This is an excerpt from the book “Aosta Valley Itineraries”.
The village of Etroubles lies in the middle of the Great St. Bernard Valley. Since ancient times it has been the small capital of the valley, a strategic defense point and the center of facilities. It is mentioned in the Roman documents of the imperial age with the name of Restopolis and was probably the winter headquarters of the garrison of the Pass. Very important in the Middle Ages were the square tower, built in the XII century on old Roman foundations in the hamlet of Vachery, the medieval church in the village of which only the Romanic bell tower remains, as well as a pilgrims’ hospice founded in 1317 and open to the public up to the last century. The most important historical event, in recent centuries, was the passage of Napoleon and his army in May 1800. Etroubles is on the via Francigena, the road that in the Middle Ages led from the British Isles to Rome and Jerusalem, across Europe and the Great St. Bernard Pass.
The medieval village of Etroubles is worth a visit. It is quite interesting and pleasant to stroll along the cobbled lanes of the village and to admire the newly renovated houses in local stone with stone-tiled roofs, the splendid drinking fountains with cool water coming from the Mont Velan, the bell tower that rings on the hour, the XIX-century church with frescoes and paintings. The various bars and restaurants on the main street, along the main road and in the villages are characteristic and welcoming.
Etroubles is surrounded by an amphitheatre of magnificent mountains: Mont Velan (3734 m), Tete de Barasson (2963 m), Mont Chenaille (3144 m), La Salliaousa (3322 m), Tete de Faudery (3299 m), Mont Fallere (3090 m). You can easily reach, on foot or by car, the hamlets of Eternod (1645 m), Bezet (1629 m), Prailles (1555), Veyaz (15550), Pallais (1482 m), Cerisey (1410 m), La Collere (1360 m), Vachery (1340 m), Chez Les Blanc (1200 m), Lavanche (1245 m), Echevennoz (1200 m), from where you can enjoy magnificent views. Besides the beautiful alpine landscape, the area has an important variety of flora and wildlife. It is an interesting region for those who want to go on easy excursions in the mountains, as well as for those who want to do some hiking across non- contaminated valleys.
As the climatic conditions are good (good exposure to the sun, not too high above sea level, and particularly low degree of humidity) the village of Etroubles and its surroundings are the ideal place for summer or winter holidays.
Where to stay in Etroubles
There are high quality hotels, apartments, agriturismi (farm stays) and B&Bs available, check them out and make a reservation here.
At about 8 Km from Aosta on the main Great Saint Bernard road n. 27 you meet the first district of Grand Combin Mountain Community: Gignod, which is situated in a beautiful sunny position on the right orographical side of the Buthier river. The district of Gignod has 55 hamlets which lie at an altitude varying from 785 meters of Variney, to 950 meters of Le Chateau, to the 1424 meters of Clemensey, north of Buthier.
In the village of Gignod there is the parish church of Saint Hilaire, perfectly preserved in its 15th -century structures. Inside there are interesting late 15th – century frescoes which are considered one of the best expressions of the painting of that period in the Valle d’Aosta. In the sacristy there is also a small museum of Sacred Art. Outside there is the beautiful stone bell-tower, built between 1436 and 1481 by the architect Yolli de Wuetto from Gressoney. The library of Gignod includes about 10.000 volumes.
The traditional festival “Feta di Teteun” takes place every year in Gignod in the second half of August. It is a food festival dedicated to the “Teteun”, a delicious typical salami obtained from cows udder.
From April to November Gignod offers golf players a nice 9 hole golf-course in the locality of Arsanieres. In winter those who play “patanque” (a local variety of bowls) can count on a covered playground in the Plan Chateau locality.
Fans of ski touring have the possibility in winter and spring to make the excursion from Buthier to Punta Chaligne which is considered one of the classical itineraries of this sport. For mountain-bike fans, besides the various routes, a very pleasant one starts from the woods north of the hamlets. The itinerary reaches the following localities: La Cheriety – Mayen Francey – Ru Nicollet – Roula – the military road – and the village of Etroubles.
The excursions from Gignod to Punta Chaligne, Cresta Tardiva (2380 mt) and the climb to Mont Saron are very pleasant. One can also do some hiking along the various marked paths of the district.
Where to stay in Gignod
There are high quality hotels, villas, country houses and B&Bs available, check them out and make a reservation here.
The village of Saint-Rhemy-en-Bosses, situated in the upper part of the Great Saint Bernard valley is sunny all year round. To the north you can see the skiing area of Crevacol with its modern ski-lifts and the Grand Golliat (3330 mt). Looking westward you can see the magnificent Punta Artanavaz, where the homonymous river rises. South of the little valley of Citrin there is a spring mineral ferruginous with curative properties, known as “Water of Citrin”. The eastern side overlooks the villages below.
Saint-Rhemy-en-Bosses is the last village before the Swiss border and gives access to the ancient Great-Saint-Bernard Pass, one of the oldest passes of the Alps.
Great-Saint-Bernard Pass played a very important role in the past in the relationships between northern and southern Europe. Leaders of troops, pilgrims, Popes and travelers crossed it. It was an important passage for ancient populations such as the Celts, the Romans the Longobards, and for the troops of the emperor Charlemagne and Frederick I Barbarossa. The most famous crossing of the Pass in the centuries was however the crossing of Napoleon, in May 1800. Nowadays at the Pass you can visit the Hospice founded by Bernardo di Mentone in 1031. It is run by the Canons Regular of St. Augustin, who have maintained the ancient rule of hospitality. In summer near the Hospice you can visit the enclosure of the Saint Bernard dogs, that can be considered the predecessors of modern rescue. They helped travelers and pilgrims that got lost and were overcome by cold and snow storms.
Worth seeing are: the museum of the Hospice, the part of roman road near the Pass, the Casaforte Chez Vuillen and the old stone washing-through with the heraldic bearings of the Counts Savin of Bosses, the Castle of the Lords of Bosses dating back to the 15th century. The recently restored building now houses an information office.
The skiing area of Crevacol reaches an altitude of 2400 mt. and has more than 20 km of ski runs with a really good exposure to the sun. A wide range of ski-touring excursions in winter and of mountain-bike routes in summer offer the possibility to admire the characteristic flora and fauna of the Great-Saint-Bernard valley.
A parade of the beautiful masks and costumes of Bosses takes place on the last Sunday of Carnival along the streets of the village.
The festival of the Jambon de Bosses takes place on the last Sunday of July and is dedicated to the ham of Bosses, which is seasoned thanks to the particular microclimate of the village. This local gastronomic product has also recently received the DOP (Protected Origin Certification) label.