The tour starts and ends in Turin, the first capital of Italy in 1861 and host city for the 2006 Winter Olympics. There are daily flights from the UK to Turin and good train connections from France and Switzerland. The nearest intercontinental airport is Milan. We stay in two towns in the Aosta Valley, Bard at 350m and Cogne at 1550m. Most of the hiking is at an altitude of between 1500m and 2500m. Nevertheless it is a hiking holiday and not a climbing expedition so no technical skills whatsoever are required. Where possible we make use of chairlifts and cable cars to take us to the best areas for walking.
Meet at the ATA Hotel Concord in Via Lagrange close to Porta Nuova Station at 11.30am or Turin Airport 12.30pm. Drive 1 hour to Pont St Martin, the gateway to the Aosta Valley. Starting at the Roman bridge in the village we follow, on foot, the ancient route of the Roman armies past vineyards clinging to the hillsides to pick up the paved Roman road which brings us to the town of Bard. On arrival we visit the dramatic fortress at Bard, which played a crucial part in Napoleon's advance into Italy in 1800, overlooking our hotel. Since there is the opportunity for a short walk before we check into the hotel please ensure you are in your hiking gear with boots to hand (ie not in your main luggage). We stay in the delightful hotel Ad Gallias with spa facilities for the next 4 nights. Welcome drink and dinner in the hotel restaurant. (6km/3.8miles)
We drive up the valley towards Cervinia and take a cable car and chair lift high up above the tree line to the picturesque village of Chamois. A circular walk takes us through flower-filled pastures, stopping en route to enjoy a delicious picnic lunch by a lake. Later in the day there is time to relax and enjoy the hotel spa facilities or just wind down with a drink in the bar. This evening we drive high into the mountains to a small restaurant where we are warmly welcomed for a dinner of local specialties. (6km/3.8miles)
A beautiful drive takes us to the Champorcher valley, carved out by glaciers millions of years ago. Our hike starts along the route used by Victor Emmanuel II, the first King of Italy, in the 19th century when escaping the court to go hunting in the mountains. We follow small trails climbing past beautiful lakes encircled by snow-covered peaks and enjoy stunning views down into the valley as we descend. Dinner in a local restaurant. (11km/6.8miles)
Today we explore the remote Gressoney valley with its fascinating Walser heritage. We climb up to and follow a trail overlooking the valley, past tiny hamlets with characteristic stone and wood houses, to a mountain refuge where we have lunch. In the afternoon we descend to the valley and on to Gressoney St Jean and visit the fairytale castle of Queen Margherite of Savoy, Queen of Italy at the end of the 19th century. Dinner at the Ad Gallias hotel. (7km/4.3miles)
Today we leave Bard and travel up the valley to the regional capital of Aosta. Time to visit the town and see many of the important Roman monuments. In the afternoon we visit a Roman aqueduct before driving to Cogne, the gateway to the Grand Paradiso National Park. We stay the next three nights in the Hotel Bellevue, an historic family-run hotel set amongst lush pastures in the heart of the village. Afternoon tea is served daily, there is a terrace with magnificent views to the Gran Paradiso and the hotel boasts wonderful spa facilities. Dinner in a local restaurant.
This morning we take a cable car above the village to 2081m. A small trail leads around Mont Seuc offering spectacular views of the village, the peak of the Gran Paradiso at 4061m and the Mont Blanc Massif in the distance. We return to the valley by cable car and take a short drive up the Valnontey valley for our picnic. Opportunity to walk along the pretty Valnontey valley in the afternoon. Dinner of local specialties in a nearby restaurant. (3km/1.9miles + 4km/2.5miles)
We start our walk at the pretty village of Gimillan (1788m). We follow the river valley, passing shepherds’ huts and tiny hamlets – accessible only by foot. The peace is only disturbed by the chimes of the cow bells as they savour the lush grass of the hills. Picnic by a pristine mountain lake before descending once again to Gimillan. Final dinner at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant. (11km/6.8miles)
Return to Turin Airport/Train Station for 12 o'clock.