The Aosta valley is a very beautiful walk, even if the path signs seem to conspire against you by endlessly indicating “Chatillon 1hr,40m”. The valley becomes very narrow, guarded by sundry castles on both sides of the river, and the path needs to climb up, over and around rock outcrops and sometimes deep river gorges. The mountains on the far side of the valley look harmless until you see an information display that lists the peaks at over 3,000m.
The valley is very busy with an autostrada that heads to the Mt. Blanc road tunnel, but the traffic noise is barely discernable from the trail.
Later in the day the trail passes through a couple of abandoned hamlets, where the lack of road access doomed the traditional agricultural existence. The wonderful old stone houses and barns are now falling down. Many of these villages on the hillsides continue to prosper, although they seem very sleepy during the day as there owners presumably commute to work in the larger towns.
There are more and more pilgrims every day, and it seems from talking with others, that even the ‘donativos’ can be booked in advance. While we’d expected to get beds in the Capuchin hospice in Chatillon, we found upon arrival that it was already full, so we found a cheap hotel, which once again worked in our favour. Dinner was courtesy of Carrefour – giant insalata caprese (real mozzarella is so cheap, and fresh local tomatoes and basil), chicken salad, and local wine enjoyed on the rooftop patio of the hotel. The stunning view was free! See included pic!