Verrés to Pont-Saint-Martin, 16.84km
Al Drit, our B&B in Verrés was the kind of place you want to stay for a few days. A delightful property with a garden and private terrace, it sits just below the Castillo de Verrés, with a view out over the Valley. What’s more, the family also operates the excellent Ristorate La Tour next door. Although the restaurant is closed on Tuesday, we were served a lovely meal from their normal menu, including vegetable and saffron tart, vegetarian polpettes, tagliatelle with Aosta Bleu cheese, panna cotta and crostata (jam tart). Breakfast this morning included orange cake, croissants alla marmellata, cheese, yoghurt and good espresso.
After seeing our bags off by taxi to Pont-Saint-Martin, we walked up to the castle to have a look at this impressive 14thC fortress which dominates the town of Verrés and the Val d’Ayas. By the beginning of the 19thC, the building was falling into disrepair. Through the efforts of the “Director of the Crown Delegation for the preservation of Piedmontese and Ligurian Monuments” restoration began in 1894 and was completed in 1920.
A cobbled path took us back down to the town centre, where we rejoined the VF which took us across the Dora Bâltea River and then along the western side of the valley floor. (We chose an alternative route avoiding a wide loop to visit the church of San Martino in Arnad.) The route was easy walking and interesting. Of note: the 18thC Bridge of Echallod (where Paul got caught up in thick underbrush and vines trying to get a photo), the ancient town of Hône, where in 1867, flooding from the river resulted in 93 people succumbing to cholera; the medieval village of Bard,
dominated by a fortress originating from the 11thC. The streets are lined with historic houses too numerous to detail! And, lastly, in Donnas we were privileged (and slightly awed) to be able to walk along a section of the Via delle Gallie, the Roman consular road that crossed the lower Aosta Valley into Gaul. The stretch of road was carved into the bare rock for a distance of 221 metres, opening in a 4-metre-high archway.