The Gressoney Valley: Walser culture at the feet of Monte Rosa
Dominated by the impressive size of Monte Rosa, the Lys Valley was populated by the Walser, people of Germanic origin coming from Upper Valais, at the end of the Middle Ages. The tangible signs of their presence are the Germanic dialect talked in these areas and the Walser Houses, or Stadel, rural buildings sitting on short mushroom-shaped pillars.
The Monte Rosa massif dominates the Gressoney valley. Peaks like Castor, Pyramide Vincent or Punta Gnifetti, beyond attracting your eyes from the valley floor are anything but impossible to be climbed, if you are well trained and assisted by a guide. There are opportunities for beautiful walks towards the several lakes, the hills with panoramic views or the Niel Torrent and Loo waterfalls, also at lower height. Furthermore, there are numerous walking routes towards Walser villages: Alpenzu Grande or the Valley of San Grato. Issime too is starred with very beautiful typical houses. An unmissable trekking is the Great Walser Trail which retraces the trail blazed by the Alemannian (ancient German) people during their migrations. For the real sports men and women there are the Gressoney-La-Trinité and Gressoney-Saint-Jean via ferrata and the mountain bike track (downhill) from Punta Jolanda to Gressoney-La-Trinité.
The Monterosa Ski district is among the greater of the Aosta Valley: through the magnificent landscape of Monte Rosa links Ayas, Gressoney and Alagna Valsesia, making a total of 180 kilometre ski slopes which get to Indren Glacier at an altitude of 3200 m. The Gressoney valley guards another gem: at Gressoney-Saint-Jean, the Weissmatten district shows the ski track dedicated to Leonardo David that in 2009 was voted the most beautiful ski run of Italy. For cross-country skiing you can choose the Gressoney-La-Trinité or the Gressoney-Saint-Jean loops, on which in January is held the Gran Fondo Monterosalauf. At the end of the winter, every other year on odd years, the alpine ski "Trofeo Mezzalama” race is run from Cervinia to Gressoney through the 4000 of Monte Rosa. The walks with ciaspole, ice-climbing, freeride, alpine skiing and heliski are worth remembering too.
Fontainemore looks like a fairy tale village, with its ancient stone bridge linking the banks of the old hamlet, immersed in chestnut woods and flown through by the crystal clear waters of the Lys stream. Just few kilometres from Pont Saint Martin, the gateway of the Aosta Valley, Fontainemore is a resort with strong rural characteristics: a territory dispersed with small and striking hamlets that preserve intact the typical half-timbered and half-stone buildings, frescoed chapels (up to eleven, scattered in different villages), ancient trails and mule tracks. Among the distinctive traits of the small old town centre, besides the peculiar medieval bridge over the Lys, the Parish Church of Saint Antony, built on 1494 is worth a visit. The hamlet of Farettaz is one of the best preserved village; nearly abandoned, it consists of several groups of houses joint together by well-organized paths. The most interesting is, without doubt, the one out of which the bell tower dedicated to Saint Lawrence stands.
Turism and sports in Fontainemore
“The Ecomuseum of the highlands” can be visited in Pra du Sas. Furniture and traditional objects as well as collections of tools related to the old typical crafts of the area, symbolizing the mountain life and the rural essence of Fontainemore, are displayed in its two ancient buildings. Fontainemore offers various open-air sports and recreational opportunities both in winter and summer: walking paths at heights and with snowshoes, mountain bike, alpine skiing, game fishing in the seasonal tourist reserve, rock climbing gym and trails equipped for sports exercises.
Mont Mars Nature Reserve
The Mont Mars Nature Reserve was established in 1994; it covers 390 hectares and is located at the head of the Pacoulla Torrent Valley. It develops between 1670 and 2600 m of altitude and shows a variety of alpine environments of great interest, from wood to wide meadows, from rock faces to alpine lakes. Its fortunate location makes it a wild and uncontaminated area, although quick to be reached from the valley floor. The fact the Mont Mars Nature Reserve is less famous than other alpine protected areas makes it even more attractive.
Elegant tourist resort located at 1385 m of altitude, Gressoney-Saint-Jean gently lays down in a basin with a view over the glacier of Lyskamm and the impressive massif of Monte Rosa which is reflected in the suggestive Gover lake emerald green water, just outside the built-up area. In the characteristic old town centre, there are some Walser houses, still in perfect conditions today. Deep in the green woods, the Savoy Castle stands. Queen Margherita had it built as holiday home in 1894.
Gressoney-La-Trinité, at the feet of the Monte Rosa group is a real mecca for the winter sports, being located in the heart of Monterosa Ski. Stafal, hamlet of Gressoney is the access gateway to the most exciting off piste and alpine skiing tracks which reach Monte Rosa, up to Punta Gnifetti at 4450 m height and the Regina Margherita mountain refuge, the highest in Europe. Its location makes it also the perfect starting point for trekking and climbing on Monte Rosa mountain group.
The Fortress of Bard
The Fortress of Bard is one of the most important and fascinating monuments of the Aosta Valley. Its unmistakable contour, castled on a rock spike, welcomes the visitors that enter the Valley. The fortified structure overlooking the village of Bard dates back to the Middle Ages and was rebuilt in XIX century by the House of Savoy.
After a long period of abandon, the Fortress was completely restored and opened to the public in 2006. At present, it hosts several art exhibitions, music concerts (among which the renowned Musicastelle), cultural events and is the seat of the Museum of the Alps. When visiting the Valley, the Fortress of Bard is among the attractions you cannot miss, a unique and timeless experience.
The Fortress of Bard is only 15 min by car from the Maison de Memé.