I’ve taken a bit of a break from writing while enjoying a lovely summer in the Pacific Northwest of America. But finally, we are traveling again and exploring new regions of Italy. Our first stop is the Valle d’Aosta, a region in the Western Alps just below France and Switzerland, and just north of Turin.
We chose the pleasant town of Aosta as our base for hiking the many trails available in this area. From this historic town, we have a choice of several valleys with excellent hiking trails. Many offer views of some of the highest peaks in Europe, including Mont Blanc and Monte Cervino (also known as the Matterhorn). It’s also not far to drive a bit south to explore Gran Paradiso, Italy’s first National Park.
The mountains are so close, we just had to take a short day hike.
We met up with our Swiss friends who drove the Great Saint Bernard Pass to spend a day with us in Aosta. We decided to try a local trail not far outside of Aosta in the Valpelline Valley. We drove past the small village of Bionaz until we found the large parking area right at the trailhead.
There are a few choices of trails depending if you want to climb higher or stay rather flat. Because it was after lunch—a wonderful Italian lunch—we chose to stay on the easier, lower trail, #9 that runs up the valley.
This turned out to be a very easy but scenic walk. This well maintained trail follows Lago di Places Moulin, a huge manmade lake that was a brilliant turquoise yesterday. The lake was formed from the Buthier River that runs down the valley. On a sunny Sunday, the trail was well used, but not too crowded. As we walked along, we had wonderful views of the lake below and the snow covered mountains ahead. Tȇte Blanc and several glaciers were clearly visible along the way. We hoped to have views of the Matterhorn, also known as Monte Cervino, but we didn’t get quite high enough.
Along the path we admired the views and found the small chapel dedicated to St. Grato, one of the patron saints of Aosta. The door was locked, to we could only appreciate the beautiful stonework outside.
After about 5 kilometers we arrived at the pleasant Rifugio Prarayer that provides snacks, light meals and beverages for all of the hikers. We sat outside at the picnic tables where we could enjoy the views and listen to the cowbells of the local herds grazing nearby—not a bad way to spend our first full day in Italy.