Issogne and Fenis: stunning castles in Val d’Aosta
On the right bank of the Dora Baltea, in Val d’Aosta, is a residential fort that dates back to the 1400s. Issogne Castle takes its name from the nearby town. It was created in Renaissance style, sparingly adorned on the outside, almost austere, with towers that are only slightly higher than the fort itself. The surrounding defensive wall encloses a small courtyard, the center of which has a fountain in the form of a pomegranate tree made of wrought iron, with water flowing from its branches. The internal part of the defensive wall contain many frescoes depicting the coats of arms of the Challant family, who built the fort and owned it for many years. The spaces underneath the cross vaults of the portico in the courtyard are decorated with realistic, colorful designs.
Several interior rooms of the castle may be visited, having been carefully refurbished, including the kitchen, with typical objects from the period, the dining room and the baronial room with exposed ceiling trusses and walls decorated with landscapes, hunting scenes and the Judgment of Paris. Taking the winding stone staircase to the first floor, you will find the Gothic-style chapel and two of the Countess’ rooms, which also include ornamentation from the period. Finally, on the second floor, you can visit the King of France’s room, which includes the original four-poster bed, as well as the room of Cavaliers of Saint Maurice. Both rooms have magnificent paneled ceilings.
Fénis Castle is another nearby residential fort, however in a completely different style, and is located in the town of the same name. In fact, it appears to be a defensive structure, with the corners of the structure leading to crenellated towers and a double defensive wall surrounding it. However, it is not situated on an overlook, rather, on a slight embankment. The Challant family built this castle as well, specifically, the Fénis branch of the family. The castle has a pentagonal layout, with a massive tower in the southwest corner, a square tower on the south side, and circular towers in the other corners. Inside the double defensive wall, you will find the keep with small towers connected by a walkway. In the internal courtyard, there are stables for the animals and, on the opposite side, the service areas – kitchen, dining room, weapons room, tax office and study. The first floor is dedicated to the lords and ladies of the castle, and here you will find another kitchen, the hall, courtroom and chapel, which is perhaps the most interesting room, divided in half by a grate and decorated with Gothic frescoes and wooden sculptures. The uppermost floor was reserved for guests as well as some of the servants. There are other fascinating frescoes in the internal courtyard that depict Saint George killing the dragon and a group of wise men and prophets carrying scrolls with proverbs and moral maxims written in ancient French.