Situated at 580 metres above sea level, at the confluence of the Dora and the Buthier torrent, Aosta, historical, economic and cultural capital of the homonymous valley, lies in a vast natural basin under the protection of Mount Emilius (3,559 m). Its geographical position is no coincidence: the city is located at the exact crossroads between the routes that used to climb, on one side to Alpis Graja (Little Saint Bernard) and on the other to Summus Poenninus (Great Saint Bernard). For a long time it was the key to trade across the Alps. The town was founded in 25 BC by the Romans, on a pre-existing Celtic settlement, and bears the name of the first great emperor, Augustus. The latter wanted to establish a colony in the territory of the dreaded Salasses that he had just defeated and subdued; he chose the name Augusta Praetoria. Aosta still preserves the essence of its town-planning structure from Roman times: the town centre, with its orthogonal streets, almost perfectly follows the plan of the ancient castrum of 2000 years ago, with the decumanus maximus and the cardo maximus (the main axes of the city, oriented east-west and north-south) which meet in today's Piazza Chanoux. The city has so many ancient ruins that it has often been nicknamed the "Rome of the Alps". But the history of Aosta is not limited to this period. Early evangelized (as shown by the early Christian basilica of St. Lawrence), the city was invaded by several barbarian peoples (Goths, Burgundians, Lombards, Franks) before falling under the rule of the Kingdom of Burgundy and then the County of Savoy from its foundation. The medieval heritage of the city is equally rich: in the 10th century, under the impetus of Bishop Anselme (not to be confused with Saint Anselme, Bishop of Canterbury, also from Aosta Valley but born during the 11th century), the Notre-Dame Cathedral was built, which contains a cycle of frescoes in the under-roof, as well as the remarkable collegiate church of Saint-Ours. After long centuries of decline, following the relocation of the main commercial axis of the Duchy of Savoy to Mount Cenis, and then the incorporation of the city into the newly formed Kingdom of Italy in the 19th century, Aosta has since 1948 regained its role as regional capital, reinforced by the autonomous status enjoyed by the territory. Today, Aosta is a small town of 35,000 inhabitants from all parts of Italy, very lively and commercially active. The streets De Tillier, Saint-Anselme, Porte Prétorienne and Piazza Emile Chanoux are crowded until late in the evening. The direct access to the ski resort of Pila, by means of a gondola lift leaving not far from the old town, also makes it a resort in the winter period.

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