One of the five regions with a special status in the Italian Republic. The smallest province by the territory and population of all 20 Italian regions, Aosta Valley (Valle d'Aosta) is located in the north-west of the country on the border with France and Switzerland (mainly French-speaking canton of Valais). Its level of economic well-being is much higher than the national average.
The title group is French-speaking Valdostani. The region became a part of Italian state in 1861 when representatives of Savoy dynasty established the Kingdom of Italy. France can be regarded as a kin-state to Valle d'Aosta, the connection being not of a political but a cultural-linguistic nature.
At the end of the Second World War, the Valle d'Aosta inhabitants continuously expressed strong autonomist and separatist sentiments. However, without the support of France and international guarantees, the separatists lost their cause. The province remained a part of Italy and received an autonomous status in 1945, which was constitutionally secured in 1948.
By this moment, the region has significantly changed its attitude towards the ethnolinguistic situation. French and Italian have the same official status in the public sphere of the whole province; the Walser language (of German origin) in Valle del Lys has the localized official status. Also, the local variant of the Franco-Provençal (Arpita) language is highly visible in the region. Despite the plurality of spoken languages, the majority of the population considers Italian as their native language (about 70% as of 2001) and the language of everyday communication. About half of the residents (2001) can speak all three major languages; French and Franco-Provençal occupy separate functional niches. Specific policies to preserve the multilingualism of the region are widely employed.