giovedì 8 agosto 2013

Estate Valdostana

The Valle d'Aosta is a tiny region nestled in the north-west corner of Italy, next to the borders with France and Switzerland. Tiny in horizontal square kilometres it may be, but in its verticality it is grandiose, home to some of Europe's most impressive and beautiful mountains, including, but not limited to Gran Paradiso and the Italian sides of Monte Cervino (the Matterhorn) and Monte Bianco. It's also officially bilingual, having once been part of Savoia/Savoie/Savoy, but unlike in Italy's other bilingual region, Alto Adige/Suedtirol, whose questions of cultural and linguistic identity stem from much more recent and painful history, it carries its two languages with ease. Most of the people we met seemed to be mother-tongue Italian speakers but all were perfectly at ease in French. One old lady we met sitting outside her house in the hamlet where we were staying explained to us that, unlike most people in the area, she never learned to read and write French because she was at school at the time of Mussolini, but she could speak it fluently.

I learned to ski in the Valle d'Aosta five years ago, and I remember being awestruck as the instructor named the peaks of Europe's highest summits that were dominating the view in all directions. (Gran Paradiso is the highest mountain entirely in Italy, and as well as Mont Blanc and Monte Cervino, you can also see Monte Rosa, the highest peak in Switzerland and the second-highest in the Alps.) But if anything, I liked it even more in summer, when as well as the sweeping vistas, I could enjoy the detail of the tiny wild flowers, the stone houses with their characteristic slated roofs and the geraniums that spilled over every windowsill and flower pot. It's a story that tells itself better through photographs than words, so without further ado:

The centre of Vens, where we stayed. As well as this hotel, there was a church and some houses, and that was all.

Pretty Flowers

Roofs and mountains

Monte Bianco emerging from the clouds.

Wild Flowers

Butterflies were everywhere.

Wild Rose

Free range chicken in the town square!

Hiking up to the Lacs de Laure

Approaching the Lacs de Laure

Lac Inferieure


Looking across the valley from Vens.


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