The drive to Forte di Bard led us through many tunnels, carved into the mountainside and at times, under rocky overpasses, guarded by a mesh cage to prevent pieces of rock from falling onto the car. There were also quite a few castle like structures scattered throughout the hills – mostly uninhabited remnants crumbling with age. The drive to Forte di Bard was half the fun as it was scenic and full of photo opportunities. For years, Forte di Bard was neglected as well, but thankfully, it was restored an reopened to visitors in 2006.
Today, the fort is a modern day museum with multiple art galleries and a cafeteria where you can grab a cappuccino and a bite to eat. There are two carts that bring visitors to two upper levels where you can enjoy sweeping views of Aosta Valley, the commune of Bard, and the Dora Baltea River. There is also a large courtyard that is used for various performances in the summer.
I’m not sure if this is always the case, but when we got off the first cart, it was SUPER windy – so much so that it felt like being in a wind tunnel, with the wind actually blowing the skin on my face back. It was windy enough to nearly knock me off my feet! I took some video, but I haven’t uploaded it yet, so for now, you can see a pic below that JC took of me where my hair is whipping around madly.
Here is some really interesting information I found on Wikipedia, about the Forte di Bard:
The fort, which is at the entrance to the Aosta Valley, is located in a narrow gorge above the Dora Baltea river. It has been used for millennia to control the historic route between Italy and France.
On May 14, 1800, a 40,000-strong French Army was stopped by 400 Austro-Piedmont soldiers at Fort Bard. They held the pass for two weeks completely ruining Napoleon Bonaparte’s plan of making a surprise attack on the Po Valley and Turin. When he heard the news, he named the fort vilain castel de Bard. Bonaparte then gave the order himself, that the fort should be razed to the ground.
It was not until 1830 that Charles Albert of Savoy, fearing new attacks from the French, ordered that the fort be rebuilt. The task was entrusted to the famed Italian military engineer, Francesco Antonio Olivero.
The work, which took eight years to complete, created a fort with two distinct levels. The upper part had conventional battlements whereas the lower part had 50 gun ports in autonomous casements that were designed to offer mutual protection if attacked. A total of 416 soldiers could now be billeted in the 283-room fort. The upper level had a courtyard which contained the arsenals and barracks. The fort had enough ammunition and food supplies for three months.
By the end of the 19th century, the fort had lost its military value and fell into disuse. However, the Italian Army did continue to use the fort as a powder magazine. When it closed in 1975, ownership passed to the government of the Autonomous Region of Valle d’Aosta. In the 1980s the fort opened as a tourist attraction despite many buildings needing urgent repair.
In the late 1990s the fort was closed. It then underwent major restoration work. In 2006 Fort Bard reopened as the Museum of the Alps. Fort Bard and the surrounding town were then used to stand in for the fictional Eastern European country of Sokovia for the film Avengers: Age of Ultron.