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The Aosta Valley (Italian: Valle d'Aosta or Val d'Aosta, French: Vallée-d'Aoste or Val-d'Aoste, Franco-Provençal: Val d'Outa) is a mountainous autonomous region in north-western Italymarker. It is bordered by Francemarker to the west, Switzerlandmarker to the north and the region of Piedmont to the south and east.

With an area of and a population of about 120,000, it is the smallest, least populous, and least densely populated region of Italy. It is the only Italian region which has no provinces (the province of Valle d'Aosta was dissolved in 1945). Provincial administrative functions are provided by the regional government. The region is divided into 74 comuni (communes).

Some communes, concentrated in the valley bottomlands, speak Valdôtain, a form of Gallo-Romance, as their first language, while in the Lys Valley there is a Walser German speaking minority. The regional capital is Aostamarker.

Geography

The Aosta Valley is an Alpine valley that with its side valleys includes the Italian slopes of Monte Biancomarker, Monte Rosamarker and the Matterhornmarker; its highest peak is Monte Biancomarker (the Mont Blancmarker).



Climate

The climate of the region is severe, especially when compared with other places in the Western Alps. This is probably due to the mountains blocking the mild winds from the Atlantic Oceanmarker. Places with the same altitude in France or western Switzerland are not as cold as the Aosta Valley.

Aosta Valley may be divided into different climatic zones:

The Dora Balteamarker Valley, between 300 and 1000 meters, with the mildest climate in all the province, has a typical Oceanic climate (Cfb). The winters are mild, even milder than the Po Rivermarker Valley, but usually wet and foggy. Snow is frequent only during January and February, but the foggy season, which starts in late October, lasts until May. The temperature average for January is between −1 and 3 °C. The summers are mild, usually rainy. Temperature averages in July between 17 and 20 °C. The main towns in this area are Aostamarker, Saint-Vincentmarker, Donnas and Courmayeurmarker. Due to the occidental position at the Alpine Arc, the climate classified as Cfb may extend to relatively high places, especially near the French border, which receives the mild oceanic wind, so it’s possible to find places at 1500, or even 1900 meters with the same Cfb climate, but the temperatures are lower, around −2 °C in the winter and 15 °C in the summer, and mist during all the year.

The valleys around 1300 meters, which, depending on the geomorphology, develop a Humid continental climate (Dfb), although with mild winter temperatures for this kind of climate, similar to the temperatures of the Norwegian fjords, as in Trondheimmarker. Winter temperatures average around −3 or −4 °C, and summers between 13 and 15 °C. The snow season starts in November and lasts until March. Mist is common during the morning from April until October. The main communities in this area are Gressoney-Saint-Jeanmarker (averages of −4.8 °C in January and 13.8 °C in July), Brussonmarker and Gressoney-La-Trinitémarker.

The mountain lands around 2000 meters have a Cold Oceanic Climate (Cfc). This area has a climate similar to some northern-Norway fjords. Even though at a very high altitude, the climate is mild. This is due to the high influence of the oceanic mild air that can blow at these regions. Fog is common throughout the year, especially in April and October, when some years these regions can have more than a week with constant fog and mist. The winters are mild. Mean temperature ranges between −3 °C at the driest regions and 2 °C near lakes. During the summer, the mean temperatures are very low, around 12 °C.

The valleys above 1600 meters usually develop a Cold Continental Climate (Dfc). In this climate the snow season is very long, as long as 8 or 9 months at the highest points. During the summer, mist occurs almost every day. These areas are the wettest in the western Alps. Temperatures are low, between −7 °C and −3°C in January, and in July between 10 and 13 °C. In this area is the town of Rhêmes-Notre-Damemarker, which may be the coldest in the Occidental Alps and where winter average temperature is around −7 °C. Other towns with this climate are Chamois, Cerviniamarker (sometimes ET), Bionazmarker (sometimes mild), Gressoney-La-Trinitémarker (mild), and others.

