absolutely gorgeous. While we were in the city, gorgeous greenery and snow-capped mountain tops make up the view all around you. So, it’s no surprise that many come here for wintertime skiing and summertime hiking—key word being many, not all.
Given that we’re not a particularly sporty family, we instead ventured to Aosta for rest and relaxation. However, there are some other sights that you can easily explore around town.
Piazza Émile Chanoux is Aosta’s main city square, just a five minute walk from the train station. Following the cobblestone streets into narrow pathways, you’ll find all sorts of shops and restaurants, and even some historic spots like the Porta Praetoria, which was once the gateway into the Roman city that dates back to 25 BCE. Walking further into town, you’re likely to find the ancient Roman amphitheatre and the Arch of Augustus.
You can better explore these attractions by popping into the tourist office in town for a Cultural Pass that’ll let you explore the Roman Theatre, Forensic Cryptoporticus, Basilica of San Lorenzo and the Regional Archaeological Museum.
Where we dined:
Last summer I bought a book called Weekend Slow Food in Treno which I completely forgot all about until I arrived in Aosta after the almost 2 hour train ride. However, I did manage to find some resources in addition to my own personal Instagram scouring.
Aosta is known for a few key dishes, of which, many which focus on locally-produced cheese. Fontina Valle d’Aosta D.O.P. is a semi-firm cheese that’s made from unpasteurised cow’s milk. While it can have an earthy aroma, it has a smooth and buttery interior that’s lovely when enjoyed fresh or melted in other regional dishes like fonduta and crespelle.
For a late afternoon lunch, we found ourselves at La Bottegaccia. Serving local fare, we sipped artisanal craft beers and dined on a tagliere loaded with Fontina, Jambon Cru Saint Marcel D.O.P. (ham cured with mountain herbs) and lardo d’Arnad (cured pork lard) that was served with brown bread and honeyed chestnuts. If you’re a dessert lover, this place also serves a tasty sweet treat: tegole (hazelnut cookies) made for dunking into crema di Cogne (a cream, chocolate and rum cold pudding)!
For dinner, we popped over to Osteria da Nando as recommended by Slow Food’s guide. We ordered the fonduta alla valdostana, which consisted of a warm Fontina cream served with brown bread croutons and wholemeal corn polenta. Definitely a rich dish, I expected more intensity from the fondue and was left a bit disappointed. However, the polenta was quite lovely as it has a smokey flavour. While the service here wasn’t great, I did enjoy the local wine selection.
When in Valle d’Aosta, there are three wines that you should know about: Petite Arvine, Petite Rouge and Picotendre. The first is a light-bodied, acidic white with notes of grapefruit and melon, whereas the Petite Rouge is instead a light-bodied red with aromas of cranberry, rose and dill. Picotendre is actually the local name for Nebbiolo, which recalls many similar berry and balsamic flavours typical of the grape.
While we didn’t get a chance to stop by and enjoy un calice di vino, Cabernet Voltaire is a wine bar that’s on my list for next time. With hundreds of labels from Aosta and around Europe, the locale is a place for natural wine enthusiasts and lovers of all things artisanal—they offer tagliere and funkier fare like Japanese-style beef carpaccio, to name a few.
If you’re still hungry, L’Osteria is another quaint restaurant that specializes in cucina valdostana. With decor that mimics the cozy rusticism of a mountain refuge, the restaurant is founded on tradition and serves the absolute tastiest crespelle. A take on traditional crêpes, these bad boys are filled with ham and fontina and then covered in a fontina cream and baked until gooey and delicious!
One of our favourite places to eat, however, was La Grenette, another restaurant focused on valdostan fare, but with a bit of a flair. More of a creative experience, this place has a focus on meat, so they’ll try to sell you on fancy cuts of meat but it’s really the Cotoletta alla Valdostana that you’re going to want to order. A perfectly golden-fried cutlet topped with Jambon Saint Marcel and melty Fontina, this dish is everything. I wish I could eat this cutlet everyday forever! And for veggie lovers, they also do a killer Timballo di melanzane!
So, that’s that! A short little weekend jaunt to Aosta. I loved how close this city was in comparison to Torino and would strongly recommend giving it a visit if you have some extra time to play with while visiting northern Italy. It’s definitely a great oasis of all things good—nature, relation and food!