Aosta, Valle d'
[key], region, 1,260 sq mi (3,263 sq km), NW Italy, bordering on France in the west and on
Switzerland in the north. Aosta is the capital of the region and of
its only province. A high Alpine country, the Valle d'Aosta includes the Italian slopes of
Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, and Monte Rosa; its highest peak is the Gran Paradiso. The
population, much of which is French-speaking, is concentrated in the picturesque valleys of
the Dora Baltea River and its tributaries. The Great and the Little Saint
Bernard roads join in the upper Aosta valley. Farming is the main occupation;
cereals and grapes are grown, and dairy cattle are raised. Iron and steel and textiles are the
leading manufactures, and there are major hydroelectric facilities. The region has several
fashionable resorts, notably Champoluc, Courmayeur, and Cervinia-Breuil. A long vehicular
tunnel through Mont Blanc, connecting France and Italy, was opened in 1965; highways feeding
it were built in Valle d'Aosta, thus markedly improving the region's transportation network.
Rome conquered the region from the Salassi people c.25 b.c. It later was held by the
Goths, the Lombards, and the dukes of Burgundy. After passing (11th cent.) to the counts of
Savoy, the Valle d'Aosta shared the history of Piedmont. Under the Italian constitution of 1947 it was made a region with
considerable autonomy, particularly in administrative and cultural affairs. The feudal system
long prevailed in the region, and more than 70 castles are still standing.
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