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Fodor's Italy 2014
Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc)
Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) Review
The main attraction of Courmayeur is a knock-'em-dead view of Europe's tallest peak, Monte Bianco. The celebrities that still come here are following a tradition that dates from the late 17th century, when Courmayeur's natural springs first began to draw visitors. The spectacle of the Alps gradually surpassed the springs as the biggest draw (the Alpine letters of the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley were almost advertisements for the region), but the biggest change came in 1965 with the opening of the Mont Blanc tunnel. Since then, ever-increasing numbers of travelers have passed through the area.
Planners have managed to keep some restrictions on wholesale development within the town, and its angled rooftops and immaculate cobblestone streets maintain a cozy (if prepackaged) feeling.
From La Palud, a small town 4 km (2½ mi) north of Courmayeur, you can catch the cable car up to the top of Monte Bianco. In summer, if you get the inclination, you can then switch cable cars and descend into Chamonix, in France. In winter you can ski parts of the route off-piste. The Funivie La Palud whisks you up first to the Pavillon du Mont Fréty—a starting point for many beautiful hikes—and then to the Rifugio di Torino, before arriving at the viewing platform at Punta Helbronner (more than 11,000 feet), which is also the border post with France. Monte Bianco's attraction is not so much its shape (much less distinctive than that of the Matterhorn) as its expanse and the vistas from the top.
The next stage up—only in summer—is on the Télépherique de L'Aiguille du Midi, as you pass into French territory. The trip is particularly impressive: you dangle over a huge glacial snowfield (more than 2,000 feet below) and make your way slowly to the viewing station above Chamonix. It's one of the most dramatic rides in Europe. From this point you're looking down into France, and if you change cable cars at the Aiguille du Midi station you can make your way down to Chamonix itself. The return trip, through the Monte Bianco tunnel, is made by bus. Schedules are unpredictable, depending on weather conditions and demand; contact the Funivie Monte Bianco for information.
- Address: Frazione La Palud 22, Courmayeur, 11013 | Map It
- Phone: 0165/89925 in Courmayeur; 0450/532275 in Chamonix
- Cost: €15 round-trip to Pavillon du Mont Fréty, €38 round-trip to Helbronner, €62 round-trip to Aiguille du Midi, €96 round-trip to Chamonix with return by bus
- Hours: Closed mid-Oct.–mid-Dec., depending on demand and weather
- Website: www.montebianco.com
- Location: Courmayeur/Monte Bianco
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