The Perfect Guide To An Enthralling Experience In The Alps

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A sweeping view of the countryside dotted with castles, vineyards, and ancient Roman ruins, a gorgeous valley nestled under the majestic Mont Blanc, chalets offering warm Italian hospitality, and a social calendar taking travellers on an cultural overdrive; this is Aosta Valley, one of Italy’s best kept secrets.

By Shibani Bawa

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Stay

Find a base at a charming boutique property to begin your exploration of the region.

Courmayeur

Auberge de la Maison

Set in a lawn, this boutique property has the incredible backdrop of the majestic Mont Blanc massif. Lounge on the sunbeds and take in the spectacular scenery. A concrete wood and stone structure outdoors is cosied up with a warm fire and complementary appetisers every evening. aubergemaison.it

Au Coeur des Neiges

The plush new property has several kinds of chalet accommodations—the single room Petit Chalets to the Grand Chalet Mont Blanc split over three levels with double bedrooms, and a private wine cellar. The wellness area boasts an indoor pool with hydromassage and a variety of other spa treatments.

Hotel Gran Baita

Located in a picturesque village centre within a comfortable walking distance from downtown Courmayeur, the 54 rooms at Hotel Gran Baita have a balcony that opens up to a panoramic vista of the snow-capped Alps.

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Veneto

Duca d’Aosta Hotel

The recently refurbished property is located in the heart of the historical Aosta valley. Walking distance from ancient Roman ruins, Duca d’Aosta offers a great mix of history and is a perfect place to take in the vibrant buzz of city centre.

Villa Condulmer

Bucolic-themed frescos, fine stuccos, terrazzo veneziano flooring, all inside a hotel shrouded in mystey. From its east barn, you can access a beautiful park by architect Sebatoni.

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Lay Of The Land

The Aosta Valley (locally known as Valle d’Aosta) is a semi-autonomous region in northwestern Italy. From here, the road forks into two routes—France and Switzerland. Aosta Valley has a peculiar local identity inspired by both French and Italian cultures, and offers a refreshing mix of history as well as sport.

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Courmayeur is a region in Aosta Valley sitting snug on the French and Swiss border. It is most famous for its easy access to the highest peak in the Alps—the 4,810-metre Mont Blanc, fondly referred to as the White Mountain.

Val Veny and Val Ferret are popular valleys, the former extends from Entrèves to Col de la Seigne, on the border with France; and the latter leads to Switzerland. The area is a skiers’ paradise in winter and ideal for trekking and excursions in the summer months.

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Getting There

Fly directly into Milan–Malpensa Airport via Lufthansa and drive down to any region in Aosta Valley

After Dark

Like the rest of Italy, the aperitif is a ritual in Courmayeur. Early evenings call for leisurely drinks over local specials in the company of friends.

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Top-notch local wines that are produced in small quantities like the Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle are made of grapes robust enough to grow in the highest vineyards of Europe at 1,200 metres above sea level.

▪ Savoy beers labelled Brasserie Mont Blanc are produced with fresh waters from the Mont Blanc glaciers.

▪ Grappe and herbal distillates are a Aostan pride.

▪ Gin lovers can try Gin Glacialis, another special from Valle d’Aosta.

▪ Sip on refreshing cocktails, especially the internationally renowned Spritz made with Aperol and prosseco.

▪ Schedule a wine tasting at Skyway Monte Bianco. Cave Mont Blanc wines have several spumante (sparkling) wines. Then, the Chaudelune is a sweet ice wine for which the grapes are harvested exactly -6°C.

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Worth A De-Tour

Thermal Spa of Pré-Saint- Didier Relaxation pools with still thermal waters, invigorating waterfalls, themed saunas, saltrooms, aroma steam, chromotherapy, and reflexology massages, —the Terme di Pré-Saint-Didier offers the most fulfi lling day-spa experience. Take in the 19th century building while you relax and enjoy the healing benefi ts of the outdoor, warm, spring-water pools, that overlook the Mont Blanc. The spa restaurant offers the most delicious organic fare including fresh fruits, yoghurt, juices, and granola.

Don’t Miss

Skyway Monte Bianco The new Mont Blanc cable car is made entirely of steel and glass, and off ers a scenic view of the heart of the Alps. The spherical glass cable-car rotates 360 degrees throughout the journey. Divided into two legs, the cable car takes you from Pontal d’Entrèves (at 1,370 metres) to the intermediate station of Pavillon du Mont Fréty (2,173 metres). From there, you are taken to the highest point at Punta Helbronner (3,462 metres).

