Verrand is a very pretty stone built village sitting on a hill and surrounded by high mountains, about 15 min walk from the centre of Courmayeur at the foothills of the Mont Blanc at the northern end of the Aosta Valley. This autonomous region at the far north west of Italy shares a border with France and has its own characteristics and traditions. It is not only well known for the skiing and summer walks but also for rafting, golfing and many other outdoor activities but also for very good regional food. The fontina cheese is made here and forms the basis of many local dishes.
The Verrand apartment is a lovely 8+2 bed modern top floor duplex apartment with 3 double bedrooms, one twin with bunk beds and two extra beds in the open playroom, with three bathroom, two downstairs, one with bath and one with shower, and one upstairs with shower. A cot is available upon request.
Living areas include and open plan kitchen in the living room with dining table and soft seating corner and a playroom upstairs, all surrounded by a full perimeter balcony.
The apartment has its own private garage and shares the outdoor barriered parking area.
The great outdoor spaces include an extensive children’s playground area and slopes for snow games, all with a wonderful view of the valley. The building was built about 30 years ago, we watched it going up and were the first to buy an apartment, so we could choose he best one! We have been living and holidaying in the area around Courmayeur for over 30 years and other members of our extended family and friends also have apartments in the same village.
The Local Area
The apartment is located at the edge of Verrand enjoying the openness of the green grassed area (white in winter!) the view of the mountains, while at the same time being in a very typical stone built mountain village. Verrand has a pretty central square with a very nice tiny church and a water fountain in the middle. The water comes straight from the mountains and it is the best drinking water in the area. When I was a child my mother used to send us with a basket full of empty glass bottle to be filled up!
There used to be a couple of shops and a restaurant, these have now closed and the village is a very quiet and safe place. Wandering around through the little squares surrounded by pretty stone old houses is very nice at every season. There is a little arcade under a building where someone has collected old agricultural and kitchen tools, which are now hanging in the ceiling.
To go to Courmayeur you will walk through the village and there are at least three different routes you can take to go. A couple take you to the edge of the town, but my favourite takes you directly to the centre through a path in the woods and on a bridge across the Dora Baltea, the river that divides Verrand from Courmayeur. You walk from home to the centre of Courmayeur in under 20min, but if you take a car it takes less then 5min.
Courmayeur is the last Italian town (under 3,000 inhabitants) before the Mont blanc tunnel in the autonomous region of Aosta Valley, in northern Italy. It is located at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in western Europe, in the Graian Alps range, and is separated by the village of Verrand by the Dora Baltea river. Courmayeur shares the summit of Mont Blanc with its neighboring commune of Chamonix in France, and owns the title of highest commune in Italy being at 1,224m elevation surrounded by 4,810m elevated mountains.
The town has a charming traffic-free centre of attractive shops, cobbled streets and well-preserved buildings. An Alpine museum (exhibiting our great grandfather shoulder straps! As he was an explorer) and a statue of a long-dead mountain rescue hero add to the historical feel.
The town centre has a great evening atmosphere, focused around the Via Roma. As the ski lifts close, people pile into the many bars, most of which are very civilized.
Others wander in and out of the many small shops, which include lots of smart clothes shops, nice delis and a good bookshop. At weekends people-watching is part of the scene, when the fur coats of the Milanese and Torinese take over.
Courmayeur’s picturesque mountain scenery and healthy mountain air make it an attractive destination year round. It is one of Europe’s most famous ski locations, and contains the Giardino Botanico Alpino Saussurea, which describes itself as Europe's highest botanical garden.
In the summer months Courmayeur is a popular destination for hikers.
Fontina and Moccetta
The area is known for its delicious local cheese (fontina - from local cow milk) and most local bars and restaurant serve the typical local dishes, polenta concia (oven cooked polenta with cheese and butter), crepes alla valdostana, or just in a board with hams or diced for aperitif.
Moccetta is a spiced cured ham locally produced, very delicious, don’t forget to try it, it is great for aperitif, appetizer, as a main with a salad or in a sandwich.
On Wednesday mornings an outdoor market transforms the car park in Dolonne offering a sample of local activity and produce. Clothes, objects and food are sold there, some of very nice quality.
There are three good supermarkets in the area, one in Courmayeur at the beginning of the main town road just past the bridge on the Dora Baltea, another one on along the old road from Courmayeur to Entreve which is very nice but quite expensive and probably the most convenient one in Morgex, a little lower south in the valley, just 15min drive from Verrand. They all three sell pretty much everything you will need, food, wine and household products.
Along the main street in old town Courmayeur you will find lots of lovely delicatessen shops especially selling local cheeses and hams. They are all very nice, and there is a large shop specialized in cheese and hams on the lower road called Panizzi.
Remember that most shops shut between 12,30-1pm and 3.30-4pm and not everything is open on Sundays!
Bars & Restaurants
In Courmayeur there are good cafes and bars, restaurants, shops and markets around the town, including two pharmacies, hotels and lots of shops for the most fashionable Italian clothes and design!
In the middle of the pedestrian walk there is the historical bar Caffe’ della Posta, via Roma 51, our favourite for aperitif but also light lunch and coffee, though it can be quite crowded at times. Others we like are the bar at the Cadran Solaire and the Bar Roma, also on via Roma.
The restaurant at the Cadrain Solaire, via Roma 122, is very good for a treat or for a simple pizza and polenta dishes we like the Tunnel, tel. (phone number hidden), (website hidden), in the lower road.
But if you rather eat in and still want a treat go to Gabriella, (website hidden), that cooks wonderful dishes or fresh pasta and sauces you could cook at home. I love their apple cake!
Slightly further afield is the Maison de Filippo ( (website hidden) number hidden)), in the nearby village of Entreve, (drive from Courmayeur towards the Mont Blanc tunnel along the old road) this is a many course fixed menu meal, so you must be hungry, but save space for dessert as their chestnuts with cream are special. Very sophisticated instead is La Cotze in Planpinceux. ( (website hidden), Loc. Planpincieux, 21, Tel (phone number hidden)), on the same road futher up towards the Ferret Valley, that also have a very good wine cellar. The Ermitage at the Villair, (Via Hermitage Villair, 1, tel(phone number hidden)), is a classic for typical local cuisine. To reach it go up to the Villair just past of Courmayeur, and keep going, up the mountain, up, and up….
All of these places speak good English so phoning to make a booking or find out more information is easy.