Ok then, we have had nothing but rain . That pesky work of fiction the weather forecast is actually a work of fact. They said it would rain. It did rain. We are up north in the colder part of Italy and the weather like a bad smell is lingering and following us. We have had to think out of the box to make this holiday work. We have realised we are going to have little sun. News from most parts of Europe suggest the weather is the same everywhere. Northern Spain is having rain, Southern Spain too so had we switched holidays we would have hit rain somewhere. Ah well it is better than work. Where would I rather be ? In Clay Cross or in Suzy in a dullish Aosta deep in the Valee d'Aosta? Yes you know without me even telling you. Clay Cross - no I jest . Aosta will do nicely. It might be colder than we would like and it is threatening rain but Suzy is parked up on a concrete hard standing car park being overlooked by some pretty impressive mountains. Small houses and chalets cling on to the hillside. We can see churches
high up. The snow line starts three quarters of the way up and it is still looks cold up there. We knew where we were going to park. We had read a number of blogs about this carpark/sosta. We had google Earth'd it and seen its position so nothing came as a shock or a surprise. The nice young lads in the booth spoke little English but gave me a paper to fill in with registration number of Suzy. I handed over my 12 euro which gave us a spot for the night within walking distance of the town, water , some high rise flats behind us, a dismal looking brown rusted factory opposite, a railway line along which small blue trains ran. We had to pay for electricity . I hooked up and put a euro in the box. Clink , ping Suzy came to life. I have little idea how much electricity you get for a euro. We would only be running the fridge and the clock on the microwave so it should last a lifetime. Being only 4 amp we would have blown the power supply had we fired up the microwave and the heater. Glenn being
a touch more cautious than me told me to put another euro in to make sure. After five hours we had used 27 cents. So despite charging up phones, charging up tooth brushes and cameras someone would be getting some free lecky courtesy of us after we left.
We knew that there were roman remains here so planned to get our coats on and head up town. We knew where we were going didnt we? We had google Earth'd the journey and both of us were convinced that we turn left ourside the parking, walk a couple of blocks , turn left and the roman remains would come into view. Something was not quite right. We walked along the main road, we turned into the houses and saw nothing. Closed shops and place deader than a dead thing. We continued, ever optomistic we would find something as big as a Roman arch and a Roman arena. But no. After a while we retraced our steps back to our sosta and tried again. Turn right this time and in front of us what was there a sign for Centre Ville. A big hint we had gone in the wrong direction.
3 euro 80 each handmade better be worth it
An even bigger hint that whilst we were still in Italy this place was very French. In the shops we were greeted with Bonjoir , they sold baguettes and croissants french style. There was even an Hotel du Ville. French was spoken more than Italian if you listened carefully. Where though were the remains? Surely we cannot have lost them. The streets became busier with shoppers. There seemed tourists around so the remains must be somewhere . Then we saw the wall. Not a huge set of walls. Not the sort of wall like Chester or Aigues Mortes that you can walk round but at least a wall and some suggestion that the Romans had indeed been here.
A lot of things had happened here. Terentius Varro founded the roman colony of Augusta Praetoria Salassorum which housed 3000 retired veterans. After 11 BC Aosta became the capital of the Grey Alps province of the empire. Its position at the confluence of two rivers, at the end of the two passes the Great and the Little St Bernard it gave the area considerable military importance, and its layout was that of a Roman military camp. When the fall of the
Western Empire occured the city was conquered by the Burgundians, the Ostrogoths and the Byzantines. Charlemagne came and Aosta acquired importance as a post on the Via Francigena which lead from his great city of Aachen to Italy. In the 10th century Aosta became part of the Kingdom of Burgundy which explains some of its Frenchness.
We followed the crowds and found the main street with its amazing Roman gates. The town once you find it is still preserved in its entirety. The walls are impressive once you get in to see them 6.4 metres (21 ft) high, built of concrete faced with small blocks of stone. At the bottom, the walls are nearly 2.75 metres (9.0 ft) thick, and at the top 1.83 metres (6.0 ft). There are towers placed at intervals with four gates. We saw the several of the towers , theLepers Tower,
the Tour du Pailleron, the Tower of Bramafan,
the tower du Baillage and the Tour Fromage. The south gates exist. We walked through the three arches of the double gate that entered the city. Known as the porta Praetoria (1st century AD) it was the eastern gate to the city, and has preserved
its original forms apart from the marble covering. The two series of arches are formed by two series of arches enclosing a small square. A most unusual feature we have never seen before. The streets are planned on a typical Roman plan dividing the town into 64 blocks and the city is divided into two halves. We bought bread in one of the shops along that street. What odd bread . A bit dry, untypically Italian or French. Rather like the diet rolls you could buy thirty years ago. Odd shapes . One looked like a prickly hedgehog.
Carrying my bread we found the Roman Theatre. How on earth could you miss such an immense structure? I looked dwarfed by it. The southern façade remains today and is 22 metres (72 ft) tall. It soars upwards and we have seen nothing like it before . The structure, dating from the late reign of the emporer Augustus. It occupied an area of 81 by 64 metres (266 by 210 ft); it could contain up to 4,000 spectators. In the nearby area was the amphitheatre, built under the emporer Claudius. A marketplace surrounded by storehouses on three sides with a temple
to the centre and the remains of a bathhouse. We walked round in awe. How did the Romans built such a monumental structure? Walking home we found the next arch. Just outside the town walls is the Arch of Augustus a triumphal arch more like the arches you expect to see. It was built in 35 BC and stands on a roundabout now.
Walking back to the van we settled in for the night. Our new neighbours were an Italian family , two adults mum and dad and two boys. The bikes came off the back of the motorhome and dad tinkered with the bikes for sometime. After his tinkering he took out his seat and sat out for a while. The kids got on the bikes and rode round and round the car park for hours. Mum and dad seemed not bothered that their boys were riding right up to other motorhome doors , looking in and then roaring up and down the car park. Even when it got dark they closed their blinds and the kids still rode round. They didnt seem bothered about the boys safety . We got out the IPad , loaded up the Manic Street Preachers and played the tracks loudly. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. They were being a pain upsetting everyone . We gave them a taste of their own medicine and for our troubles the glaring started . Mum who didnt seem to worry about her kids seemed less amused with us and our choice of music . We smiled a little and thought perhaps they would consider their own actions after having to listen to our music . Not nice probably but sometimes you really have to think its pay back time.
We slept well despite the noisy neighbours. Woke early to a reasonable morning but locked in to our overnight stop over. We watched the trains trundling in and out. At 8.30 the boys turned up in their car, opened the gate , we unhitched Suzy from her umbilical cord and started on our journey chasing the sun. How about the south of France ? Surely the sun always shines on the rich and famous. It must have heard we were coming .
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