An adventure paradise (IT)
Snuggled between Switzerland and France, in Italy’s Northwest, the Aosta Valley is a region that could very well be the setting of a fairy tale. While il bel paese offers just about every shade of elegance and charm scattered across its territory, few are the places that wear the “winter wonderland” badge as beautifully as the Aosta Valley. With a population of just over 125,000, the smallest and least inhabited region of the country is home to some of Europe’s highest peaks: the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, Gran Paradiso and the magnificent Mont Blanc, clocking in at 4,810 meters. The Aosta Valley is where sports and recreation come together in a context that is nothing short of breathtaking.
“Circled by so many lofty snow-capped mountains, Valle d’Aosta is truly a paradise for any winter sport enthusiast. Of course, visitors can enjoy the region year-round, but there is nothing quite like breathing in the winter air while skiing down our beloved hills. Mont Blanc is the highest of the Alps, and skiers come from all over the world to the idyllic town of Courmayeur to experience the thrill of descending the Mont Blanc massif,” explains Leonardo Martelli, snowboard instructor at the famous resort.
“Known for its jet-set appeal, the slopes can sometimes seem like a gigantic inclined catwalk where the latest winter wear trends and extravagant equipment are sported by ultra stylish skiers,” laughs Martelli. But in a place like Mont Blanc, a day on the trails is just as exhilarating with low-key gear! Winter hiking and ski mountaineering are two other reasons why people head to the Aosta Valley in the colder months. Excursions are organized daily with professional guides, whose role is to guarantee safety along with an unforgettable experience. At 2,722 meters, Monte Zerbion is a favourite for both hiking and mountaineering. When excursionists spot the statue of the Virgin Mary, they can breathe a sigh of relief: the peak is near.
Perhaps the best way to end an adventurous day on the slopes is unwinding and getting pampered at one of the many spas in the region. The thermal springs of Saint-Vincent and Pré-Saint-Didier are the most widely known and visited in the area. With state of the art facilities, both spas offer everything one needs to fully relax in a peaceful setting, surrounded by enchanting views. Baths and pools for all tastes, themed saunas, aromatherapy rooms and mud baths are just a few of the numerous ways to soothe the mind and body at Saint-Vincent and Pré-Saint-Didier.
Spending some time in the mountainous region’s main town, Aosta, can be just the right activity to relax after a few days of high intensity sports. Both official languages, Italian and French, even the Franco-Provençal Valdôtain dialect spoken by many locals, in fact can be heard as one walks through the lovely town centre. As much as half the population speaks all three languages. For a small town, there are plenty of Roman monuments to marvel at – the Roman theatre being one not to miss, and in piazza Émile Chanoux, the old town’s main square, elegant buildings can be admired while on a leisurely stroll. Every year at the end of January, over a thousand artists and artisans take center stage at the Fiera di Sant’Orso, a street fair in the town centre. It’s an important fair, one where the essence of the culture of the region is beautifully displayed with great pride. It’s also a unique opportunity to stock up on local art and delicious food.
Casino de la Vallée
One of the four casinos in Italy is located in the Aosta Valley in Saint-Vincent. With no entry fee and a smart casual dress code, anyone over the age of 18 can walk in and try their luck 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Considered a large casino, there are plenty of slot machines and table games to choose from. Events and tournaments are organized routinely to the great pleasure of regular casino-goers. Reluctant to gamble? The resort’s wellness center, restaurants and bars are other ways to enjoy your time at the Casino de la Vallée.