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Stage 2. Echevennoz to Aosta

 

The path runs along the “ru Neuf”, the irrigation canal that collects water from the river Artanavaz to carry it to the sun-drenched hills of Aosta. The route flanks the river then winds over virtually flat land through dense woodland, host to varieties of deer and beautiful glades with views that can reach as far as the Valpelline mountains. 

You then reach the village of Gignod. Here visitors are immediately attracted by the impressive bell tower of the parish church of Sant’Ilario, while the background is taken up by the imposing southern face of the Grand Combin, one of the highest peaks of the four thousand Pennine Alps. 

You then reach Aosta, the ancient Augusta Praetoria Salassorum founded by the Romans in 25 BC. This is the region’s capital, standing at an altitude of 583 metres, where the Dora Baltea meets the River Buthier.

The city offers exceptional Roman remains, starting from the same layout of the historical centre, perfectly conserved with its city walls and including Porta Praetoria, the theatre, the cryptoporticus, the Roman bridge and the solemn Arco d‘Augusto.
 
In the 11th century the Aosta Valley became a religious centre known throughout Europe. This period saw the start of two religious masterpieces of medieval Aosta: the cathedral and the monumental complex of Sant‘Orso.

 

Courtesy of www.lovevda.it

 

Distance Time Elevation in meters

Km
Elapsed
Hrs-Mins
Moving
Hrs-Mins
Gain Loss Min Max
13.6   3H10 100 750 583 1,233

   

   

Original map courtesy of "The Via Francigena Terre De Mezzo by Roberta Ferraris ISBM978-88-6189-491-4"

2.1 0.7 km Houses of Chez Les Blancs
2.2 1.9 km Keep left at three way junction
2.3 2.4 km Keep left, downhill, at next three way junction
2.4 3.7 km Emerge onto asphalt road
2.5 5.6 km Path down to left to Gignod
2.6 6.8 km Parish church (988m)
2.7    
2.8    
2.9    
2.10    
2.11    
2.12    

 

 

This part of the itinerary largely follows evocative paths that run along the “ru”, small canals which convey water for irrigation from streams to fields. Flat trails along the canals, alternate with steep descents, and lead you to the next town. Gignod is known for its imposing square tower that served as a focal point to monitor the access roads to the town; the tower and the fortified house of the Archiery noble family highlight the commercial and political importance of this statio of Roman origin. The Parish Church dedicated to Sant’Ilario houses an outstanding 15th-century fresco cycle.

After leaving the village, you will pass through orchards before reaching Aosta, a town rich in Neolithic, Roman and medieval attractions. Among the towns of Roman origin, Aosta is one of those that bustle with memories of their imperial past – the Arch of Augustus, the Porta Praetoria (Praetoria Gate), the Roman theatre, the Criptoportico forense (forum Cryptoporticum), the almost intact defensive wall and a Roman villa extra muros (outside the city walls).

The Cathedral and the Collegial church dedicated to Sant’Orso are medieval masterpieces that house important works of art like the Ottonian frescoes in the attic, the floor mosaics, the wooden choir and the cloister (situated in the Collegial church).

Also, Aosta boasts a megalithic site that has no equal, and can only be compared – albeit partially – with the megalithic site at Sion, Petit-Chasseur in Switzerland. A “megalithic site” is defined as an area of a clearly defined size featuring a variety of different megalithic monuments; in fact, this area is more than just a necropolis, a simple line-up of standing stones (menhir), anthropomorphic steles or dolmen tombs. Archaeological finds demonstrate the existence of a sacred area destined from its origins to hosting recurring activities linked to worship and burial.

Initially conceived as an open-air sanctuary dedicated to the cult of the living, it was not until the latter centuries of the 3rd millennium that it became a burial ground, with monumental tombs of a variety of meg lithic types. Five structural phases have been identified in this megalithic site, from the Late Neolithic (end of the 5th century B.C.) through the Copper Age (4th-3rd millenniums B.C.) to the Bronze Age (2nd millennium B.C.). In chronological order, you can admire the traces of a propitiatory furrow ritually sown with human teeth (end of 5th millennium B.C.), followed by the creation of a line of wells, at the bottom of which are ritual offerings such as grindstones and the remains of fruit and cereals.

The 24 totem poles facing from North East to South West date back to the early 3rd millennium B.C.; they were later replaced by more than 46 anthropomorphic steles, the first evidence of megalithism in this area, outstanding masterpieces of prehistoric statuary.

The archaeological site also includes a museum that offers a visual and emotional experience of the site.


 

 
     

 

Torre de Grignod

 

 

Aosta Cathedral

 



Roman Theatre -Courtesy of Paulusburg

Arco d'Augusto