A long valley flanked by counter-valleys that climb to the highest Alpine peaks, the Valais Alps and the Mont Blanc massif to the north, and the Gran Paradiso massif to the south, Valle d'Aosta is the upper valley of the Dora Baltea, a tributary of the Po.
An exclusively French-speaking region since the 16th century, it underwent a forced Italianisation during the Fascist period, which it resisted well.
It is an Italian region with special status, largely autonomous, where the official languages are French and Italian. In fact, Valdôtain dialects are spoken rather than French, which is nevertheless spoken or understood by 75% of the inhabitants.
These dialects are variants of Arpitan (or Francoprovençal) and are the mother tongue of only about 16% of the population. The Valle d'Aosta is nowadays the only region in the world where Francoprovençal is still a living language.
Piedmontese, a language related to Italian, is also spoken in the lower valley, as well as an Alemannic language, Walsertütsch, in the Lys valley at the foot of Monte Rosa.
The two most famous peaks of the Alps, Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, emblematic of France and Switzerland, are in fact located astride the border of Valle d'Aosta and should not be missed from the Italian perspective!
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