In a far distant past, Aosta was known as Augusta Praetoria Salassorum. Founded by the Romans in 25 BC, Aosta is the second Italian city with the largest number of Roman ruins still visible - in fact, it is sometimes called ‘Rome of the Alps,’ being located near the mountains in the north-western tiny region of Val d’Aosta, close to the French border.
The ancient town walls, which date from the Roman period, are still preserved almost in their entirety. You can walk alongside them for three kilometers.
One of the most important monuments from the Roman era is the imposing Arch of Augustus, erected to celebrate both the defeat of the Salassi, a Celtic tribe that had settled the area before the Romans conquered it, and the birth of a colony that was to act as a defensive bulwark for the Roman Empire on the Italian side of the Alps.
Another great example of Roman architecture is the Porta Praetoria, the eastern gateway to the city, made up of blocks of stone fixed with crushed slate extracted from the bottom of the Dora Baltea river, today a popular spot for rafting and kayaking.
The other Roman gates are also well preserved: the Porta Decumana (western entrance), the Porta Principalis Sinistra (northern entrance) and the Porta Principalis Dextera (southern entrance); as well as many of the towers (20 in total) that were built at regular intervals on the walls and at each of the four gates.
Another notable Roman monument is the Roman Theater, built a few decades after Aosta was founded. Its facade is 22 meters high. The theater could accommodate up to 4,000 spectators.
Outside Aosta, about eight kilometers out of town, is a single-arched Roman bridge, the Pont d’Ael, where an aqueduct was built to supply water to the newly founded colony.
On December 21, 2020 Aosta celebrated its 2,045th birthday (!). The city was deliberately oriented towards the winter solstice, and, between 21 and 23 December, you can see the sun as it rises perfectly aligned with the ancient Cardo Maximus (in Roman cities, the main or central north–south-oriented street; now Via Croce di Città), just before 11 am.