Aosta, Valle D'Aosta
Aosta (Italian: Aosta, French: Aoste) is the principal city of the bilingual Aosta Valley in the Italian Alps, 110km north-northwest of Turin. It is situated near the Italian entrance of the Mont Blanc Tunnel, at the confluence of the Buthier and the Dora Baltea, and at the junction of the Great and Little St. Bernard routes. Aosta is not the capital of the province, as these functions are shared by the region and the communes.

History
Aosta was settled in proto-historic times and later became a Celtic-Ligurian city of the Salassi. Terentius Varro captured it in 25 BC and founded the Roman colony of Augusta Praetoria. After 11 BC Aosta became the capital of the Alpes Graies ("Grey Alps") province of the Empire.

After the fall of the Western Empire, the city was conquered by the Burgundians, the Ostrogoths, the Byzantines. The Lombards, who had annexed it to their Italian kingdom, were expelled by the Franks of Pepin the Younger. Under Charlemagne Aosta acquired importance as a post on the Via Francigena, leading from Aachen to Italy. After 888 it was part of the renewed Kingdom of Italy under Arduin of Ivrea and Berengar of Friuli.

In the 10th century Aosta became part of the Kingdom of Burgundy. After the fall of the latter in 1032, it entered the lands of Umberto I Biancamano of the House of Savoy . After the creation of the county of Savoy, with its capital in Chambéry, Aosta followed its history, as well as the later Kingdom of Sardinia and unified Italy.

Under the House of Savoy Aosta was granted a special status that it maintained when the new Italian Republic was proclaimed in 1948.

Valle D'Aosta (in Italian: Valle d'Aosta, French: Val d'Aoste or rarely Vallée d'Aoste, Arpitan: Val d'Outa) is a mountainous Region in north-western Italy. It is bordered by France to the west, Switzerland to the north and the region of Piedmont to the south and east.

With an area of 3,263 km and a population of about 120,000, it is the smallest, least populous, and least densely populated region of Italy. It has only one province and is divided into 74 comunes (Italian: comuni), see Comunes of the Aosta Valley.
Some comunes, concentrated in the valley bottomlands, are Francophone. The regional capital is Aosta/Aoste.

Geography
The Aosta Valley is an Alpine valley that with its side valleys includes the Italian slopes of Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn; its highest peak is the Mont Blanc.

History
The first inhabitants of the Aosta Valley were Celts and Ligurians, whose language lingers in some local placenames. Rome conquered the region from the local Salassi ca. 25 BC and founded Augusta Praetoria (Aosta) to secure the strategic mountain passes, which they improved with bridges and roads. After Rome the high valley preserved traditions of autonomy, reinforced by its seasonal isolation, though it was loosely held in turns by the Goths and the Lombards, then by the Burgundian kings in the 5th century, followed by the Franks, who overran the Burgundian kingdom in 534. At the division among the heirs of Charlemagne in 870, the Aosta Valley formed part of the Lotharingian Kingdom of Italy, in a second partition a decade later, it formed part of the Kingdom of Upper Burgundy, which was joined to the Kingdom of Arles — all doubtless without many significant corresponding changes in the personnel of the virtually independent fiefs in the Valle d'Aosta.

In 1031-1032 Umberto Biancamano, the founder of the house of Savoy, received the title count of Aosta from the Emperor Conrad II of the Franconian line and built himself a commanding fortification at Bard. Saint Anselm of Canterbury was born in Aosta in 1033 or 1034. The region was divided among strongly fortified castles, and in 1191 Thomas I of Savoy found it necessary to grant to the communes a Carta delle Franchigie ("Charter of Liberties") that preserved autonomy, rights that were fiercely defended until 1770, when they were revoked in order to tie Aosta more closely to the Piedmont, but which kept re-surfacing during post-Napoleonic times. Under Mussolini, a forced programme of "Italianization", including population transfers of Valdostans into Piedmont and Italian-speaking workers into Aosta, fostered movements towards separatism; Aosta was regranted its autonomy in 1948 [1].

In the mid-13th century Emperor Frederick II made the County of Aosta a duchy (see Duke of Aosta), and its arms charged with a lion rampant were carried in the Savoia arms until the reunification of Italy, 1870 [2]. The region remained part of Savoy lands, with the exception of a French occupation from 1539 to 1563.

During the Middle Ages the region remained strongly feudal, and castles, such as those of the Challant family in the Valley of Gressoney, still dot the landscape. In the 12th and 13th centuries, German-speaking Walser communities were established in the Gressoney, and some communes retain their separate Walser identity even today. Valle d'Aosta was established as an autonomous region of Italy in 1948.

Economy
The Aosta Valley remained agricultural and pastoral until the construction of dams to harness the potential of its hydroelectric power brought metal-working industry to the region. Today it is also a major centre for winter sports, most famously at Courmayeur. The Dora Baltea has its origins in the Valle d'Aosta, flowing south to join the Po. The upper Aosta Valley is the traditional southern starting-point for the tracks, then roads, which divided here to lead 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.

Politics
The region has a special autonomous status and forms one of the Provinces of Italy.

Demographics
Italian and French are used for the regional government's acts and laws, though Italian is much more widely spoken. The Arpitan language was once widely spoken, other than in the Aosta Valley, in the areas of Savoy, Bresse and Lyon as well as in the Jura regions of France, and the Suisse-Romande region of Switzerland. The regional dialect is called Valdôtain (Valdoten) or patois. The residents of the small town of Gressoney speak a dialect of German. As of 2006, the Italian national institute of statistics ISTAT estimated that 4,976 foreign-born immigrants live in Valle d'Aosta, equal to 4.0% of the total regional population.