Aosta Valley-Valle d’Aosta-Vallée d’Aoste
Tucked away in the NW corner of Italy is a magical valley that fairy tales are made of. Filled with fortressed castles from days past and vineyards to delight today’s palate, the Val d’Aoste (modern French name) can easily fill days of exploration.
To the north it borders the Swiss Valais, the Piedmont to the south and east and the French Rhone Alps to the west.
The Aosta Valley is distinguished by being the smallest, least populous, and least densely populated region of Italy. One will hear French, Italian and the Valdotain dialect.
History runs deep here running back to the Celts and Ligurians. Rome got in on a piece of this region and Roman ruins are common in the capital city of Aosta. The tug of war between the French and Italians throughout history ended after Mussolini and WWII when it became its own autonomous region.
This summer our Magical Corners of the Mont Blanc Massif will take a day off from hiking to visit the Aosta Valley with Italian sommelier and mountaineer, Stefano Corgnati. His knowledge of the castles of the valley and unusual vintner practices and varietals makes for a colorful day. Salut!
HIKING IN THE DOLOMITE ALPS
Join European Alps hiking guide and photographer Hilloah Rohr for an hour photo journey
through the “White Mountains” the Dolomite Alps.
Free to the public. 21 and over
One of my favorite parts of traveling through the European Alps is the people along the way. Above and to the right are images of a great school group from Bologna, Italy hiking in the Dolomite Alps. Many were wearing cotton sweatshirts and tennis shoes. Look at those smiles!
This fellow I met in the Parc du Queyras in France. He told me he was 80 years old and had hiked this region most of his life, returning yearly.
My friend Christian I met near Digne, France almost 20 years ago. He was instrumental in helping me set up my Parc du Queyras tour in France. Below we’re hiking just over the Italian border. He has now become an excellent photography after watching me indulge in photographing everything in sight!
This fellow had to show me his Italian/American t-shirt when he found out I was from the US!Hiking through rifugios reached only by foot, dinners become more intimate and conversations around the table more animated. Various languages are shared and interpreted. Lifelong friends are made. Here’s Stefano from Torino, Italy who I met in a little rifugio tucked away in the Italian Alps near Mon Viso. He has assisted me with both private and small group tours for years now and guides our Italian castle and wine tasting day. Our family run mountain hotels or pensions offer up a glimpse into the lives of these hard working couples and families who host us year after year. It’s almost like coming home to relatives! Below is the lovely family who run our base hotel on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. Notice the three generations going back to horse and buggy tours!
Tucked into the edge of the Parc du Queyras we watched an old ruined stone farm house be rebuilt upon each return to this region. Much of the gorgeous valley along the Franco-Italian border had been bombed out during WWII. The rest was devastated with avalanches. After several years a beautiful new pension appeared run by Laurant and Geraldine. They now have a three year old son who happily entertains the guests! Giacomo has owned and run this very colorful Italian rifugio summers and winters (it’s located on a ski slope as well as a hiking route). It’s know for it’s great cuisine, ambiance and fun atmosphere. Our beautiful family run hotel in Cortina Italy brings in a lively group from Calabria in southern Italy. The guys are lots of fun and help us with our Italian and soon know everyone’s favorite happy hour drink and how they like their morning coffee!
This coming year an adventurous group of hikers will join me for 11 days of hiking & exploring the culture in the grandeur of the Mont Blanc Massif. Here’s a piece of history integral to Chamonix, climbing capital of the world.
My story begins one early morning in Chamonix, France. I was wandering the streets looking for a cup of coffee. One after another I saw rugged looking mountain men and women all dressed up in wool climbing clothes of the past, many with carefully braided climbing ropes slung over their shoulders and ice axes. “Que se passe-t-il?” (What’s happening?) I inquired. “C’est la fête des guides” (it is the festival of the guides) one of the mountain men replied.
Established in 1821, the Chamonix Guides Company gathers over 150 certified mountain guides and leaders. They provide mountain guiding service through the Mont Blanc massif and throughout the world. Famous, talented guides have been members of the “Compagnie”. Today, young talented guides join the organization each year during the traditionnal August 15th Guides’Festival.
Forgetting coffee, I quickly ran back to my hotel and grabbed my camera and raced back to follow the gathering procession of guides who paraded from the Office du Guides in the Chamonix center to the cemetery on the south side of town.
Once they reached the cemetery they began to sing from somewhere deep in their hearts in honor of all the guides who have died in the service of guiding. At the end they paraded back to the stairs of the church where they gathered for a group photo. What a morning! Much more exhilarating than any cup of coffee! The images will stay in my memory banks forever.
SIGN UP NOW….REGISTRATION LIMITED TO 8! $3,495*
GET READY FOR JAW-DROPPING SCENERY!
