Pont-Saint-Martin is the main town in the Lower Aosta Valley and welcomes visitors at the gateway to the region. Lying 6 km from the Bard Fortress, it is a lively town with four thousand inhabitants, built around its chief monument and symbol: the spectacular Roman bridge, which bears witness to the Romanization of the Aosta Valley, dating back to 25 BC. Anchored to the bare rock on both sides, it crosses the waters of the Lys stream and stands 25 metres high. Its single arch spans a width of 35 metres.
Points of interest
This route is a scenic and cultural itinerary taking you on a single round walk to discover the main historical curiosities and unique landscape of Pont-Saint-Martin. Starting from the ramp leading onto the Roman Bridge, call in at the Bridge museum, which houses a collection of illustrations about the construction and the restoration carried out over time. Carry on walking up towards Piazzetta San Giacomo, where the little church of the same name once stood, wiped out by the bombing of 23 August 1944, along with most of the surrounding buildings. From here, take the steps that climb up among the terraces as far as Baraing Castle, a vantage point with views over the historical centre and the surrounding plain. The castle is not open for visiting and houses the Unité des Communes Mont Rose offices. On your way back down you will meet the ancient mule trail that leads to Perloz, in the district of Fontaney, where the ancient church lies, built on the request of Pietro of Vallaise in the late 16th century. Heading back up via Chanoux, halfway between the two squares in the old town, you will see the ‘l Castel, the ancient fortified house of the local Lords, rising up behind the Town Hall. The route crosses the footbridge over the Lys and terminates in the green park.
Along the vineyards hillside trail, a road open to vehicles connects the municipalities of Pont-Saint-Martin and Donnas, giving a breathtaking view of the valley floor and the nearby Canavese, amidst vegetation with typically Mediterranean fragrances and flavours. The route allows you to explore the first DOC area (Controlled Denomination of Origin) of the Aosta Valley wine-growing territory, where the famous Donnas Doc is produced.
The castle was built in various stages and used as the residence of the lords of Pont-Saint-Martin from the late 15th century. It was restyled on several occasions. In its original form, the structure could have been identified as a rural fortification (giving it fortified house status), but its function, as well as being to defend, was also to be for show, satisfying the need to highlight the prestige enjoyed by the owners. The building is set out over four floors. In the north-west, towards Via Castello, the original wall structure is clear to see, in heaped stones and lime mortar. There is a distinctive chimney sticking out of the top. On the north-eastern side you will find the entrance and the stairwell leading up to the mezzanine and to the two raised floors. The renovation carried out in 2012 restored the building, delivering it from neglect and the signs of time. After the renovation, the fortified house of the Lords of Pont-Saint-Martin became home to talent and culture, the offices of a cultural centre.
Built between 1590 and 1595 by the baron Pierre of Vallaise, it was dedicated to the Precious Blood and the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The church lies on the Perloz regional road, just above the centre of Pont-Saint-Martin; the building is nestled in a place teeming with springs, which gives the church its name, Fontaney, which means “place of the fountains”. It is a reproduction of the layout of Aosta Cathedral on a miniature scale. The church has a rectangular plan with a nave and two aisles, divided by frescoed pillars depicting scenes of the lives of Saints. The paintings inside, in fairly good condition, are dated 1726. There is a polygonal apse with ambulatory that lengthens the aisles. The ribbed vaults are divided up by grey stone ribs. The façade was frescoed in the 17th century: the Renaissance paintings depict scenes from the Holy Scriptures. The Chapel of the Holy Rosary, dating from the same time as the rest of the building, is located against the right-hand side.
It is without a doubt the major event of Pont-Saint-Martin, with characters linked on the one hand to historical events, the Romans’ defeat of the Salassi, and on the other, to the legend of the Nymph of Lys, from the name of the stream that runs through the town. Outraged at the locals, the fairy is said to have made the stream swell, with the intention of destroying the town. However, when she arrived close to the Roman bridge with the flood wave, the prayers of the people are alleged to have convinced her to give in and move on without causing any damage. The Nymph, accompanied by her maids, is the best-known character, along with the Devil, San Martino the Bishop, the Consul and the Officer of the Guards. The Insulae, the districts making up the town, play a vital role and are engaged in a gallant battle to vie for the coveted title of the finest District. Banners, flags, vexilla, ribbons and various structures offer visitors a remarkable feast for the eyes.
The event starts on sabato grasso, the last Saturday of Carnival, with the presentation of the leading characters. On Sunday morning and Monday afternoon, the various districts stage two stupendous parades, where more than one thousand people in costume walk down the main street, acting out moments of the history of the Roman empire, before ending their challenge with the captivating Chariot run, hauled by stocky lads and athletic girls. On Sunday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon, thousands of people descend on the streets of the town to watch the parades of the masked groups and floats.
Mardi Gras fireworks
The end of the Carnival is also one of the most popular and eagerly-awaited moments. On Tuesday evening, the gigantic dummy of the Devil is set on fire below the arch of the bridge built thousands of years ago. Then, in a crescendo of cascading sparks and exploding fireworks, the entire population bids farewell to the Carnival until the next year.
Festival of the Patron Saint, Saint Lawrence
August 10 and 11
The park area comes to life around the festival, with music, dancing and food and wine events.