Mountain Refuge near Courmayeur just reopened for summer

Recently I had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite places, Courmayeur, Mont Blanc, Italy. I stay often at the Hotel Berthod and with my mixture of work and play it is indeed a pleasurable time. This time, Alessio, who with his family owns the Berthod told me about a refugio (mountain refuge hut) that his wife opened very recently. The location is in the Grand St Bernard mountain range, above the village of Gignod in the Aosta Valley. The name of the refuge is Rifugio Chaligne. Alesio suggested a dinner visit. Great idea I thought so with two friends Francesca, a local lass and Dick, an American, off we went to sample the cullinary fare of the mountains. The trip up was an experience, but as things turned out, worth every effort. The Rifugio Chaligne is situated on the road to the Tunnel of the Grand St. Bernard and lies about halfway between that and Aosta, the valley's capital.


Grand Cour Maison

Hotel Berthod

Dolonne Hotel

The trip is, however not as simple as it sounds. Either on the drive up from Aosta or down from the Grand St Bernard the visitor leaves the main road when a sign is spotted for a village called Buthier. There one follows a very good road for a couple of Kms until you reach the end of the paved road and a sign that warns that if you have no official work to do, do not drive past this point. This is where we separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were. Then dear reader you have the option of walking (snowshoeing in winter) or calling the owner, Moria, and snivle for a ride up. I would be in the snivler's brigade, let me tell you. The walk along an unpaved road is marked at taking an hour and about twenty minutes. Oh yeah? Perhaps if you are Lance Armstrong. Anyway as Alessio was on official business so we proceeded by car. This place is nothing short of a paradise. It is a heaven and feels like it. Surrounded by stunning mountain ranges, including the Matterhorn, the view from the balcony is breathtaking. But I move too fast, I'm still excited. Upon arrival we are greeted by trout jumping around in a beautiful natural pond. Are they frenzied by the thrill of the visit from such socialites or at the fear of being on the menu? Inside, the Rifugio, although almost unchanged for at least a century, shows the care and love that went into the restoration.

Sleeping quarters are spacious, comfortable and fully equipped with amenities that include showers, foot baths and toilete. And get this, this is one of the very few rifugio's that provide bedding. Trust me, I have been in worse hotels. But no matter how comfortable, the surrounds make everything, even yourself and your daily trials and tribulations shrink into insignifance. Did I mention it is stunning? Then came the meal....no no I digress again. Then came the drinks preceeding the meal. For starters a great fizzy white wine from Morgex. As a conversation piece we are told it is the highest made wine in the world. Oh Morgex is also in the Aosta Valley on the way up, or down from Courmayeur. Then scads of dried meats from various sources all made by Moria's father. This accompained by a robust red wine in various bottles and under various labels also made and bottled by Moria's father...so forget what you read on the label. Then came the main courses, all prepared by Chef Jean Patrick who also hails from Aosta. Lawdy, lawdy I hope that Mischellin does not hear about this guy anytime soon. His food is fantastico. We ate and ate, until I for one could eat no more. Each dish was a treat, a memory, a story in itself Then about seven bottles of dad's wine later we were greeted with coffee and wait for it...GRAPPA! Of course this too ( the grappa, not the coffee) was also made by, you guessed it, Moira's dad. Now I don't give a stuff if you are a grappa fan or not. You gotta try this. Like all good things the evening drew to a close, and as none of us was really prepared, time or amenity wise to spend the night (we should have) off we went for the trip back to Courmayeur. I am delighted to report is was uneventful. Anyway the moral of this little story is, if you really want to get away from it all, you can do so at a very reasonable price, in great comfort and in the midst of incredible beauty. The telephone number is + 39 348 3366924. The email is info@chalinge.com. You can also inquire at the Hotel Berthod in Courmayeur.
They are on www.courmayeur.com.