If you have never been to the Italian side of the Alps, which means taking in the fabulous Val d'Aosta, you have not lived! Culturally Aosta is loaded with ancient history from BC to the beautiful Roman Amphitheater ruins to the Alpine culture and modern day. Everywhere you gaze there are mountains framing your views, the town piazza is crowned with tall glaciers in the background and you can have it all while sipping caffe in the square. I love Val d'Aosta
The gastronomic pleasures of this area begin with the infamous Fontina DOP. This is the queen of the alpine meadows, a cheese made from raw milk, fragrant and alive. To be labeled or considered Fontina DOP, it must be made only from cows of the Valdostana breed that forage on local grasses and meadows. This is the cheese that gave birth, to la fonduta (fondue). It was from this awesome fonduta, that was transformed into the other versions of fondue in Switzerland. If you want to savor the original, this is where you need to be! Do not forget to try Fromadzo DOP too, another very special cheese of the area, mix of goat and cow's milk.
This area is also ultra famous for the Lard d'Arnad DOP and the Vallée d'Aoste Jambon de Bosses DOP. The prosciuto was an ancient gift for bishops and archbishops, produced in the city of Saint Rhemy-en-Bosses since the 14th century. The frigid stream of air that would come down to the valleys bordering with Switzerland and the long winter cold coupled with the manual labor of man, helped transform these raw prosciutti into authentic one-of-a-kind pieces. They are aged 12, 18 and 24 months and if you can find this ham, you must try it.
The lard of Arnad is truly the jewel of the mountain peasant's world. Today it is found in the area for sale where previously, it was very difficult to find because it was the source of substenance during those long harsh and cold winter months. As they say, living in the mountains is about 9 months of frigid cold and 3 months of just cold. So be sure to try ultra thin slices of this served on warm crusty pieces of bread; this is something you will come back for time and again.
A few of the brands assuring you of quality and origin are Saveurs du Val D'Aoste as well as Alpenzu. Alpenzu is another group of the Val d'Aosta guaranteeing the origin of the products sold. While at the hotel, we were lucky to taste chestnuts in honey as part of an appetizer and while shopping we stumbled on le tegole, famous cookies of the area, another must-try!
While traveling make sure you do the castles of the region, they are fantastic!