Forte di Bard (Italy)

The MBFF team are big fans of Italy for holidays!  As a destination from the Arve Valley, it is easy to get there through the Mont Blanc Tunnel and we can also book hotels and apartments last minute!  Italians LOVE children (and not just well-behaving children; ALL children!), the food is very family-friendly (and delicious!), and there is endless nature and culture to explore.

We have had great fun in recent years skiing at Courmayeur, exploring the castles of the Aosta Valley (as well as Aosta itself) and heading further afield towards Lago di Viverone, Lago Maggiore, Lago di Como, Piemonte, Liguria and Tuscany.

For many years, as we were heading down the Aosta Valley, we would see an impressive and imposing fortress, and wonder about its history . . . and finally I researched.  And how glad I am that I did!

We had been looking at the Forte di Bard.

Forte di Bard © montblancfamilyfun

And we have never looked back; the Forte di Bard now figures firmly on our “to visit this year” list!


History of the Forte di Bard

The current Forte di Bard was originally built by the House of Savoy in the early 1800s as a military stronghold and it has remained largely intact since its construction!  Formed by three defence stations that are positioned at different levels on the rock, the stronghold hoped to repel any army advances like that of Napoléon’s siege of 1800 (he razed to the ground the previous stronghold!).  A century later, the fortress eventually became army property, fell into disuse by 1975 and was then acquired by the Autonomous Region of Valle d’Aosta in 1900.  Fast forward a few decades, and a regeneration project was then conceived; opened in 2006, today visitors can enjoy incredible exhibition spaces, museums, accomodation and hospitality all within the complex of an old fortress!  Forte di Bard, together with the pretty village of Bard, has become one of the principal cultural centres of the Western Alps.

Forte di Bard © montblancfamilyfun

A family visit to the Forte di Bard 

What is there to visit at the Forte di Bard?  As well as just wandering around the fortress and exploring all the nooks and crannies, admiring the views, enjoying riding the funiculars, there are temporary exhibitions and museums to visit at this extraordinary complex!

Museums
  • The Museum of the Alps – this museum, located in the Opera Carlo Alberto (at the very top of the fortified rock!), is divided into four sections and will take you on an interactive journey through the Alps.  Each section is narrated by a specialist: a naturalist, a geographer, an anthropologist and a meteorologist;
  • Children’s Museum (Le Alpi dei Ragazzi) – used mostly by schools, but also open to the public on Sundays and holidays, this is an interactive museum dedicated to youngsters . . . they can even make a virtual climb of Mont Blanc here!
Children’s Museum at the Forte di Bard © montblancfamilyfun
The Children’s Museum at the Forte di Bard – aspiring mountaineers! © montblancfamilyfun
  • Prison Museum – this new, permanent exhibition area in the Opera Carlo Alberto, is now open to the public and the tiny prison cells provide the route through the exhibition.  Visitors can learn about the military history of the Forte di Bard, the protagonists in this history and the architectural evolution of the fortress too;
William Turner at the The Prison Museum © montblancfamilyfun
Temporary Exhibitions
«Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016« – Forte di Bard © Sam Hobson / Forte di Bard
  • «Discovering Tiziano» – this exhibition will also be open to the public until the 4th June 2017;
  • «Steve McCurry, Mountain Men» photo exhibition until 26th November 2017 – 10h to 18h Tuesday to Friday and Saturdays and Sundays until 19h (shut Mondays) – 77 photos depicting man and mountains, from Afghanistan, India, Brazil, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Morocco . . . ;
    «Steve McCurry: Mountain Men» – Forte di Bard © Forte di Bard
Events
  • Napoleonica – on Saturday 2nd September and Sunday 3rd September 2017, the fort and the village of Bard are to host the fourth edition of Napoleonica.  This event re-enacts Napoléon Bonaparte’s famous siege in May 1800, during the Second Italian Campaign;
  • Christmas – I hope there will be more Christmas events scheduled in 2017, as I imagine that Christmas in the village of Bard to be just magical!

Getting around the Forte di Bard

The Forte di Bard is huge, but thankfully the regeneration project was tremendously well thought-out and so getting around is very easy.  There are funiculars running up the exterior walls of the fortress and some inner lifts too.  All of this can be accessed directly from the car park.  Alternatively, you can walk up through the pretty village of Bard.  We usually choose to walk (or run) back down to the car park, to release a bit of “young boy energy” . . . you will be rewarded on this downhill journey with marvellous views, modern sculptures and even a small climbing wall!

Forte di Bard © montblancfamilyfun
Walking up through the pretty village of Bard © montblancfamilyfun
Bard village © montblancfamilyfun
Forte di Bard climbing wall © montblancfamilyfun

Eating options at the Forte di Bard

There is a very good and affordable cafeteria at the top of the Forte di Bard called Caffetteria di Gola (located in the old gunpowder room) and a restaurant, la Polveriera.  Be sure to arrive early with small, hungry children, as it does get busy at the weekend.  The village of Bard also has restaurants.


Hotel Cavour et des Officiers

A hotel set right at the very top of this majestic fortress – wow!  Our friends treated themselves to a night at this very special hotel located within the fortress last summer! and they said the howling wind that night added to the experience We followed suit and treated the family to a night at this hotel this April (a post to come on this very, very special experience!);

Hotel Cavour et des Officiers © montblancfamilyfun

Bookshop

There is a wonderful bookshop at the Forte de Bard, and you can pick up books, postcards and magnets, etc . . . here.


Opening hours:

Forte di Bard complex:
Tuesday to Friday:  10h – 18h;
Weekends: 10h – 19h;
CLOSED on Mondays and 25th December;
Open every day between 26th December and 6th January

Museum of the Alps:
Tuesday to Saturday: from 10h – 18h;
Sunday and holidays: from 10h – 19h

Children’s Museum of the Alps (Le Alpi dei Ragazzi):
During the week, this museum is reserved for groups with a booking (tel: + 39 0125 833817);
Sundays and on holidays: from 11h – 19h

Prison Museum;
Tuesday to Saturday: from 11h – 18h;
Sundays and  holidays: from 11h – 19h


Prices:

Museum of the Alps:
Adults: 8€
Seniors (over 65s) and students: 6€
Children: 4€

Children’s Museum of the Alps (Le Alpi dei Ragazzi):
Adults: 6€
Seniors (over 65s) and students: 5€
Children (6–18 years): 4€
Families: reduced price for 2 adults with at least 2 children (maximum 18 years)
FREE for children under 6 years and for the disabled

«Wildlife Photographer of the Year» exhibition:
Adults: 7€
Seniors (over 65s) and students: 5€
Children (6–18 years): 4€
FREE for children under 6 years

The Prisons Museum:
Adults: 4€
Seniors (over 65s) and students: 3€

*The ticket office shuts one hour before the closing time of the fortress complex*

Address:
Forte di Bard
1020 Bard (AO)
Valle d’Aosta
Italy

Tel: +39 0125 833811

Website: www.fortedibard.it

Parking: there is a paying car park right at the foot of Forte di Bard, but if you don’t mind a short walk, then there is the FREE Lieron car park along the SS26.  We have tried both options!

Getting there: see here for more details about how to get to the Forte di Bard.

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