Golden Day Fifty-Two: Play in the Milky Way (or Bardonecchia)
The majestic Italian alps rise to the west of Torino, offering lots of fun snow activities under gorgeous blue-violet skies. Here you’ll discover Piedmont valleys that are part of Occitania–the large Meditteranean area that stretches west through southern France, Monaco, and the Aran Valley in Spain. (Yes, you probably recognize the name from Occitane, the skincare and fragrance company that was founded in Provence). You may meet older people who still speak Occitan (saying formatge instead of formaggio, for example)— in some isolated valleys this was everyone’s first language up until as late as the 1970s. Just on the other side of the Alps is France, and its influence is strong—as in when I went last March, I heard Italians saying Voila!
For a Golden Day head to the Via Lattea (Milky Way), a collection of 8 ski resorts, amidst 5 villages, that offers 400 km of ski runs, great for beginners to advanced skiers. Here is where the 2006 Olympics took place. You can get a one-day pass for the reasonable price of 34 euros, to enjoy 200 trails. .
I hadn’t been skiing in decades, but loved the experience in Sestriere Villagio Olimpico resort, where I had the help of the most encouraging instructor Riccardo, who patiently re-taught me the basics as I joined in with the youngsters on the beginner and then intermediate runs. The more advanced skiers in the group raved about the variety of runs higher up that interconnected to the other villages.
The most charming Via Lattea village I visited was Sauze d’Oulx, with its sweet square, done up in chalet-style architecture and dotted with pubs. If you’d like to stay in the center of such action, the Hotel Relais des Alpes is a great option. It has an Irish bar off the lobby, a spa, and elegantly decorated guest rooms.
For an enchanting and delicious dinner, head to Ristorante Du Grand Pere, where Chef Adriana Miletto reigns–cooking up such specialties as gnocchi, tagliatelle con funghi, stag, and apple pie. The place was packed with locals on my visit, all enjoying la cena in the cozy, country French-styled dining room that was once a stable. And Chef Miletto will speak to you in Occitan!
There are lots of options for Milky Way accommodations. If you’re looking for a boutique experience, check into the Shackleton, where molto bello owner David Coda has designed chic suites, each one unique.
I loved the Roseo Hotel, a luxurious spot where there are Jacuzzi tubs in every room, a swimming spool and spa. The late afternoon apertivo in their lounge is lovely: prosecco around the fire, watching the sun set over the Alps…La Vita e Bella!
An alternative to Milky Way skiing is Bardonecchia, a town which is easily reached by train from Torino in an hour and a half. Bardonecchia is the oldest Piedmont ski resort, with 110 kms of runs. Because it’s so easy to get to by train, it gets very crowded on weekends during the ski season. I loved being there on a weekday in March, where there were a mix of Italian, German, French, and British skiers.
A real highlight is lunch at La Grangia, a chalet-style restaurant reached by chair lift, beautifully positioned halfway up the mountain, so its perfect for your ski break lunch or even for non-skiers who want to enjoy the views. Meals are served family style–we indulged in the pleasures of polenta served with a variety of accompaniments: gorgonzola, sausage, beef barolo stew.
It’s sublime to follow local custom and flop into a lounge chair outside, taking in the sun after your meal.
As far as Bardonecchia accommodations, the Hotel Bucaneve is a welcoming, comfy place, that offers regularly scheduled shuttles to take you to the slopes.
For more information about ski vacations in Italy, contact World on Skis