This alpine adventure explores four of the six valleys of Gran Paradiso, Italy’s oldest national park, originally the hunting grounds of the ruling House of Savoy. In the country’s northwest corner, near the French border, our day hikes will reveal gorgeous wildflowers in full bloom and the unspoiled beauty of these majestic Alps. We will hike beneath snowbound ridges and glaciers, and through hanging meadows dotted with stone shepherds’ cottages and abundant forests of larch and fir. Wildlife we could see includes the fabled ibex and the elusive chamois (goat antelope).
Today, by special statute, the semi-autonomous region of Aosta is bilingual. Many of the older generation speak an intriguing patois that combines Italian and French, and the local cuisine reflects tastes of both countries. At night, we’ll enjoy quaint village inns, delicious regional specialties, and, of course, local wines. Each day we will drive to a different trailhead for our 5-7 hour hike.
The trip begins at our hotel near Malpensa, Milan's principal airport. Our hotel, about 20 minutes away, offers a shuttle service. Those arriving at Linate airport or by train can get to Malpensa by bus. Once we are all together, by 6:00pm, we'll have an orientation meeting and then our first dinner. Night in airport hotel by Malpensa.
In the morning, we head out to the mountain village of Cogne that lies just outside the boundary of the Gran Paradiso park. Along the way we visit some of the oldest fortifications and castles of Valle d’Aosta. Night in Cogne or near.
We begin hiking. Our first day will be an easy introduction to the region's offerings. First we stroll around the Paradisia Botanical Alpine Garden to see first-hand a wonderful selection of the local flora. An easy half-day warm-up hike to the Lillaz waterfalls completes our afternoon. Lillaz is a 2 mile walk, gaining and losing 350 feet. Night in Cogne or near.
Today we have a more challenging ascent to the mountain hut Rifugio Sella. It's about five hours (round trip) up to a beautiful alpine meadow where we'll have a warm lunch at the hut before retracing our steps. The trail is about three-and-a-half miles each way, and climbs 3,000 feet. Night in Cogne or near.
It's Money, not money! Spelled the same, this valley is a popular and scenic hike with a number of small streams to cross. It will take us 6-7 hours to cover nine miles, gaining and losing 2,200 feet. Night in Cogne or near.
Today we make our way to Courmayeur. Here you can take the Vallée Blanche Cable Car, connecting the peak above Courmayeur with the peak above Chamonix by passing over the Mont Blanc Massif. Or you may just enjoy a small hike in Courmayeur. Night in Courmayeur
Today we will hike in the beautiful area around Courmayeur. In the early afternoon, we will head to Pont, our home for the next four nights. Night in Pont.
We start off today right behind the hotel, first going through a tunnel, then steeply up the sides of the Valsavaranche before reaching the Piano de Nivolet. Six hours and 10 miles, with 3,300 feet of elevation change, make this our longest day. Night in Pont.
Today we hike the leader's favorite route, up Val du Rhemes to Rifugio Benevolo. This will take about six hours, and may include lunch at the refuge. The six-mile round-trip climbs 2,300 feet to the refuge. Night in Pont.
We visit the fourth valley today, the Val Grisenche, for a hike to another mountain refuge. Expect to be on the trail about six hours, covering seven miles and 2,600 feet of elevation. We will also stop to visit a small production of local traditional products such as honey, herbs, and cured hams and salami. Night in Pont.
Today we return to our hotel near Malpensa, stopping along the way to tour the Roman antiquities of the city of Aosta, the region's capital. We will also enjoy a visit a producer of Fontina Valdostana, the most famous cheese of the area. Night in airport hotel by Malpensa.
The trip ends right after breakfast. You can expect to reach the airport in time for a late morning or noon flight out.