Camping Lo Stambecco, Valnontey, Cogne, Aosta, Italy
Box-ticking Alpine camping – views, air, walks and creeping trees.
Big Paradise Park is quite a name to have to live up to. Luckily the Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso in the Italian Alps is up to the challenge. On the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif, the park ticks so many Alpine boxes that even a meticulous Brussels bureaucrat would have trouble finding fault with its paperwork.
There are views up the valley towards the summit of Testa della Tribolazione, whose south-east wall is a favourite with climbers, despite its rather daunting name (something about tribulation). Across from the site is a steep shoulder of mountain, behind which the sun settles for the evening, and rumbling through the valley below the site is one of those high mountain rivers that is three-parts glacier melt and one- part crushed rock, giving it the distinctive grey-green mineral colour of a river of Margueritas. Dips (and sips) are not recommended, though – your various extremities would not thank you for the exposure, plus you’d end up being washed down the valley and out into the Med.
Lo Stambecco is in the tiny village of Valnontey, a stopover on one of the great summer Alpine walks – the Alta Via from Champorcher to Courmayeur. With an average altitude of over 2,000 metres and the pass of the Col Loson measuring up at 3,300 metres, the Alta Via (a literal highway) is a fairly serious multi-day walk. But thankfully you can sample the atmosphere of it by doing nothing more strenuous than waving at passing walkers from the comfort of the grassy slopes of Lo Stambecco. They’re perfect for a prolonged lounge; one of those lazy ones that can last an afternoon. The thick grass is so soft and comfy that carpet slippers seem more appropriate footwear than clumpy walking boots.
There’s a variety of pitches, some on the grassy slopes, some venturing into the pine cover that sneaks down the hill, threatening to engulf the whole place. The further up the hill you go, the thicker the trees. Like Hansel and Gretel you might want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs from your tent to the facilities block at night, just in case you get lost. Unfortunately things both small and furry are likely to snaffle them in the night and if the trees have surrounded you during the hours of darkness, you might have to machete your way out of the thicket by the time morning arrives.
If you are itching for a hike, there are walking maps on sale from the campsite’s reception, so you can tackle anything from a half-hour stroll to a day’s hard slog up the valley in search of the elusive ibex (‘stambecchi’ in Italian) – those hairy things with horns that look like upturned stacks of ice cream cones. There’s actually an old hunting lodge called the Rifugio Vittorio Sella, originally owned by King Victor Emmanuel II who became the first king of a united Italy in 1861 thanks in part to the support of Garibaldi (the revolutionary, not the biscuit), and who used to come up here to hunt stambecchi. It’s about two-and-a- half hours’ steady climb from Valnontey and there’s a restaurant for fortification before the descent. Much easier is the downhill, 2-mile (3-km) walk to the bright lights of Cogne, a typically gorgeous Alpine village, which, with nearly 1,500 inhabitants, feels like downtown Manhattan after a few days up at Lo Stambecco. Fair enough, the return walk is back up the hill, but with the prospect of your carpet slippers waiting for you back at the campsite, it’s a breeze.
The Owner Says
Incredible location, lovely campsite!
My Husband and I visited this camp site in June 2016 for 3 nights as part of our honeymoon trip and we are so pleased we did. From the moment we got into the mountains (travelling my bus) the scenery was just breath taking. The bus dropped us at Cogne which had some lovely shops and cafes, but walking to Valnontey which was much smaller it felt much more wild, along the side of the road was a big meadow full of wild flowers and it was just lovely. When we arrived at the camp site the lady who owns the camp site greeted us with big smiles and was just lovely. She pointed out the palces we could set up our tent but left us to choose where we wanted to be, the bar area which is on site was very cosy with the woodburning stove and they served lovely coffees and other drinks. The facilities were very clean and after one night in the tent (It gets quite cold at night in the mountains) we enquired as to the caravans which are pitched permenatly, it was our honeymoon after all and switched to one which was on the next pitch to us, it meant we were warmer and much comfier and the cost wasnt much greater than for a tent! The village was lovely with some great walks, I particularly enjoyed the walk up to the reffugio up the waterfall which does some lovely vegetable soup and great hot chocolate. Which is greatly appreciated especially when you get to the top and it's snowing up there. A really lovely spot, I would definitely recommend to anyone wanting to visit Gran Paradiso National Park, a great camp site in a beautiful location!
Views to Die for
Our first trip to Italy so I definitely wanted to book a site that CoolCamping had recommended . The trip to the site was relatively easy once we were used to the winding mountainside roads from France through to Cogne, after going through the village it's another 10 mins along the side of a mountain river up to the site, the views as you approach are amazing, ending up nestled between two mountains and Mt.Blanc visible between them, all looking good so far, we drove into the site and parked up at reception and we were greeted by the owner, she was very helpful and spoke some english, we asked where to pitch our tent, she bounded out of reception and gave us a tour of the options from pitched next to the drives to pitches set up in the pine slopes coming off the mountain, so much choice, she left us to wander round pick a site and pitch... We chose a pitch at the end two levels up, but still able to drive car near by to unload, chosen for views and lack of other campers... the site whilst busy in areas is big enough to find a quite spot if you want (we did), the pitches up in the higher slopes are great but you do have to lug your kit up, but well worth it. There are numerous Mountain water taps around the site (all drinkable), free wifi at reception/ bar, somewhere to freeze ice packs, power hook ups for those that do. The site is well maintained, clean and organised but still maintaining a wild feel.Parking is a bit hit and miss, but the owner is keen to help you park in the best place and will often be seen directing cars to areas to park on the site, she keeps certain areas car free tho so keeping the area peaceful.
The toilets and facilities are immaculate and extremely well kept, there is a little bar/ restaurant on site.
Around the site are numerous walks/ hikes etc - bring your walking shoes and be prepared to hike up long and steep paths if you like.