Valle d'Aosta Region, Italy
Valle d'Aosta is the smallest Italian region, situated on the Italian border with France and Switzerland.
The territory is mostly mountainous with the highest peaks in Europe (Monte Bianco, Cervino, Monte Rosa, Gran Paradiso) with beautiful green valleys on the sides of the long Dora Baltea river, a tributary of the largest river in the Italy, the Po. The region has a surface area of 3,263 square km, with a total population of about 120,000 inhabitants, concentrated in the valley bottoms.
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Most of the population speak a French dialect. Agriculture is mostly based on vineyards, and the raising of cows allows a rich production of milk and cheese. There are also important industries and highly developed tourist facilities welcoming visitors both on the ski fields in winter and in the valleys and mountains in the summer. Unforgettable are the astounding castles on top of high rocks and one of the few casinos authorized in Italy, in the elegant center of Saint Vincent.
French is used in the government acts and laws, though the language actually spoken by the biggest part of the population is Francoprovençal, that used to be spoken more generally in Savoy, French-speaking Switzerland, Lyon area and the Jura. The Valle d'Aosta is the region in which the language is most in use. The Valle d'Aosta is an Alpine valley that with its side valleys includes the Italian slopes of Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn; its highest peak is the Gran Paradiso, protected in Gran Paradiso National Park, established in 1922.
The region is a major area for winter sports (among the most famous resorts is Courmayeur). The Dora Baltea has its origins in the Valle d'Aosta, flowing south to join the Po. The upper Val d'Aosta is the traditional southern starting-point for the tracks, then transformed into roads, which led over the Alpine passes. The road through the Great St Bernard Pass (or today the Great St Bernard Tunnel) leads to Martigny, Valais, and the one through the Little St Bernard Pass to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Savoie. Today Aosta is joined to Chamonix in France by the Mont Blanc Tunnel, a road tunnel on E25 running underneath the Alps.
The area was of strategic importance, under the control of many different rulers after the collapse of Roman rule in the 5th century, until it passed to the house of Savoy in the 11th century. In 1927 the province of Aosta was established with centers from the area of Turin and Ivrea, then the Valle d'Aosta was established as an autonomous region of Italy in 1948.