Areas between 2000 meters and 3500 meters usually have a Tundra Climate (ET). Every month has an average temperature below 10 °C. Winter and summer averages can change according to the altitude. This climate may be a kind of more severe Cold Oceanic Climate, with a low summer average but mild winters, sometimes above −3 °C, especially near lakes, or a more severe Cold Continental Climate, with a very low winter average. Above 3000 meters is typically mountainous climate. Averages in Pian Rosa, at 3400 meters, are −11.6 °C in January and 1.4 °C in July. It is the coldest place in Italy where the climate is verifiable.

Above 3500 meters, all the months have an average temperature below freezing, and we find a Perpetual Frost Climate (EF).

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 marker to secure the strategic mountain passes, which they improved with bridges and roads. After Romemarker 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 Arlesmarker — all with few corresponding changes in the population of the virtually independent fiefs in the Aosta Valley.



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 Bardmarker. 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 were again demanded during post-Napoleonic times. 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 Savoian arms until the reunification of Italy in 1870.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.

The region remained part of Savoy lands, with the exception of a French occupation from 1539 to 1563. As part of the Kingdom of Sardinia it joined the new Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Under Mussolini, a forced programme of Italianization, including population transfers of Valdostans into Piedmont and Italian-speaking workers into Aosta, fostered movements towards separatism. The region has a special autonomous status; the province of Aosta ceased to exist in 1945 and Aosta was regranted its autonomy 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.

Agriculture has become increasingly specialised, retaining only a marginal interest in cereals, potatoes and fruit.Wines of high - and rising - quality are produced in small quantities. All are entitled to the 'Denominazione di Origine Controllata'. Animal feed crops supply the region's dairy herds, some 40 000 head in 2000, which are pastured in the high Alps during the summer period. The region's cheeses are renowned throughout Italy. Virtually no other form of stock rearing is practised.

Tourism is one of the strongest points of the region's economy. The valley's natural beauty, its peaceful atmosphere in summer and snow in winter have allowed the development of a flourishing tourist industry and especially winter sports, most famously at Courmayeurmarker and Cerviniamarker.

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 Passmarker (or today the Great St Bernard Tunnel) leads to Martignymarker, Valaismarker, and the one through the Little St Bernard Passmarker to Bourg-Saint-Mauricemarker, Savoiemarker. Today Aosta is joined to Chamonixmarker in France by the Mont Blanc Tunnel, a road tunnel on European route E25 running underneath the Alps.

Demographics

The population density of Valle d'Aosta is by far the lowest amongst the Italian regions. In 2008, 38.9 inhabitants per km2 were registered in the region, whereas the average national figure was 198.8.It should be remembered, on the other hand, that the region has extensive uninhabited areas of mountain and glacier, and that a substantial part of the population lives in the central valley. Migration from the lateral valleys has now been stemmed by generous regional support for agriculture and tourist development.The population is growing slowly but steadily. Negative natural increase since 1976 has been more than offset by a regular surplus on migration.The region has one of Italy's lowest birth rates, which means that the average age of the population is rising. This, too, is partly compensated by immigration, since most immigrants arriving in the region are younger persons working in the tourist industry.Between 1990 and 2001, the population of Valle d'Aosta has grown by 5.4%, which is the highest growth amongst the Italian regions. With a negative natural population growth, this is due exclusively to positive net migration.As of 2006, the Italian national institute of statistics ISTAT estimated that 4,976 foreign-born immigrants live in Aosta Valley, equal to 4.0% of the total regional population.

Italian and French are the region's official languages and are used for the regional government's acts and laws, though Italian is much more widely spoken. The regional language is a dialect of Franco-Provençal called Valdôtain (Valdoten) or patois. It is spoken as a second language by 68,000 residents, about 58% of the population, according to a poll taken by the Fondation Émile Chanoux in 2002. The residents of the villages of Gressoney-Saint-Jeanmarker, Gressoney-La-Trinitémarker and Issimemarker, in the Lys Valley, speak a dialect of German origin.

Government and Politics

See also



References



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