Last weekend a group of about twelve friends and I went to spend the weekend in Cogne, on the Aosta side of the mountainous Parco Gran Paradiso. The idea was to go skiing or hiking. I was hesitant to ski after an eight-year hiatus, but when I saw the cross-county skiers skiing right outside the hotel I started to wish I had brought my ski stuff. Maybe next time!
These mountain towns have an atypical architecture for Italy–steeper slate roofs and lots of rustic carved wood. Add small lights outside the stores and restaurants and it’s very cozy! We also ate extremely well in our hotel, which had a fixed menu with all three traditional courses plus fruit and dessert. My favorite dish of the weekend was apple and walnut risotto. We were also in grolla di amicizia territory. I didn’t try it but some of our group did. After a full day in the cold, however, I did try a bombardino. It was not as alcoholic as the name would imply.
The non-skiers walked most of the day on Sunday–in the morning some of us hiked up the mountain stream to Valnontey and in the afternoon a larger group walked to Lillaz, where there are waterfalls just outside the town. Everything was frozen, which made the paths very slippery, but it was still fun.
On the way back from the waterfalls we stopped in Lillaz for hot drinks. Lillaz is really just a collection of houses and barns, probably not more than 100 inhabitants, so when seven of us entered the tiny town bar (in Italy bars are first and foremost for coffee), every head turned. But we weren’t the strangest thing in the room. We were met by a waiter wearing a scarf, apron, beret, a pair of detachable reading glasses, and a fierce expression as he looked over his order pad. Otherwise, the room was cozy with dark wood, red painted walls and lots of books. The bar probably occupied half the room and we occupied another quarter of it. I’m guessing my American accent did not go unnoticed, but for once I wasn’t the only one who stuck out, so that was comforting.
Unfortunately my posts and photos have to leave out the most important part of a trip like this–my friends!* As a rule I don’t post photos or anecdotes about them because it would be an invasion of their privacy. But the Italian concept of friendship is one of large, hospitable and relatively tolerant groups, even if occasionally some of us drive the rest a bit crazy. This trip included conspiracy theories, a bit of accidental skiing, a wacky cab ride, and long stretches of southern Italian history told in a Neapolitan accent. I wouldn’t have it any differently.
*For full disclosure, one of my friends may have taken a couple of the photos of Valnontey, because my aging battery shut my phone down when I tried to take pictures. And of course someone else took the photo of me. Thanks!