“Estate” by Jovanotti was playing on the radio, the thermostat read 38℃, the humidity made the air heavy, and the lines of cars were endless. In the midst of that ruckus of exhaust and heat, we had as our only source of survival half a bottle of Fanta and a ham sandwich. We looked at each other and promised that next summer we would go to Valle D’Aosta instead.
A region that we often only call upon in the winter months when we feel like descending, as Rita Pavone sings in “Cucuzzolo Della Montagna”, “from the mountaintop with a pair of skis”, but that secretly has even more to offer in the summer season, when one can discover Val Ferret on horseback, walk at the foot of a glacier without freezing and take a dip in the beautiful waterfalls of Lillaz in Cogne or the Blue Lake in Val d’Ayas.
A land surrounded entirely by Europe’s highest peaks–the Matterhorn (Il Cervino in Italian), Mont Blanc, Gran Paradiso and Monte Rosa—where two cultures, that of France and northern Italy, meet. A place where lush, deep glacial valleys are dotted with crystal-clear alpine lakes and medieval castles, towers and strongholds: 120 to be exact, a number that makes it the most fortified region in Italy and in Europe.
Thirteen hours into our journey, moving at two kilometers an hour, heading to Palermo with nothing left to drink or eat, we began to dream not only of the walks, the cool breeze and sleeping with a blanket in August, but also of fontina cheese, roe deer from Baita Ermitage and the Valdostan-style chop from Cadran Solaire.
In the summer, while the rest of Italy flounders, the smallest and least populated region in Italy breathes with clear lungs and opens castles, archaeological sites and museums for a full calendar of theatrical and musical events (beginning with the Culturété program between July and August and continuing in September with Plaisirs de Culture), from the CUBO musical show where sounds and emotions move and bounce in the interior spaces of the ancient Castle of Verrès to the great Festa d’Estate at the Aymavilles Castle to walks through the archaeological sites of Valle D’Aosta.
And it is far from the chaos of crowded beaches, of highways with baking asphalt that “In the absolute silences, in the immense spaces, I have found my reason for being, a way of living on a human scale.”
No need to be bummed about the end of summer when Plaisirs de Culture is running from the 17th to 25th of September (2022)! For its tenth year, Plaisirs de Culture’s free events, in monuments and historic sites around the region, will celebrate “sustainable cultural heritage” and the deep Aostan connection between people and nature.
Photography by Enrico Romanzi