Wine and Wanderlust

The Charming Italian Village of Valle d’Aosta

The Charming Italian Village of Valle d’Aosta
Just two hours from Milan (on a good traffic day), and north of Piemonte at Italy’s border with France and Switzerland is Valle d’Aosta. It’s a region that’s part French, part Italian, but amazingly scenic. Here, the highest peaks in the Alps, the Matterhorn and Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) compete for attention with the rugged and unspoiled wilderness of Italy’s oldest national park, the Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso. The regional capital of Aosta has some impressive Roman ruins and a multitude of castles and the spa town of St. Vincent is a popular gambling destination. Some of the more popular destinations for day trips include:

Courmayeur 

Courmayeur is one of Italy’s most scenic villages looking out over the Mont Blanc region. It’s a popular ski resort among both Italians and Americans, especially the Hollywood set. I call it “where the beautiful people go”; on a recent ski trip, in 0° weather, women were sitting at the outdoor cafes in tank tops sunning their already tanned bodies. Courmayeur also has some wonderful shopping.
Valle d'Aosta

Entrèves

Just a few kilometers from Courmayeur is the alpine village of Entrèves, sprinkled with a number of chalets. Even older than Courmayeur, Entrèves is an ancient community that’s small and compact, a mountain village of wooden houses. From the base of Entreves in La Palud, you can catch a cable car that will take you up 3462 meters to Punta Helbronner, a breathtaking journey. There is a terrific restaurant at 2173 meters, Pavillon du Mont Fréty, which features a sun terrace that’s terrific in the spring and summer. You can also take the cablecar all the way over into Chamonix if you choose not to drive.
Valle d'Aosta

Chamonix, France

Chamonix is situated directly on the other side of Entreve through the Mont Blanc tunnel. You might remember that this vital link between France and Italy was closed by a tragic fire in the spring of 1999. In 2002, the tunnel reopened amid claims of “the safest in the world.” It’s a quit, and safe, 20- minute trip into France. Chamonix and its valley are dominated by the Mont Blanc chain to the south and the Aiguilles Rouges (red peaks) to the north. The town center is situated at an altitude of 1035 meters and the top of the valley lies the village of Le Tour (1462 meters). The Chamonix is situated directly on the other side of Entreve through the Mont Blanc tunnel. You might remember that this vital link between France and Italy was closed by a tragic fire in the spring of 1999. In 2002, the tunnel reopened amid claims of “the safest in the world.” It’s a quit, and safe, 20- minute trip into France. Chamonix and its valley are dominated by the Mont Blanc chain to the south and the Aiguilles Rouges (red peaks) to the north. The town center is situated at an altitude of 1035 meters and the top of the valley lies the village of Le Tour (1462 meters). The Arve, the main river of the upper Savoy flows through the center of Chamonix and is lined with French cafes.
The food in this region is uniquely un-Italian. Called Valdostana, the fare is polenta and sausage, thick stews with beef and red wine (carbonada is the most common stew like this), and buttery fontina cheese dishes. The meals are hearty and filling for all the mountain-climbing and skiing.
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Our favorite place to stay in this region is Auberge da la Maison, a charming hotel in Entreve. Auberge da la Maison sits at the foot of Mont Blanc where you can sit on a grassy hill in comfy lounge chairs and admire the glaciers. It feels like a quaint little 5-star hotel with comfortable rooms, a great downstairs bar area for chatting with the locals and a fabulous breakfast overlooking the Mont Blanc. The hotel is very reasonably priced: for a family room which includes an upstairs loft with twin beds, rates begin at 200 euros. The owners are incredibly friendly and speak terrific English.


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