One of the great attractions in the Aosta Valley, Italy (see my overview of Aosta Valley here) is Bard Fortress. Named for the lords of Bard, it is a massive, stern-looking fortress complex sitting atop of a rocky outcropping in the narrow Aosta Valley along side the Dora Baltea river. It demands attention as you drive by.
The Bard Fortress complex. You take a series of trams to the top, known as Opera Carlo Alberto Headquarters, which in its military capacity housed a church, hospital, barracks and storage rooms.
Taking a tram up to the fortress – it’s worth the ride just for the views.
The fortress is built right on top of the rock – it must have taken some effort to get the foundation secured!
This strategic spot has been a defensive outpost since the 5th century CE and Bard Fortress sits atop ruins of past castles. It was a perfect place to control traffic passing through the Valley from Switzerland or France into Italy. There have been numerous conflicts here over the centuries ranging from the Goths and Burgunds, to the Lombards and Franks trying to seize control of this route and territory.
The fortress commands an impressive view of the Aosta Valley, this view is looking north.
Control of the passes through the Alps was critical to protecting pilgrims working their way south to Rome and the passage of goods flowing from southern to northern Europe as well as marking geographic boundaries for numerous kingdoms.
Napoleon, who became Emperor of France and conqueror of most of Europe, laid siege to the Fort on the 19th of May, 1800. Four hundred soldiers at the fort held back his army of 40,000 for nearly two weeks.
Covered passageway in the fortress to move soldiers and goods from one level to the next.
It wasn’t until Napoleon was able to get a 12 inch cannon blasting away on the 29th of May that the fort finally was destroyed and the small defending force surrendered on June 1st, a few days later. The fortress was rebuilt in 1830.
Some of the prison cells located in Bard Fortress.
Thousands were imprisoned here at Bard Fortress in World War I. More recently it was used as a movie set in Marvel’s Avengers – Age of Ultron and the buildings now house exhibits, museums and music performances throughout the year.
A sign commemorating Bard Fortress as a movie set location.
Bard Medieval Village
As interesting as the Fortress is, the little medieval village (Bard village) nestled below it is fun to explore too – many of the buildings date back to the 14th century and have signs providing historical information.
A street in Bard Village.
An old stairway in Bard Village.
Pockmarks remain from past battles in the streets of Bard Village.
Remnants of 14th century decorative paintings on a building in Bard Village.
One more street scene in Bard Village.
Bard Fortress and the medieval village should be on your list if you visit the Aosta Valley!