- stay in comfortable hotels and pensiones
- private rooms – double occupancy
- transport during tour
- visit a new vista daily
- cultural sites along the way
Belluno Pre Tour June 28-July 1, 2018 $450
The Dolomite Alps in Northern Italy differ from the rest of the Alps. These limestone giants offer an array of landscapes from elegant spires to sheer walls to giant peaks. The contrast of limestone with alpenrose, fields of wild flowers and evergreen forests makes one want to break out in a verse of “The Hills are Alive”!
Add incredible hospitality and scenic mountain hotels to the environment and it’s the best of all worlds. On the northern side comes the Tyrolean/Austrian influences. German is spoken here. Travel a few miles south and all transforms to Italian.
The wartime tunnels add an entirely different dimension to this mysterious region. Located strategically between Austria and Italy, the Dolomite Alps have been tunneled into and via ferrata (iron cables set into the walking cliffs) are found throughout.
Plan your next hiking/cultural trip to this stunning corner of the Alps!
Any trip worth taking deserves the time it takes to plan. Spontaneity is nice and can definitely be built into a well planned trip, however the better the planning = more enjoyment. This is true weather you are going on a guided trip or your own.
THE 4 R’s: *Reading *Research *Rethinking *Reserving
READING I love reading fictional stories, biographies as well as guidebooks about the region. The more the better. This guideline adds so much richness and takes time!
RESEARCH This includes studying maps of the region. Being aware of logistics of getting from one place to another with ease. Looking into the culture, do’s and don’ts, language (including learning the language of your destination if possible, which opens so many additional doors), talking with others who have visited this region, attending photo shows, watching movies and listening to music of the region. What is the food like? What is this area known for? When is the best time to visit? How to get off the tourist path? What are the must sees. What kind of clothing and gear will you need? Make sure you have time to try it out before leaving! Research takes time. It offers structure and comfort to explore within.
RETHINKING Give yourself time to ponder, get other opinions, bounce off the walls a bit. For this reason I always opt to book with a no cancellation fee policy. Many reservation sites honor this to within a fairly close proximity of your visit. You might discover a new place that you want to fit into your itinerary!
RESERVING Do reserve early and with no cancellation fees. The best places are often snapped up a year in advance. Know your logistics and parameters. Do you want a cozier place that offers half-board or do you prefer to wander around discovering your next dinner spot? Know what you want it to look like. This said, it’s been my experience to reserve a year in advance. If you are flying to your destination becomes even more important.
Here’s to great adventures! Happy Trails, Hilloah
A lovely article on Simone de Beauvoir’s passion for hiking in the Alps. I’ve hiked the GR5 and the areas referred to in the article. “…. as Beauvoir put it, to think of nothing but “flowers and beasts and stony tracks and wide horizons, the pleasurable sensation of possessing legs and lungs and a stomach.” Enjoy!
Simone de Beauvoir started hiking in 1931, when she was in her early 20s and assigned to Marseille to teach secondary school. The feminist philosopher pursued hiking as intellectual enlightenment. In Provence, 77 years later, one writer retraces her steps.
Here’s the link to the entire article:
Bonjour! This lovely alpine region produces many varietals most of us have never heard of nor experienced. It’s a great adventure! Some of my favorites are the Apremont (white) and Mondeuse (red). We will have plenty of chances to experience these wonderful varietals on our 2017 tour. My dear friend and third level sommelier, Stefano Corgnati, will be coming up from Torino to guide us through a magical day of visiting castles and a winery in the Aosta Valley during our Magical Corners of the Mont Blanc Massif Tour 2017. This is a great experience. Educational and a lot of fun!
Savoy or, in French, Savoie is a wine region situated in the Savoy region in eastern France, and is sometimes referred to as the country of the Allobroges.
The Savoy landscape is distinctly alpine. Between lakes and mountains, the Savoy vineyards hang from slopes or clutch at hillsides in little islands that produce their special growth.
With grape varieties Jacquère, Roussanne, Altesse (also known as Roussette) and Gringet for white wines, and Mondeuse for the reds, Savoie is characterised by a number of varieties which are very rare elsewhere.
The Savoyard appellations (labels) are distributed through four departments: Haute-Savoie, Ain, Isère and Savoie. Crépy near Lake Geneva and Seyssel in the Ain are easy to locate. But wines labelled Roussette de Savoie and Vin de Savoie can come from anywhere in the wine growing area, unless the label display the name of a village in addition to the appellation. There are 4 Roussette villages: Frangy, Monthoux, Marestel and Monterminod. And there are no fewer than 17 “Vin de Savoie” villages, the most well known being Apremont, Chignin, Chautagne and Arbin.
- Chignin Bergeron – Chignin-Bergeron cru of the Vin de Savoie appellation in the Savoie region of eastern France. The name is taken from the village of Chignin. Bergeron is the local name of the Roussanne grape variety, from which Chignin-Bergeron wines are made. To be called “Chignin-Bergeron,” the grapes must come from vineyards in the Francin, Montmelian and Chignin communes.
- Chignin – Chignin is another cru of the Vin de Savoie appellation also named after the village of Chignin. These white wines are made from Jacquere grapes and are dry and light. They are less well known than the other Roussanne white wines, sold as Chignin-Bergeron.
