Cogne, 52 km (32 miles) southeast of Courmayeur, is the gateway to this huge park, which was once the domain of King Vittorio Emanuele II (1820–78). Bequeathed to the nation after World War I, it is one of Europe's most rugged and unspoiled wilderness areas, with wildlife and many plant species protected by law. The park is one of the few places in Europe where you can see the ibex (a mountain goat with horns up to 3 feet long) and the chamois (a small antelope). The
park, which is 703 square km (271 square mi), is open free of charge throughout the year; there's an information office in Cogne. Try to visit in May, when spring flowers are in bloom and most of the meadows are clear of snow.