Aosta Valley on Sophie’s World
We have covered quite a bit of the Aosta Valley here on the blog in recent weeks. In part I, we talked about Mont Blanc and the ultra-cool Skyway Monte Bianco, as well as the awesomest way to travel between Italy and France, 4 km up in the air.
Part II was all about Gressoney, one of two side valleys at the foot of mighty Monte Rosa. I told you about hiking in stunning (and steep!) terrain, and about a castle with a gorgeous staircase and a fab story about a queen and her pizza. I also touched upon the Walser people, who arrived in Valle d’Aosta 800 years ago; their culture and lifestyle still play an important role in the valley.
And I mentioned a lovely family-run hotel in Gressoney-la-Trinité, and several local eateries. I talked about the rifugios (mountain huts) along the trails, where you can spend the night and/or get a bite to eat – and last, but not least, about Aosta Valley foods and wines.
In part III, we left sports behind for a look at culture. In Roman times, Aosta, capital of the region, was an important military site, and as you wander around the very well-preserved Roman ruins – through the Praetorian Gate, across the impressive Roman bridge, or enjoy an evening at the Teatro Romano, you’re easily transported 2,000 years back in time.
Here in Part IV, we will travel to Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso. Magnificent name for a national park, isn’t it? To get there, we travel up Cogne Valley, another side valley in the south of Aosta Valley. We will also take a look at another family-run hotel, three generations, no less – and their green initiative.
OK, let’s get on with it!
The road from Castello di Aymavilles at the entrance to Cogne Valley, is pretty spectacular. Tall peaks rise on both sides of us.
Eager to get out and about right away, we stash our kit at Notre Maison (more on this in a bit), and walk to Cogne. The village is a 20-minute walk away, breathtaking landscape all around.
Cogne is delightful, with a little village square and shops selling local crafts.
But no shopping spree today, as we’re headed for Cave de Cogne for a spot of wine.
Wine tasting at Cave de Cogne
We take another way back, slightly longer (about 30 minutes), through forest paths and along the Grand Eyvia River.
Ever more spectacular views over the valley.
Stefano is our guide today. He loves Abba (especially Agneta), so naturally, we stop by Stefano’s house and sing a few Abba tunes for his wife.
Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso
Yeh, I could camp out here for a while.
You will have heard of the Dolomites. And you may have heard of the Aosta Valley (at least you have if you are following this blog). But chances are, you have never heard of Gran Paradiso. Valle d’Aosta may be a secret, and Gran Paradiso even more so. A secret within a secret.
Gran Paradiso is Italy’s oldest national park and named after the massif. Il Gran Paradiso is the only mountain above 4,000 metres that is entirely within Italy’s borders.
The national park covers an area of 703 square km – about the size of Singapore – and is it ever lovely! Deep valleys, enchanting forests, cascading waterfalls and lush meadows framed by snowy peaks, rich green lakes, and charming villages. You will also find several species of plants and animals, including wild ibex and chamois. And native butterflies.
Left: Testa della Tribolazione – 3,642 metres. Right: Moi – 1.60 metres
Gran Paradiso offers excellent hiking, biking, climbing, canyoning, paragliding, and pretty much any wild and wacky mountain activity you can imagine.
Kenneth and Anne e-biking in Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso
Like Gressoney Valley – and probably all over Valle d’Aosta – you might want to double check any estimates you get from locals about hiking times – else, you might be in for a surprise. What takes 45 minutes for an experienced local hiker can very well take twice as long for the more casual walkers amongst us, depending on whether you are going down, or up, up, up (and you will invariably go up, up, up), and on how used you are to moving (quickly) at altitude.
Eco Wellness Hotel Notre Maison
I mentioned a family-run hotel. At Eco Wellness Hotel Notre Maison, sustainability is in focus all the time and everywhere. They have their own biomass power plant that produces electricity and heating for the entire hotel.
Andrea demonstrating the eco properties of the hotel
Notre Maison seems pretty fully booked, so we have a few lively evenings in the restaurant and by the fireplace.
e-cars are available for hire, and guests can borrow e-bikes and mountain bikes.
Nice day for a bike ride
Sadly, mine won’t cooperate today.
So instead of getting another bike and have everyone wait, I spend the rest of the day by the pool. I’m trying to read a book, but my eyes are continually drawn to this mountain top before me, making my imagination run wild.
They’re not really people, though. Or are they…
Working on my freckles with a piña colada (virgin) for lunch.
The spa area has pools indoors and outdoors, as well as a little mountain lake.
After two days in Cogne Valley, it is time to say goodbye to Andrea, Irma, Stefania and Angelo: two of three generations Celesias.