- Roussette de Savoie Monterminod – One of the four named crus of the Roussette de Savoie appellation, Monterminod is located above the village of Saint-Alban-Leysse in Savoie. The name “Monterminod” is permitted as part of the appellation title. Monterminod and the other three Roussette de Savoie crus are each distinct in character. Monterminod is the most southerly, with Frangy 30 miles (48 km) north. Monthoux and Marestel are roughly halfway in between. The sunny exposure of the steep, rapidly drained south-facing slope give Monterminod an advantage in the cool, alpine climate. Their elevation makes them less susceptible to low-lying frosts and they are sheltered from extreme weather by the surrounding peaks rising to more than 4000 ft (1220m). The wines of Monterminod and the other three crus are subject to stringent production conditions, including lower maximum yield and higher minimum alcohol levels than basic Roussette de Savoie wines.
Other grapes and wines
- Altesse – Second fermentation of a dry white Jacquère with an Altesse (Roussette)-based liqueur.
- Pinot gris – Grape variety for white wine, muted of the Pinot noir. The skin of this grape has a color that can vary from almost black to white and from pale blue to pink. The color of the wine can also have a hint of pink.
- Mondeuse – Mondeuse is a red wine with bluish tones.
- Mondeuse d’Arbin – Mondeuse d’Arbin is also a red wine from Mondeuse with intense red deep color.
- Pinot noir – Pinot is a wine with a high alcohol content (12 to 13°) and a scarlet raisin color.
Join us for this unforgettable tour as we explore the “Grande Dame of the Alps”. Tour bases out of Chamonix, France and Courmayeur, Italy.
$3,495 includes view private rooms & baths (double occupancy) ~ all ground transportation ~ buffet breakfast & full dinner ~ guiding ~ Aosta Valley wine & castle tour ~peace of mind~
At over 15,000′ Le Mont Blanc, Il Monte Bianco massif towers over Europe. Sitting near the adjoining borders of France, Italy & Switzerland, the massif unites 3 cultures in it’s majestic splendor. This is a place dreams are made of! This magical 11 day tour is split between France and Italy with the two distinctive aspects of Mont Blanc displaying distinctively. Part 1 bases in spectacular Chamonix, France which is a convenient hop from Geneva International Airport. Part 2 bases in a rustic town just outside of Courmayeur, Italy, the Italian cousin of Chamonix. Visit all the places not visited on the Tour du Mont Blanc! Explore, wander, sip and enjoy!
Enjoy the comfort of our view hotels in Chamonix, France & a small village outside of Courmayeur, Italy
Private double occupancy rooms with baths & view balconies
Exquisite meals, wines & cheese of the Savoie region
Intermediate-advanced level hiking with daily choices to suit your needs
Ride the telepherique up and over the Mont Blanc Massif
Join expert sommelier, Stefano Corgnati for a day of castles and wine tasting in the Aosta Valley
Walk on a glacier with ice blue pools
Soak in the mineral pools
Hike from all sides of the highest mountain in Europe
Optional Pre-Tour in the Chamonix Valley & Martigny, Switzerland
July 2-4, 2017
I’m often asked what is a typical day on tour in the Alps like? First every day is unique, however there’s three elements that bind our days: hiking, eating and sleeping great ledges. Here’s a few insights as to what these can look like.
The trails in the Alps are often very old trails used by sheep herders or walkways from village to village. They are commonly well marked and show the amount of time to get to the next village or trail juncture. They become rougher the further and higher one explores. Hiking poles are a great idea and commonly used especially for multi day hikes. Trails are seldom crowded and the folks you meet are fellow hikers thus like “family”! I enjoy guessing what nationality people are and greeting them accordingly!
Hikers love to eat and drink! Why not when you’re shedding unwanted pounds daily! The European Alps offer some of the best cuisine in the world, not to mention amazing cheese, wine, beer, breads……. Most of our meals are where we stay and some are offered family style (my favorite) which gives us more opportunity to meet fellow travelers and hear their stories plus practice our French, Italian or other wonderful languages. Watch out if the World Cup Soccer games are on as you might the winners dancing on your table! Meals are delicious, prepared with pride and shared with grace. They are never rushed and offer a wonderful social interaction where new friends are made.
Perhaps my favorite part after a long day of adventuring is coming into our beautiful mountain hotels. These pensions, Gite d’etapes, Refugios as they may be referred to are often private, family run affairs offering that wonderful pride of ownership. If they are not private then they are part of a Club Alpine Francais, Italiano or Swiss. The guardianship is something kept over many years so we see the same friendly faces every time we visit and it feels like coming home. these forms of lodging may go from very rustic to very comfortable with private rooms and bathrooms. Only in the mountains the bathrooms with be down the hall. Most of our meals are enjoyed in the same hut we lodge in.. I call it civilized “camping”. There’s nothing better like a cold beer, hot shower, five course meal and comfy bed in my own little room at the end of the day!