A wide and sunny valley full of trees, meadows, lakes and with a great view over the Monte Rosa, one of the tallest mountains of Alps. The river Evancon flows through it.
In the valley there are 35 old villages, built around the 13 century, the most beautiful of them are Antagnod, Magneaz and St.. Jacques. Here you can still see the typical Walser houses (rascards), with their upper part made of tree trunks and the lower part of stone.
In the summer (this year it was in August) there is a battle of the queens (not drag queens - these are alpine fighting cows - no bull!) held at Vertosan.
The cows are not 'goaded' into fighting - this is simply a more organized version of what the cows do naturally in the field. They will butt heads to find out who is the bossiest bossy.
This spot in Vertosan (which is a valley, not a town) is so lovely, remote and strange/difficult to get to that it makes the entire experience colored with a very old fashioned flavor. You can imagine you are back in the year 1859 when the first battle of the queens was held here in this very spot.
There are now many of these qualifying contests held in the Valle D'Aosta, starting in March and finishing with the regional finals in the city of Aosta in October.
There are more fun pictures of this non-bloody event in the Travelogue section.
To reach it take the local road (not the highway!) to the small town of Avise (between Courmayeur and Aosta). Start going uphill. Go and go until you reach what appears to be the 'end of the road' in a small parking lot (this will be 1/2 hour of uphill through many tiny villages) in Vens. Then, follow what appears to be a footpath (but is in fact a 4x4 trail) up and up and up some more. Just when you are going to give up, the valley of Vertosan will open up before you and you will see more than 300 people and their cows gathered. . . .
Did I mention that drinking wine is mandatory at these events? There is always food, wine and plenty of local color to soak up.
A couple of kilometres from the centre of Courmayeur is a little village called La Saxe. Comprising of several very, very old houses it is a quiet and charming little spot. Wander through some of the little paths.
Near the tourist resort of Courmayeur (in fact I think it is actually IN Courmayeur) is a little village called Dolonne. The cobble-stoned streets will transport you back in time. There aren't any out-door cafes or anything like that if that's what you're after, at least we didn't see any while we were there.
It is an easy 15 minute walk across the river from the town centre of Courmayeur.
Consider staying in a hotel here as opposed to Courmayeur, as we did.
A good guide for the walks in the area is Gillian Price Walking in italy's Gran Paradiso from Cicerone Press (around £10). This is from one of the walks. It starts at Bruil and takes you through side valleys of the Val di Rhemes. It's very quiet and peaceful (except for enormous biting ants on the way up through the wood) and we saw lots of chamois and baby marmots playing.
Walking in the Gran Paradiso is the best part of a holiday here. Once you set off on a walk you may see no more than one or two people all day and the scenery is nothing short of stunning. As Fodor's guide says "Five heavenly, lake filled valleys render this national park worthy of it's title."
Here we stood for ages enjoying the view - I even got licked by this cow (it's very sloppy and grassy!).
Judging by the sign laying in the bushes, this may have been the Golf Hotel at one time. The rooms...more
I would like to strongly disagree with the jezrmidd review on this hotel. I have been travelling to...more
Breuil-Cervinia, 11021, Italy
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