Sarre Royal Castle stands on a promontory in Lalex, which overlooks the Aosta flatland above the national road for Mont Blanc. It was built in 1710 on the ruins of a fortress mentioned in 1242. The property was purchased by the King of Italy Victor Emanuel II, who renovated it and used it during hunting expeditions in Val d’Aosta. The royal castle of Sarre, after becoming the private property of the King, was used as his headquarters for expeditions in the valleys of Cogne, Rhêmes and Valsavarenche.
Several modifications were made to the residence, in order to welcome the first king of Italy, including raising of the tower and construction of new stables. Inside, the rooms were completely reconstructed and modernised. The curator of the Royal Palace in Milan was charged with furnishing the residence, for which he transferred furniture from other royal residences. Victor Emmanuel’s successor, Umberto I (1844-1900) also destined the alpine castle for hunting activities.
In the final years of his reign, Umberto I took a particular interest in the Sarre residence and commissioned the renovation of its interior. At that time, works included important decorations in monumental rooms, garnished with ibex and chamois trophies. Queen Maria José also spent her holidays in the castle, even in the years following the monarchy. In 1989 the Val d´Aosta regional authority purchased the estate to restore it. The castle has a longitudinal body with a square tower in the centre, and is a museum of the presence of the Savoy in Valle d’Aosta.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.