How to get there

The Regional Museum of Natural Sciences is in Saint-Pierre Castle, in the town of the same name, located 8km north of Aosta, heading towards Courmayeur.

To reach Saint-Pierre:

  • from the A5 motorway: exit at the turning for Aosta-Ovest and go towards Saint-Pierre along the SS26 road for about 3 kilometres
  • coming from Aosta: go through the village of Sarre along the SS26 road, heading towards Courmayeur until you can see the castle on the right
  • coming from Courmayeur: go through the village of Villeneuve. The castle will be on the left.

From whatever direction you arrive, it is impossible to not see the castle which stands unmistakeable on a promontory overlooking the town.

At the foot of the castle there is a car park, and the entrance is reached on foot along a short ramp. At about 200 metres from the entrance there is a large parking area for coaches (Piazzale Cofruits).


Opening hours

Castello chiuso

At the moment, Saint-Pierre Castle is closed to the public while major restoration and conservation work is being carried out for the safety of an architectural monument. Also for the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences within the castle, the moment has come to renew by completely redeveloping the layout.

All the collections shown in the Museum (some 22,000 natural exhibits, a scientific library containing 3,000 books, in addition to the furniture) have been packed and taken elsewhere until the works are completed.

The work is in full swing, so the ‘appointment’ is postponed until the opening of the New Museum!


Contacts

ADDRESS


Regional Museum of Natural Sciences
Loc. Tache - Castello di Saint-Pierre
11010 Saint Pierre (AO) - Italy


Offices

Natural-scientific research center of the Marais
Localité Chez Borgne – 11015 La Salle (AO) - Italy
Telephone +39 0165 1845115 - fax +39 0165 1845116
Email: info@museoscienze.it
Email PEC: museoscienzevda@pec.it

The research center is closed to public.


Saint-Pierre Castle


il Castello di Saint Pierre

Together with the many other castles, towers and fortified buildings in the Region, Saint-Pierre Castle is an important example of the Valle d’Aosta’s feudal past.

The medieval castles, initially built as a place for refuge, over the years became sumptuous homes to powerful families, the epicentres of both public and private life, the setting for pages and pages of the social history of the period.

Saint-Pierre Castle, whose name derives from its original owners, the De Sancto Petro, is of very ancient origin, at least the 12th century since there is a reference to it in a document dated 1191.
The original building consisted of two distinct parts, the fortified house and the tower, which were only il Castello di Saint Pierre later joined by the addition of other structures for civil and military use, depending on the needs and the possibilities of the various successions of owners.

Over the centuries, the castle belonged to several lordships. From the lords of Quart, in 1321 another portion passed into the hands of the Duke of Savoia, a co-lordship that in 1405 also extended to the Challant family. The Roncas, who acquired the entire property in the early 1600s, enlarged the complex and magnificently furnished its interiors.

In the subsequent changes of ownership, the castle became neglected, and only 1873 did the last owner, Baron Emanuele Bollati, make significant changes with the help of the architect Camillo Boggio. In line with the period’s style of transformational restoration, he renewed the castle according to a personal vision, midway between the Romantic and the Decadent, perhaps inspired by the Bavarian castles.

He was responsible for the addition of the four round towers at the corners whose purpose was purely decorative, setting Saint-Pierre Castle apart in the architectural vernacular of medieval Valle d’Aosta.

Inside, the castle consists of nine rooms that still retain the typical medieval structure. Of particular interest are the partly underground stables and what is known as the “throne room” full of period furniture, with a large stone fireplace on which is painted the coat of arms of Saint-Pierre. Today the Saint-Pierre Castle is owned by the Municipality.



History of the Museum

il Castello di Saint Pierre - foto storica

The Regional Museum of Natural Sciences of the Valle d’Aosta was inaugurated and opened to the public on 1 June 1985, but its history began long before when, in 1905, the Société de la Flore Valdôtaine, founded in 1858 by the Canons Georges Carrel and Edouard Bérard who created a private museum in order to study and illustrate the natural sciences and physical geography of the Valle d'Aosta.
The Société initially operated through the encouragement of Canon P. L. Vescoz, supporter and first curator of the museum, assisted by other naturalists such as Abbot J. Henry, president of the scientific society for some forty years, and the botanist L. Vaccari. Chronicles of the time speak of a not very large exhibition, but appreciated by both visitors and the press.
Over the years, the Museum was located in various places. In 1934, during the Fascist regime, since the Société de la Flore Valdôtaine did not have the wherewithal to rent new rooms, it was forced to hand over its collections to the Aosta Alpine Military School which took charge of them and kept them for almost forty years in the Castle of Duca degli Abruzzi.
In 1971, a group of naturalists and devotees of the Société de la Flore Valdôtaine decided to retrieve the collections and rebuild the Museum. The inauguration took place on 2 June 1975 at the former Chapel of Saint-Laurent, opposite the Collegiate Church of Sant’Orso in the centre of Aosta. After just two seasons, the Museum was once again forced to move due to the opening of archaeological excavations beneath the chapel.
In 1977, the Municipality of Saint-Pierre offered space within the Castle it owned. It was in this historic building that the Museum found a worthy venue, and which will be once again housing it in the new, reorganised rooms once the works for restoring and conserving the Castle have been completed.



The new Museum

il Castello di Saint Pierre il Castello di Saint Pierre il Castello di Saint Pierre

The path leading to the creation of the new Museum began in 2008 when the Castle and Museum were closed to the public to enable major restoration and conservation work to be carried out for the safety of this historic building and to refurbish its interiors for the museum.
The Regional Administration of the Valle d’Aosta has played its part by earmarking significant funding for this project, with the dual aim of enhancing the architectural heritage and renewing the museum’s display. The combination of Castle and Museum is the cornerstone on which the new museum project rests, introducing visitors to the architecturally historic building and to the science and nature collection, applying an approach in line with the very latest trends in museum displays and functions. The aim is to create a tour route that engages the public, placing emphasis on exciting interactive systems while conveying the contents and messages with due scientific rigour.
The new museum will be based on interactivity, experience and technology to bring out the best in the collections and to explain to different categories of public the natural history of the Valle d’Aosta, its biological and environmental wealth even compared to other areas in the Alps.
Following a Europe-wide call for bids, posted in August 2010, which was answered by 27 companies from all over Italy, the work was awarded to the Consorzio Cooperative Costruzioni - CCC Società Cooperativa di Bologna for a total of €2,650,000. On 23 August 2011, the contract for awarding the works was signed, which also includes consolidating the structure, building two lifts and renewing the basic systems. The works for this first functional part began on 2 September 2011 and will be completed in 540 consecutive calendar days.
On 27 October 2011, at the Council Hall of the Municipality of Saint-Pierre, the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources of the Valle d’Aosta, the Municipality of Saint-Pierre and the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences of Valle d’Aosta presented to the public the project to restore the Castle. During the evening, attended by Regional Councillor Giuseppe Isabellon, the Mayor of Saint-Pierre Daniela Lale Demoz, the Chairman of the Museum Rosanna Piervittori and, for the design team, Ing. Adriano Venturini, there was shown the programme for the historic monument’s refurbishment and the future museum layout.