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Hot Dish

Whether you like traditional delicacies, the ubiquitous pizza, or Swiss style fondue— Aosta Valley offers the choicest meals in cosy settings.

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L’Aubergine

The main restaurant at Auberge de la Maison boasts a spectacular view of Mont Blanc. It is a great place to try local favourites such as fontina fondue with polenta, freshwater fi sh, mushrooms, and sweet chestnuts from the valley.

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La Terrazza

La Terrazza is a familyrun restaurant that has been serving seasonal Mediterranean Italian fare for almost 30 years. While the pizzas are excellent, the special menu also features raclette and fondue. Round up your meal with the Mont Blanc ice cream that comes with a topping of honey, hot chocolate, and nuts.

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Brasserie D’Europe

The Brasserie D’Europe at Duca d’Aosta is casual and welcoming, open all day and serves good Italian food and fine wine. The team is also happy to customise dishes on prior notice. Try the all-vegetarian fare of a quinoa burger with a fresh garden salad. Via Ribitel, 8, Aosta; +39-0165/236-363

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Ristorante Bellevue

Facing Val Veny, this restaurant located at the Skyway’s Level 1, overlooks Mont Blanc. While you may stick to traditionals, here, the chef also caters to a range of international cuisines, including Indian. We recommend the fresh tagliatelle with wild boar.

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High Altitude, High Adrenaline

Ice Falls Climbing icefalls is undoubtedly one the most difficult and fascinating feats for mountaineers. Val Ferret has two icefalls that are perfect for beginners. The Highest Alpine Swimming Pool In Europe At Plan Checrouit, 1,700 metres above sea level, the highest heated mountain swimming pool in Europe is easily accessible via cable car from Dolonne. Open from July 16 to August 28 every year, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Mont Blanc summit from the warmth of the temperature controlled pool.

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See+Do

For a bird’s-eye view of the Alps with a small side of Italian history, head to these locations.

Helicopter Flight

One of the best ways to get an eyeful of the scenic vista of Courmayeur Mont Blanc is in a helicopter flight. Besides the Mont Blanc, you can choose to tour the Dent du Géant (Giant’s Tooth) or the Three Glaciers. The aerial view of the landscape is breathtaking as it varies from pristine snow glaciers to glistening streams meandering through the lush valleys. For lovebirds, there’s also an option to take a tour of the snow-covered Giant’s Tooth followed by a relaxing day at the Baths of Pre Saint Didier.

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Roman Monuments

Five centuries of Roman rule in the Aosta Valley left indelible marks on the architecture of the area. From the Arch of Augustus built in the 25th century BC, to the subterranean gallery of strong arches of the Forum and Cryptoporticus— the Roman architecture lends a unique historical relevance to this region. The stunning Roman Theatre that could have held an audience of three to four thousand people, still has remnants of the 22-metre high southern facade. Take a tour with

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Bard Fortress

Built in the early 1800s, the Bard Fortress still stands strong and intact as the military stronghold that was originally built. You may find the structure familiar as it has been the location of a few famous Hollywood films, the most recent being the Avengers, The Age of Ultron. The Fort is now home to a few museums, including the Fortress Museum, the Frontier Museum, and the Prison. The Museum of the Alps has larger than life structures and the interactive, multimedia journey takes you beyond what the eye can see.

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Bites And Buys

► PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin) products such as Fontina cheese, lard from Arnad, ham from Bosses—are best enjoyed with wholemeal dark bread. Available at most fromageries and charcuteries, these also make for good buys to carry Valle d’Aostan fl avours back home. We especially recommend the bottled fontina fondue.

► The traditional Coppa dell’Amicizia or friendship cup (picture above) also makes for a good souvenir. This wooden hand crafted multi-spouted bowl is typically used as a sharing cup amongst friends for having coffee, laced with grappa and Génépy. According to local tradition, refusing a sip is considered rude.

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Photo of The Perfect Guide To An Enthralling Experience In The Alps by Travel+Leisure India & South Asia

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Photo of The Perfect Guide To An Enthralling Experience In The Alps by Travel+Leisure India & South Asia
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