Side trip from Chamonix in January

Old Dec 25th, 2014, 07:06 PM
  #1  
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Side trip from Chamonix in January

Hello!

I will be traveling by myself for 3-4 nights in January, leaving and returning from Chamonix. I tend to like unique and intimate towns. I was considering Golfo Paradiso or Lake Como since they will be quiet in January (but maybe too quiet? I don't want to be the only guest).

I was hoping some veterans/locals could chime in and let me know great towns to visit. Switzerland is also an option, but as I will already be spending time in Chamonix I thought Italy might provide variety. Also, I am going to Annecy afterwards.

My main thoughts are: should I stick to the Alps in January since it will be grey/closed/cold elsewhere? Or is a jaunt to Northern Italy totally worth it? I am open to renting a car and driving around 4 hours each way. Small towns appeal but I understand a large town in low tourism season could be nice. I loved Rome, want to go somewhere new.

Thank you so much for any and all guidance! I have not been able to make much progress on internet searches alone to answer these questions...

Warmly,
Kate
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Old Dec 26th, 2014, 02:56 AM
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Well, to begin with I wouldn't book anything in advance. See what the weather looks like. I'm the over-cautious type so if I had only 3/4 days to play with at that time of year and if I had impelling reasons to be back in Chamonix on a certain day I don't think I'd risk it at all. The tunnel and/or the roads leading up to it can be closed for all sorts of reasons and there's not much alternative with a car.
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Old Dec 26th, 2014, 03:05 AM
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Chamonix - Courmayeur - Varenna (Lake Como) takes about 4 hrs with no intermdiate stop (all motorway). Count about 130 EUR/OW for road tolls and fuel.
The villages around Lake Como are inhabited all the year round and some (usually smaller) hotels will be open. If the weather is fine, there may sleep some hikers; otherwise I don't think that you will find much people there.
Genoa/Golfo Paradiso (3 1/2 hrs by car, same road toll) would probably be the better choice; you could visit the many palaces and museums in town, if the weather gets too bad.

BTW: I suppose you know that there are tons of castles, stunning medieval city centers, museums and special exhibitions in the towns or Western Switzerland, 1-2 hrs by car from Chamonix.

In Italy, Aosta and Turin are well worth a visit too.
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Old Dec 28th, 2014, 08:46 AM
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I would stop by Aosta if you've never been. It is an intimate town with marvelous points of interest, but I would think on weekends in particular in January you can expect a lot of company from skiers.

If you have a car and you really don't need a lot of entertainment (and the weather is clear and dry), you could go to Novara, and from there to do excursions to places like Vercelli and Pavia and Vigevano. This is an almost completely untouristed part of Italy, but there are actually some interesting sights there, plus it is the home of risotto and wonderful cheeses (and goose dishes and maybe one last truffle shaving for wintertime), if any of that appeals to you. In January, you would face a lot of very limited hours for museums and other interiors. It would only make sense to go if you are the kind of person who likes poking around off the beaten track.

Otherwise, Torino really can feel like a small town in its historic center, and if the weather is lousy, there is no end of museums and palaces for every taste and interest, ditto window shopping, plus cafes and wine bars and chocolate shops. It is not too difficult to have a car there, and if the weather is fine, you have a look at Alba or Asti, which will probably be super super quiet, but have some nice features from times gone by.
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Old Dec 28th, 2014, 08:54 AM
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I forgot to comment on the Golfo Paradiso. You won't be the only guest in Genova, that is for sure, but it is hard to describe it as an inmate town. If you enjoy museums, you might think about staying Nervi, just down the road, which is a year-round Riviera town, and which has a couple of the area's more interesting museums. It is also well connected to Genova (20 minutes or so by bus or train), so you can in as often as you like. Equally, if the weather is fine, you can head down the scenic coast to beauty spots like Camogli, Portofino, and similar towns all the way to le Cinque Terre. I actually think January is the best time to visit Portofino, since you won't mind having the place to yourself as opposed to finding it slammed out with tourists.

But unless you are a museum hound, it really doesn't make sense to go to the coast in January unless you know for sure you are going to get mainly sunny days. You should definitely avoid booking anything in advance, because you really don't want to be there if storms roll in, because the winter rains can be intense (or turn to ice) and cause a lot of road and transportation problems. Up in the Alps, they deal with winter storms a lot better.
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Old Dec 28th, 2014, 06:01 PM
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Wow, thank you all so much! This is very helpful and I appreciate your time.

Best,
Kate
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Old Dec 29th, 2014, 08:26 AM
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I stick by what I said in my first reply. Have you seen the chaos on the roads in the French Alps over the past couple of days? January is a dicey time to be driving.
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