Italy at your doorstep
Like an air of... Dolce vita
A quick taste of Italian architectural and gastronomic refinement? Take the 13.6 km Fréjus road tunnel (paying) between Modane and Bardonecchia. At the exit of the tunnel... you are in Italy! In less than 1h30, you arrive then in the capital of Piedmont : Turin. From Modane, you can also take the train to Bardonecchia and then to Turin.
However, we advise you to take the D1006 from Val Cenis-Lanslebourg (France), cross the Mont Cenis plateau and follow the route once traced by Napoleon to reach our neighbors in Piedmont as far as Susa (Italy).
At an altitude of 1,974 m and at the halfway point, you arrive in front of the sixth largest artificial water reservoir in France: the Mont-Cenis Lake and the sumptuous Mont-Cenis plateau.
Stop for a moment and let yourself be charmed by the few vestiges of the end of the XIXth century: in particular the fort of Ronce perched on these 2 286 m of altitude. As you continue on your way, you will undoubtedly notice the pyramid-shaped chapel built by EDF in 1968 and erected in place of the disappearing priory of the sunken village of Grand-Croix located at the foot of the dam. The Pyramid houses a museum on the history of the site. At its feet, you will discover a very rich alpine garden in free access.
A few more laces and you are already there. In less than 50 minutes and 41 km, you find yourself in Italy. Gelati", pizzas and dolce-vita are yours. In Haute Maurienne Vanoise, Italy has never seemed so close!
How to get to Italyon foot, on horseback, by bike
For the more athletic, don't hesitate to take one of the many hiking trails formerly used by shepherds and other peddlers to reach our Piedmontese neighbors. From the Vallée Etroite pass in Valfréjus to the Carro pass in Bonneval sur Arc, the border with Italy extends over all the summits. Many trails in the bottom of adjacent valleys will make you pass from France to Italy without even noticing!
From Valfréjus, you can for example take the GR5 and then pass by Bardonnechia through the Col de la Roue, or you can take a horseback ride over several days to go from France to Italy.
From Val Cenis, follow the tracks of Hannibal who would have passed more than 2000 years ago by the Col Clappier, above Bramans. A beautiful itinerary with preserved mountain pastures, high altitude lakes and a night in a refuge (unguarded bivouac) at the Italian border before going down to the Italian village of Giaglione.
Still from Val Cenis, the access to Italy is also done by bike: the ascent to the Mont Cenis pass is a must for all cyclists. The descent to Susa is longer and more technical: save your strength to go back up if you make a round trip.
Finally, on the side of Bessans and Bonneval sur Arc, many historical paths link the Haute Maurienne Vanoise to Italy. This is where the shepherds with their herds often passed through. And, in a more discreet way, the smugglers who tried to escape the customs officers to avoid the taxes on tobacco or other products that they bought cheaper in Italy and that they then sold in France...
A little historyHigh altitude valley of the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia
Haute Maurienne was attached to France in 1860. There remains a beautiful friendship, strong of twinning with our Italian neighbors (Val Cenis-Bramans and Giaglione, Modane and Bardonecchia). In the summer, the Mont Cenis plateau takes on its Italian accent (the plateau was Italian until the Second World War): you can meet French holidaymakers as well as inhabitants of Turin looking for fresh air. From these ancestral links, there are also meetings at the top of our passes and mountains. For example, on the first Sunday of August, a pilgrimage brings together the inhabitants of Bessans and Suse at the summit of the Pointe de Rochemelon, on the French-Italian border, at an altitude of 3538 meters!
Visit Turin and SusaMuseums, Roman remains, squares and markets
Take advantage of your stay in Haute Maurienne Vanoise to visit the town of Susa, on the other side of Val Cenis (access by the Mont Cenis road). You will be able to discover vestiges of the Roman period, and in particular the superb Arch of Augustus, but also the cathedral of Susa.
Don't hesitate to continue a little further: the capital of Piedmont, Turin, is well worth a day's visit. With its superb museums (museum of cinema, museum of Egyptology...) its squares, its arcades, its churches... The market of Turin is also a must with hundreds of stands of clothes and accessories but also fruits and vegetables, Italian specialities, organic producers... The market takes place every morning and it lasts even all day on Saturday.