Verrès Castle has been called one of the most impressive buildings from the Middle Ages in the Aosta Valley. Built as a military fortress by Yblet de Challant in the 14th century, it was one of the first examples of a castle constructed as a single structure rather than as a series of buildings enclosed in a circuit wall. The castle stands on a rocky promonitory on the opposite side of the Dora Baltea from Issogne Castle. The castle dominates the town of Verrès and the access to the Val d'Ayas. From the outside it looks like an austere cube, thirty metres long on each side and practically free of decorative elements.
The earliest documents attesting the existence of a castle at Verrès date to 1287. At that time, control of the area was contested between the Bishop of Aosta and some noble families which were vassals of the Counts of Savoy.
Around the middle of the 14th century, the De Verretio became extinct without leaving any possible heirs, so their property came into the possession of the counts of Savoy, who granted it to Yblet de Challant in 1372 as a reward for diverse duties discharged in their service.
Yblet entirely rebuilt the castle, producing a fortress that was practically impenetrable and distinct from most of the contemporary castles of the region which consisted of a number of buildings surrounded by a circuit wall.
In 1536 the fortress was renovated to take account of the appearance of firearms. The base of the cubic structure was surrounded by a circuit wall with counterforts and polygonal turrets, adapted to cope with cannons and equipped with pieces of artillery. The cannons were brought from Switzerland.
Hovewere, Verrès was abandoned in 1661 after the powerful Fort Bard was built. After a series of transfers it was finally acquired in 1894 by the Italian state which carried out restoration work.
In 2004 the castle was closed to allow strengthening and adjustment of the structure. Since then was reopened and has been open to guided tours.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick.