Day forty-four: Grand St Bernard to Aosta

Downhill all the way…. almost. The top of the pass was socked in with cloud as we left, but that didn’t stop the two other couples in my dorm from getting up at 0530, rustling their plastic bags like rats trapped in a dumpster, and leaving in the pitch dark at 0600 to get ahead of everyone. I thought that sought of behaviour was restricted to the Camino Frances. I showed up for the hospice breakfast at 0800, and set off from there.
I walked all day with P which was a novelty. After a half hour in the mist and cold wind we found our first Italian coffee, and about 15 minutes after that we emerged into sunshine and spectacular Alpine views. The Italian side of the pass is very different from the Swiss side – greener and more (and different) trees. It’s a rugged landscape mising the Swiss precision of landscaping, industrial development, or rivers that are constrained.
The trail was awesome, and for long periods we followed irrigation channels that followed the contours of the mountain. Only towards the later part of the day did we suffer the knee jolting descent into Aosta. We lost 1,900m in altitude, but only felt the physical effects at the end of the day.
In Aosta we walked through some very dreary residential neighborhoods looking for the only “donativo’ in town. Finally we called only to learn that it was full – likely by my roomies who started at 0600. Instead we found a relatively cheap hotel in the old town, dropped our bags off, and enjoyed a beer in the very busy pedestrian old town (it’s a Roman town, so old means old). After taking care of the essentials (showering, laundry) we returned to the pedestrian street and sat for three hours drinking cheap local wine, devouring divine pizza, and counting our lucky stars that we’d missed out on getting a bed at the cheap donativo hostel in the dreary suburb. Small twists of fate can have a huge bearing on your memories of a city and your overall enjoyment of a single day on the Camino.
Daily km: 31.5 ( includes a coupe of km for the suburban detour!)

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