Storie di montagna

Great Saint Bernard Pass

Tour description

A splendid immersive route between nature and history, along the border between Italy and Switzerland, in which the Roman road will guide us, a historic testimony of the Claudian era, built into the living rock, with the strategic aim of controlling the territories north of the Alps.

The Roman road from the Claudian era was built to control the territories north of the Alps and was a strategic axis. Archaeological excavations in the 1890s on the Plan de Jupiter unearthed the remains of two mansio and a small temple dedicated to the Celtic god of the peaks Penn or Jupiter Penn, as well as various votive offerings that are now in the Museum of the Great St. Bernard Hospice.

Along this iconic route, which will guide us throughout the entire itinerary, we will admire the mastery with which the route was built (even more surprising if we think of its era of reference!) and we will retrace the vicissitudes of those who walked along this road, including citizens of the Roman empire, monks and pilgrims, up to Napoleon Bonaparte.

There will be no shortage of special encounters: during archaeological excavations at the end of the 19th century, in fact, the remains of two mansiones and a small but magical temple dedicated to the Celtic god of the peaks, Penn, or rather, the Jupiter Penn, were discovered on the Plan de Jupiter.

But more surprises await us along the way!

Our tour through history will take us to the Middle Ages, when the pass of Alpis Poenina (Great St. Bernard) remained a focal point and reference point, so much so that it was even indicated on the Tabula Peutingeriana (a medieval copy of a late Roman map), depicted on one of the explanatory panels at the Cryptoporticus Forense in Aosta.

During the Middle Ages, the valley became an obligatory route for pilgrims travelling from Canterbury to Rome along the Via Francigena. It was during these years that the thousand-year-old Hospice of Saint Bernard was founded, dating back to the middle of the 11th century and built by the archdeacon of Aosta Cathedral, to provide shelter to travellers. Within its walls are several beautiful votive offerings, which are now in the Great Saint Bernard Hospice Museum.

The hospice became famous, in particular, for the presence of the Barry rescue dogs, who, together with the canons, lent their help to the pilgrims. Needless to say, over time, this dog became one of the symbols of this pass.

There will be no lack of nods to the modern era; after all, we will find ourselves in the same scenery that became the backdrop for the famous painting 'Napoleon crosses the Alps', painted by the French painter Jacques-Louis David and now in the Louvre.

All along the route we will be accompanied by the splendid nature of the Aosta Valley with its mountains and clear air, it will be like immersing ourselves in an open-air history book!


Things to know

The cost of the visit does not include tickets for the sites. 

Guided tour will take place during the summer opening period of the Great Saint Bernard Pass.


Guided Tour - Great Saint Bernard Pass

A thousand-year-old Great Saint Bernard hospice was already used by pilgrims travelling along the Via Francigena. The pass had been crossed by several travellers including Napoleon Bonaparte and the barry dogs lent them help when needed.