Ring route between Donnas and Bard along the trails of history
March - MaySeptember - November
Departure:Donnas (320 m)
Arrival:Donnas (320 m)
Difference in level:+ 310 - 345
Trail sign:7 - 7A - 6 - 6A - 1 - AV1
In the lower Valle d’Aosta, between the municipalities of Donnas and Bard, this circular itinerary winds its way through vineyards and chestnut groves, touching upon important places in history.
Description of the route
This circular itinerary covers in part the paths of the Alta Via no. 1, of the Via Francigena and of the Cammino Balteo (part of “stage 4”: /en/database/7/cammino-balteo/-aosta-valley-/donnas-arnad/2951 “Donnas - Arnad” and of “stage 23”: /en/database/7/cammino-balteo/-aosta-valley-/pontboset-pont-saint-martin/2946 “Pontboset - Pont-saint-Martin”). One section is on an asphalted road.
Park your car in Donnas in the square near the Roman road.
After going through the medieval hamlet of Donnas, take the path indicated by the yellow signpost number 7 for Albard (the same indications as the Cammino Balteo- stage 4 - towards Arnad). The first stretch runs alongside the Bellet stream on the main road, but at the first bridge, turn left and the trail crosses a picturesque area of vineyards on dry stone walls.
The wine-growing in Donnas has very ancient traditions. Here the steep slopes are overcome by the secular terraces held back by walls up to 4 meters high. The processing is hand-done and distributed over all the months of the year, and the main grape is Nebbiolo.
Once you arrive in Prèle where, on the right, you come cross a chapel, the path begins to climb steeply to overcome the walls that overlook the plain, frequented by climbing enthusiasts who find the “Climbing Park Balteo” here. This area is very hot and dry, an ideal environment for reptiles such as whip snakes, vipers and lizards, and for the birds of prey that feed on them, such as the short-toed snake eagle, a large migrator similar to an eagle with a wingspan that can reach about 2 meters. Its coat is very light-colored in the lower parts, with wide brown stripes.
In about 30 minutes you climb up in height until you meet the asphalted road again which after a few meters reaches Albard, a charming hamlet of old stone and wooden houses.
From there the vegetation changes and we find ourselves on the uphill side of a small valley, formerly used as a fruit chestnut grove. In the past, chestnuts represented an important food resource for local populations.
Continuing on foot along the roadway you begin to descend into this ancient world, almost frozen in time. Stone hamlets and old farmhouses frame this ancestral landscape: a hidden, forgotten Valle d’Aosta, surrounded by centuries-old chestnut trees and pastures for goats.
At the end of the descent, turn left towards the central valley, always remaining on the paved road, and at the end of this, take the steep path that leads down to Bard at the foot of the fortress of the same name.
The Bard Fort is a fortified complex that was rebuilt in the 19th century by the House of Savoy on the rocky outcropping overlooking the village of Bard. It currently hosts prestigious temporary exhibitions of art and photography and is also the permanent home of interesting museums such as the Museum of the Alps and that of fortifications.
Walking in the cool of the ancient medieval hamlet, you go up in the direction of the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta (following the trail signs for stage 23 of the Cammino Balteo). The walls of the fortress overlook the hamlet and give an idea of the strategic position of this place. Indeed, you pass along ancient trails used in days gone by as they are used today by the pilgrims of the Via Francigena but also by the modern athletes of the Tor des Geants, an epic ultratrail race.
Continuing downhill along the road towards Donnas you return to the Roman road of the Gauls with its stone arch, which once you have passed under it, like a time machine, you are taken back to the starting point.
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