The Aosta Valley in Northwest Italy is famed for its magnificent snowy mountains and popular winter sports resorts – yet less well known is the impressive array of botanical gardens nestled among the peaks. Set high on the mountainside, these Alpine oases are a vital asset to the biodiversity of the region, not to mention a beautiful setting for a summer hike. The Paradisia Garden, for example, is the most tranquil Aosta Valley attraction of them all, offering visitors the opportunity to learn more about different plant types while supporting the conservation of some of the rarest specieson earth. Here are four of the most popular Alpine gardens to be enjoyed during the brief sunny window from July to September.
Located 2170 metres above sea level at the Little Saint Bernard Pass, the Chanousia Alpine Botanical Garden has a history as colourful as its flowers. Originally established in 1897, the area flourished with some 2500 species before being badly damaged in the Second World War. Although it has never quite returned to its former glory, it is still a prominent Aosta Valley attraction, home to a remarkable 1200 species that blossom between the end of July and mid-September. For botany buffs, there is also a small museum where visitors can learn about the life of Abbot Pierre Chanoux, who founded Chanousia.
One of the more recent additions to the Aosta Valley’s impressive collection of Alpine oases, the Paradisia Alpine Botanical Garden was founded in 1955 in the Gran Paradiso National Park at Valnontey. It is named after the Paradisea liliastrum, or St. Bruno’s Lily, which is one of 1000 species of plants you can find there. Guided tours are available; however, this is an easy Aosta Valley attractionto make the most of independently, as all the species are meticulously labelled with their name and region of origin.
Undoubtedly the most easily accessible of the four, Saussurea is situated at the first stop on the Skyway Monte Bianco cable car, an Aosta Valley attractionin its own right which takes visitors right up to the Pointe Helbronner. Along with being hassle-fee to get to, it provides some stunning views of the surrounding valleys as the highest botanical garden in Europe. It also offers a fascinating array of flora for those interested in seeing Alpine plants in their natural surroundings: half of the area it covers is cultivated as an artificial rockery, whilst the other half has been allowed to flourish naturally with little human interference.
Savoy Castle Alpine Botanical Garden
Last but by no means least, this rather grand sounding attraction is set within the grounds of the Savoy Castle, another Aosta Valley attraction that’swell worth a visit. An imposing specimen of Gothic revival architecture, it was built for Margherita of Savoy, the wife of Italy’s nineteenth-century King Umberto I. Although the building is steeped in history, the garden was only opened in 1990, and as such boasts fewer plant types than some of the more established sites. However, for those taking a less academic interest in the species on offer, this is unlikely to be a concern – especially if you visit during July or August, when you can enjoy the heady aroma of the flowers in full bloom.
Lukas Johannes is a driver for Shuttle Direct, the number one provider of shared and private airport transfers all over Europe and northern Africa. If you’re planning a winter break in the Aosta Valley, attraction tips and information on the best restaurants, entertainment and a range of other exciting activities are our specialty. With affordable shared and private ski transfers, Lukas and his colleagues can make sure that you and your luggage get to and from the airport of your choice swiftly and safely.