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A pilgrimage to Fort Bard, December 2015

With side trips to Ivrea and the Sabauda Gallery in Turin


You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Castle-chasing near the Val d'Aosta and Piedmont

Castles are everywhere in the Val d'Aosta and farther downriver in the Piemonte region (the frontier between the regions is just south of Pont Saint-Martin near here), and in the little time remaining to us, we're going to find at least one more.

We're in the Piedmont region now, and that's the Castello di Montestrutto on the hill. It looks fantastic, almost too good to be true, and it sort of is. The 10th century castle was destroyed in the 16th century during the Franco-Spanish Italian wars, and the present beautiful complex is a Neo-Gothic concept from about 1900. It's now a B+B, probably very fun.

Now, as we traverse the town of Montalto Dora, just north of Ivrea, we're coming up on the Castello di Montalto Dora, which Kristin had spotted earlier and set us as this afternoon's project.

We found some aging information boards in downtown Montalto Dora, describing the virtues of the region, but they were inconclusive about how to drive up closer to the castle. So we're using instinct and common sense to find our own way up the hill. Let's see how that goes.

Well, so far so good.

That's the castle, all right. It was first built in the early 12th century and belonged to the Bishops of Ivrea; the Savoyards owned it through the 14th century and sold it on to a local family in 1403. The interiors were destroyed by the French army during its siege of Ivrea in 1641, though the external structures remained, and since the 19th century, and especially more recently, private owners have worked on its restoration. It's also a B+B now.

In our search for the Castello di Montalto Dora, we've passed a few isolated sheep farms, and the road is beginning to look more suitable for sheep than for cars.

So we'd better forsake the car and proceed on foot. Our hopes are high.

That's not the castle. But we're undeterred.

There it is; it's hard to tell if we're getting closer. Perhaps not.

Anyway, we're congratulating ourselves for having ditched the car.

Especially so as we've just run out of road entirely. The hills here are dotted with many lovely lakes, and it turns out that we're on a recommended hiking path that visits five or six of them in one go.

But very likely, the hiking path will lead around to the side and deposit us very near the Castello di Montalto Dora.

There's one of the lakes now; no castle, though. If that is Lago Pistono, we're looking good; if it's Lago Nero we're stuffed. It's kind of round like Lago Nero.

But we're undeterred.

Not much B+B traffic here so far, though there are plentiful signs of equestrian sports.

Doubts are intervening.

One always hates to give up before the goal has been attained, but sometimes . . .

Back to the car and back down the road, and there it is. Taunting us.

Ghibelline sympathizers they were, judging from the style of the fortifications.

Back to Bard; we're driving home tomorrow.

Packing up in the Casa Ciuca in Bard

Leaving Bard

The SS26 strada statale going north

The autostrada entrance is in Verres, and we'll try for a distant look at its castle as well.

There it is, built by Ibleto of the Challant family in 1390. It's visitable (3 euros), but we'll have to come back.

Another one just north of Verrès

That in the centre is apparently the south side of the Grand Combin.

Through the galleries leading to the Grand St-Bernard tunnel

The Swiss side of the Grand St-Bernard at Bourg St-Pierre, and the Hotel Bivouac de Napoleon coming up

Down to the town of Orsière, with Champex-Lac up behind that mountain, Le Bonhomme, to the left

And home. Squirrel is relieved.


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 26 January 2016.


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