There is more to Italian mountains than skiing and après-ski. Alessia Armenise finds that an Alpine holiday can also satisfy your cultural and gastronomic cravings.
In Italy, there is a whole region smaller than the Metropolitan City of Rome. It has only one city to its name, a lot of charming villages, an incredible selection of castles for its size, and most importantly, some of the best skiing you can find in Italy.
Nestled at the top of Valle d’Aosta, and less than half an hour away from the city of Aosta and its rail station, Courmayeur is a hotspot for Italians that come to this charming mountain village for more than just the skiing.
If it’s sometimes difficult to find anything else to do besides après-ski in a traditional ski resort town, that’s certainly not the case in Courmayeur. The small village has always been a favourite for northern Italians searching for relaxation and good skiing, and the town still holds a reputation as a glamorous place where you can easily spot famous figures from Italian show business and politics.
Apart from its cheerleader-like reputation, Courmayeur is a stunning mountain village that’s perfect if you are looking to fly off for a relaxing weekend (or week) away – even if that doesn’t necessarily involve skiing.
When we arrived at the train station, I felt a mixture of excitement and apprehension. The last time I was here was 18 years ago when I lived in the neighbouring city of Aosta. We often used to come to Courmayeur at the weekend, but I never had the courage to take on skiing here as even children that can barely walk seem to know how to slalom. Skiing as much as possible, at an early an age as possible, is a must for locals and, as a girl from the south, I found the thought of having to ski next to them slightly terrifying. Definitely not a teenager anymore, I was now ready to take on the challenge.
There are a few hotels in Courmayeur, but nothing like the enormous and numerous resorts that we can find in other parts of the Alps, so it was time for a modern addition to the old guard. Le Massif, part of the Italian Hospitality Collection group, is an impressive structure that blends sleek, modern design with classic materials such as the dark woods and black marble used in the lobby and to add some lavish touches to the cosy chalet-like rooms.
Its perfect location definitely puts the hotel a step ahead. It’s a matter of minutes away from the ski lifts to Plan Checrouit and mere metres away from the town centre, where guests can enjoy an incredible view of the Alps, dine in one of the many restaurants or shop in the numerous boutiques on the main road – and not only for ski gear. It’s good to know that there is something to do apart from skiing when you’re not a confident skier, and there is a lot to see and even more to do in the valley come winter or summer. Paragliding, hiking, mountain biking and even a hot-air balloon ride over the Alps – all you have to do is ask one of the personal travel advisors in Le Massif and almost anything is possible.
The ski experience here is definitely one of better ones you can get for the whole family. One hundred kilometres of slopes, including off-piste, means that beginners can enjoy their days on the slopes as much as the more experienced skiers and without feeling like they are missing out on the fun.
The days when the weather was not on our side were possibly the most relaxing of all. The spa at Le Massif is small but mighty, and after a long day of skiing (or admiring the snow from the window), the only thing you want to do is spend an hour in a Turkish bath before immersing yourself in a warm pool for the foreseeable future (or at least until they ask you to leave).
There are two restaurants onsite, the Cervo Rosso steakhouse and Chétif, which is exclusively for the hotel guests – but nothing can beat the chalet on the slopes, La Loge du Massif. A ski butler is ready to help you with your boots at the entrance, and you’ll be treated to an incredible view of the Alps alongside decadent, traditional food from the region. For a snack or an aperitivo between ski sessions, a meal with a view always gets my vote.
For lunch, we found a lovely lodge (Rifugio Maison Vieille) right next to the beginners’ slope – which is where I was most of the time – that served traditional food including polenta, fondue and various regional specialities. It was so good and so cosy that we went there every day for lunch. In the evenings, if you are after a foodie experience (and I think you should be), Courmayeur has its very own Michelin-starred restaurant, Petit Royal, which serves mouth-watering traditional food less than 10 minutes away from Le Massif.
How to conclude an evening after a full day of skiing, relaxing and a delicious dinner? At the Bar Del Gigante on Le Massif’s bottom floor, cocktail in hand, in front of the roaring fire.
For more information visit the Courmayeur Mont Blanc website call +39 0165 841612 or email email@example.com.
Images: courtesy of Grifco PR